About Me

I'm the Rabbi of B'nai Israel Synagogue in West Bloomfield, MI, a highly-participatory, traditional, egalitarian synagogue.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Day 1 -- The Great Moment and the Luggage

Coby (Caleb), Adina and Aunty Sheila the night before aliyah
August 4, 2009 -- Day 1

12 hours on a plane with a 5 and 6 year old. Ratty, disheveled. In mind, in body, in sanity. I want my bags, a comfortable bed, a clean shower, and, exceeding them all, QUIET – right now.

Not really thinking about the big picture of aliyah the minute I get off the musty, crowded plane. Not really thinking about any big picture any time I get off a long plane ride, for that matter.

But this is to be different.

Because we’re being welcomed like returning heroes. Like the team that just won the championship.

A thousand people waving small flags deliriously. Not of the Red Sox. But of the State of Israel. Banners held high. “Welcome home.” Lollipops thrust into our children’s hands. Joyful music blaring. TV cameras, video cameras, every kind of camera – rolling. Even Minnie Mouse is caught on film. I just want to be interviewed about my pitching in the final, decisive game of the playoffs….

I know we’ve done something special. Something right.  (The romantic vision realized -- thanks, Eric)

There, above, the crowd, stands Uncle Amiel. A spiritual sponsor of my aliyah. A Segal/sgan Levi returned home, this time not as an assistant to anyone, but rather as a lead doctor at Shaarei Tzedek. And Elyana, our cousin, possessing one of the most beautiful neshamot in the entire Jewish world. Both tearing. Simcha bubbling from every nook and cranny of their faces. Clearly thrilled that – 15 years later -- they’ve been followed.

I’m now caught between the absurb pulls of the great moment – baruch hashem-- and the demands of our luggage -- G-d forbid it be lost.

The moment stands suspended for a few hours, before the tug of the luggage really wins out. Nefesh b’Nefesh workers – the eagles wings on which thousands of American Jews now happily rest in their return to Israel – greet us at every step. The whole operation is out. All those we’ve spoken to, written to, purged for all the information they could ever provide us – are there to welcome us.

As is the Prime Minister. Up quite early, no makeup/looking tired, tie-less. Israel. A failed ex-Prime Minister. (A redundancy in Israel these days). Not my cup of tea politically. But our Prime Minister. A Jew leading us. And coming to welcome us. Giving us a pat on the back as North Americans, but not a massage, as we unfortunately think we merit. “You’re following the path of millions of olim from all over the world…. We need your professionalism, and your dislike for bureaucracy.” Message: Welcome, you’re Israelis now, make the special contribution you can, rejoice in no longer expecting the backrub of the tourist, at least beyond the first months.

Natan Sharansky. The paragon of aliyah of the last ½ century. A true hero. But somewhat passé too. Remarking to this overwhelmingly young group “how many of you were involved in the Soviet Jewry movement.” This could not happen pre or while in utero. But whatever.

Munching on Elyana’s delicious cupcakes. The kids feeling free – running all around old Ben Gurion Terminal #1. Playing on an idle conveyor belt. Would I ever let that happen in the States?

The great moment. And the luggage. The two poles of early life as olim.

Why We're Here -- An Anecdote

August 30, 2009

I may repeat this often, but tonight is why we made aliyah. It was the start of the year gathering for Adina’s school, Yachad, the closest thing to a pluralistic Jewish day school that Modiin has to offer. I tell you the truth that I have never seen more Jewish kids gathered together in one place in my life. 1100 students, grades K-10. And that does not even include younger siblings, parents, and passersby, numbering in the thousands.

Happily, here we are just a typical Jewish family looking for quality Jewish education for our kids. No bells, no whistles. No banging down our door to get us to come. No special scholarships offered. And no need for them. Normalcy. Fighting no tide.