By Shmuel Katz
One of the challenges of being an immigrant is the loss of your family. Maybe loss is the wrong word. With modern technology, we are in almost constant contact with our loved ones throughout the world. Yet contact is not the same as being together.
We live in a world where it is much easier than it used to be. Go back 75+ years and imagine what a move to Israel would have meant for an American Jew. It meant that you might see your relatives once more in your life—if you were lucky. You had a working mail system, so news got through—but an 8,000-mile move across an ocean meant almost total familial isolation.
So we are lucky to live in a modern world that keeps communication at our fingertips. Cell phones, e-mails, chats, and video calls are all tools we can use to keep in active touch, even though it is not really like being there.
We try, on both sides. But there is no question that economic and other factors make it simply impossible for us to be there for all those family events we used to enjoy in the U.S. Smachot, get-togethers, milestones—we prided ourselves as family-oriented and made every effort to show up.
Even though I have had all my siblings here in Israel and Goldie’s niece joined us this summer, family is still something that we have lost a bit of. Which is a big part of why we celebrate each new arrival so joyfully. Each arrival simply means so much.
So we headed back to the airport last Thursday with that familiar sense of excitement to be greeting more family members who had come on aliyah. Yet this one was not the same.
With my older sister having lived in Israel since 1982, my parents completed the Katz Family circle of aliyah by (finally) making aliyah and (almost) completing a clean sweep of Israeli Katzes (yes, our Chaim being the lone holdout—living in Israel for three years does not count, he is still not an Israeli).
This move was several years in the making. After all, it is not so simple for seniors to reorganize their lives. Letting go of a house you’ve lived in for 40 years. Finding new doctors. Dealing with a new language and new society. It is a major effort.
So they started small. A couple of months at a time. Then a couple of extended several-month trips. And then, renting an apartment long term and spending only a couple of months in the U.S. (which was one factor that brought them a psak to switch to keeping one day of yom tov). Each step taking them a bit closer.
And then last spring they made the final decision. They would return to Chicago and try to close up shop there, and if things all fell into place, they would look to make aliyah. Well, things fell into place, and they are now here.
Sure, they have been coming here for all our family smachot anyway. And they’ll also be wintering (at least a part of the time) in Florida. So they could have not made aliyah, and still lived essentially the same life. But the difference is all the difference in the world.
So we were proud to welcome Zaidy and Bubbee at the airport. And it was a definite treat to sing V’Shavu vanim ligvulam (although my boys and I all sang “V’Shavu Avot Ligvulam”) for my father in shul. We are gratified that the Israeli part of our family has grown yet again. V’chein yirbu.
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A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about our daughter Chaya’s forthcoming graduation from the Shaare Zedek Hospital School of Nursing. I did not know it at the time, but she was recognized at graduation as the top-scoring student in the class (both in classroom grades as well as in clinical rotations).
She is an amazing young woman and really proved something to us. She was ranked number one at the end of each year. And she is proof that a teen, one who has no Hebrew skills and has to overcome language, social, and societal barriers, can succeed at the highest levels. We are incredibly proud of her.
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As we enter the Yamim Noraim, it is time for us to wish you all a shanah tovah u’metukah. May the coming year be a year in which we finally merit the Geulah (and I look forward to helping you bring your korbanot in the rebuilt Beit HaMikdash). May it be a year when we see continued quiet and safety for all Klal Yisrael and Am Yisrael. May it be a year in which our enemies see failure after failure and ultimately are destroyed. And may it be a year in which we all grow closer to G‑d and His chosen land, and where we see you join us here as we continue living our aliyah dream. 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.