Our Aliyah Chronicle
By Shmuel Katz
When 5TJT publisher Larry Gordon first approached me about writing for the paper, he thought it would be a terrific way for people to get a personal sense of what happens on aliyah, because too often we see all the preparation and then never hear or see the family again except for news about smachot or the like. In some ways, we have been quite successful at achieving that goal.
When I travel to the U.S., I am always surprised by the number of people who say they don’t need to ask me how things are going or what is new, as they are kept fully up-to-date by my articles. You read of our successes and disappointments, you know how our kids are doing (great), and you know all about our special events, housing issues, job issues, etc. We have tried to keep you in the loop throughout.
For us, the news-flow is actually the opposite of what Larry commented upon almost eight years ago. Often, the only updates we get about our friends and former neighbors are simcha invitations or announcements posted to our e‑mails about smachot (and, lehavdil, levayah/shivah information on the passing of loved ones). Otherwise, we rarely get to see or hear about the growth and development of the families who were our closest neighbors and friends.
In the past, I have lamented on the many smachot we have missed through the years. We feel our absence as greatly as (and most probably even greater than) you do. It is difficult for us to know that although our decision was the best for us and our family, it led to a separation from those who were our closest friends and relatives for many years.
We are thus always delighted when we get invited to share your smachot being made here in Israel. We get a chance to reconnect and see how your families have grown and enjoy being a part of special times in your lives. There are those families with whom we get to interact every year, as part of their regular visits here (or our occasional visits there), and others with whom we keep in touch regularly but only see once in a blue moon. And yet others with whom we have essentially lost touch and are pleasantly surprised to bump into unexpectedly. (There is also another group of people—those who really never knew us in the U.S. and know us only through these pages, yet feel like a part of our family and make it a point to greet us when they see us here or there.)
A couple of weeks ago, we had the privilege of joining our former neighbors Dr. Gabe and Anat Levi for the Shabbat celebration of their son Ezra’s bar mitzvah. Ezra was born a couple of months before our Mordechai, and they have been friends even after our aliyah. They have spent at least one Shabbat together every summer, when the Levis come here, and I have been a guest in their home several times on my various trips to the U.S.
We had been looking forward to being with them for months, both for the simcha as well as the knowledge that we would inevitably see people whom we knew and had come to be a part of the simcha (both those that told the Levis in advance as well as those who surprised them). And we were not disappointed.
The highlight for us was seeing our former neighbor Scott Fagan and two of his sons. We lived two houses away from each other and our kids were growing up together until we moved. And with the Fagans, we had one of those “Oh my gosh, I cannot believe the change in the kids” moments.
Although I had seen them a few times over the years, I was the only one of our family who had essentially seen any member of their family in over seven years. And the kids are much different than they were when we made aliyah. It was thus both entertaining and very meaningful to see the kids wonder when they realized who was who (and it applied to both sides). Although they were a world apart, they reconnected well and I know that they appreciated the visit together almost as much as their parents did. So thanks to the Levis for that.
We hope to see Ilene Fagan on their next visit and all of you as well. As always, come visit and say hi—or better yet, come and make Israel your actual home. v
Shmuel Katz is the executive director of Yeshivat Migdal HaTorah (www.migdalhatorah.org), a new gap-year yeshiva. Shmuel, his wife Goldie, and their six children made aliyah in July of 2006. Before making aliyah, he was the executive director of the Yeshiva of South Shore in Hewlett. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.