Monday, May 27, 2013

Changes and New Blogs

Many things have changed since this blog went silent. While I am not going to get into the details I will say that I will always miss Israel but I will continue to move forward and enjoy all of the gifts that Hashem has given me and to all of us.

Moving forward I will be switch to a different blog, Time to Keep it Simple which can be viewed/read at the following link:

When the time comes that I decided to write about Aliyah, Israel, and many other topics related to Judaism I will be posting on the blog Back in the JewSA which can be found at

I know that many who come across this post will be shocked, some will be disappointed, and a few will be angry. All of these emotions are understandable but please know that the content of this blog is heartfelt, passionate, and, above all, honest.

I wish you all the best that life has to offer and I invite you all to continue to follow me on my journey to see where Hashem takes me.

Thank you all!

Friday, June 24, 2011

How to Deal with Aliyah Stress

As our Aliyah date quickly approaches and the stress mounts, I wanted to share a tip with all of those in the process and those who have made the leap that has helped me tremendously.

It is a simple thing and something that everyone can do…

Write down the good things that have happened throughout the process and the reasons you are making Aliyah and keep the list in your pocket. Continue to add to it as new things and experiences happen. It could be something as simple as someone congratulating you; it could be the funny questions your mother asks about Israel (yes, they have dogs and supermarkets in Israel; no, they don’t ride camels to work although some might); the parties and/or expos you have attended; the people you’ve get because you decided to make Aliyah; anything and everything good that has happened along the way.

This list, along with your reasons for making Aliyah, are what will help you keep your sanity… it’s the equivalent of an Aliyah stress ball. Sometimes reading it will do the trick but not every time. There are occasions when it helps to elaborate on some of the things on your list essentially reliving those moments. We all forget the good things to come and dwell on the stressful things happening right now but those good moments are the ones that make the packing, budgeting, saying goodbye, and general stressing out bearable.

When the stress begins to rise take it out, read it slowly (write if you need to), and thank Hashem for the gift that is Israel!

Also, when trying to cope, remember that you are not alone on the Aliyah emotional rollercoaster. No one is exempt from the swinging of the metronome. We all rock back and forth; the trick is not letting yourself get sea sick.

What are some of your tips? What has helped you cope with the stress and fatigue of the Aliyah process? If you are not the one making Aliyah, how have you coped with seeing your family or friends move to Israel?

Monday, June 20, 2011

We Now Have Roots in Israel, Literally!

On Thursday night, I had the pleasure to attend an Olim Farewell Party at the Embassy of Israel in Washington, DC. It was a bit of a schlep, since I took the train from New York, but well worth it! Below are some of the highlights and, hopefully, this will give you an idea of what the experience was like.

My adventure started with a 2 pm Amtrak train from Penn Station to Union Station. 5 hours later (including a cab ride in rush hour traffic) I finally made it to the embassy.

iPhone picture taken upon arrival.
After checking in at the gate (only those on the list were allowed in) and getting my nametag at the front door, I headed in to the building just in time to grab a falafel (with humus of course) and schmooze a bit.

I think many will agree with this equation (especially Benji Lovitt): Falafel + Humus + Schmoozing = Good Time!

I was able to reconnect with a couple people from the Jewish Agency and Nefesh B’Nefesh whom I had met previously at the Mega Event in NYC and I was also able to speak with a few great people whom I was meeting for the first time.

Even as I was speaking with people, the surreal feeling of “I am at party at the Embassy of Israel” kept resurfacing and as that emotion was about to overtake me the program started. Of course, it took about ten minutes before the room quieted down and everyone took their seats (myself included).

Several people from the Jewish Agency and Nefesh B’Nefesh started the presentations with moving personal stories and followed with many compliments for those of us in attendance (including a video message from Natan Sharansky). I don’t know about anyone else but I am not completely comfortable with all the compliments and praise that we have received for simply doing what we believe is right and moving home where we can have a better life, a better present, and a better future.

Monika Lev Cohen, Shlicha for the Jewish Agency (Photo Courtesy of Shmulik Almany)
Following these introductions, we all had the pleasure of a surprise appearance by Ambassador Michael Oren (surprising if you didn’t notice the sudden appearance of Mossad standing on either side of the stage). His honest, and sometimes humorous, story of making Aliyah was the kind of heartfelt address that we could only imagine coming from the mouth of an American politician. While the process may be different now than when he departed from New Jersey, he went through the same emotional and spiritual journey. He is one of us!

Ambassador Michael Oren (Photo Courtesy of Shmulik Almany)
While hard to follow the Ambassador, the next group of people to speak are the reason why we still have a home to return to. Oleh and IDF veteran Michael Pfeffer was first with his story of growing up in the US and quitting Law school because he wanted something different, he wanted something more so he made Aliyah and joined the IDF.

Michael Pfeffer (Photo Courtesy of Shmulik Almany)
IDF Major General Gadi Shamni followed. A career soldier, he spoke from the perspective of a Sabra and shared his thoughts about those who have decided to make Aliyah. The admiration he has for those of use returning home is something I had to hear to believe.

Major General Gadi Shamni (Photo Courtesy of Shmulik Almany)
Upon the conclusion of Major General Shamni’s speech, the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces asked all those joining the IDF to come to the stage. It was a small group but a very powerful moment to see all those who would be fighting for a land that they love, defending our home, defending me. Be'hatzlacha!   

What followed was something very different but very interesting. Shifra Tessler, who made Aliyah last year, addressed the audience and spoke of her experiences during her first year before filling the room with a beautiful song.  

Naturally, the perfect person to follow Shifra is her father, Rabbi Joel Tessler who spoke about the obstacles that continue to stand in the way for those making Aliyah (i.e. proof of Judaism). What happened next was an interesting twist that is usually reserved for fiction, Rabbi Tessler announced that he will be joining his daughter and making Aliyah next year. Mazel Tov!

Rabbi Joel Tessler (Photo Courtesy of Shmulik Almany)
At this point I took a look at my watch and noticed that the program was running about 30 minutes long. Usually that wouldn’t be a problem but I had a ticket for the last Amtrak train out of Union Station which left in an hour and, as I said before, it really is not a quick trip across town. I debated ducking out and calling a cab but, looking at the program and knowing we were near the end, I decided to stay. I am really glad I did!

Baruch Fellner from Jewish National Fund was the last to speak. Region by region, all of the olim were invited to the stage for a group picture and to receive our certificate from the JNF of the tree that was planted in our name. It may seem small but think about it… we now have roots in Israel! However small they may be at the moment we have the power to make them grow.

Group Photo (Photo Courtesy of Shmulik Almany)
The ceremony was concluded with the singing of Hatikva. I am certain that this is the last time I will sing that song without crying (although I was very close this time). After a deep breath and taking a few last minutes to absorb the experience I made the rounds and said good bye to those whom I spoke with earlier in the evening.

What happened next was quite surprising but very Israeli, one of the people I had just met a couple hours prior offered to drive me to the train station. I don’t know if I would have been able to make the train without his generosity. Todah!

So, that was my little trip to the Embassy. Even though I didn’t get back to New Jersey until 1:30 in the morning (and I had to get back on the train at 7:30) I am glad I went and I feel very privileged to be an Oleh (almost - three weeks to go).  

UPDATE: I just received a great slide show from Monika Lev Cohen containing pictures from the event and put to some catchy (and very appropriate) music and an article mentioning the party in Haaretz (as well as another event during the day which I may discuss in the future). Thanks Monika!

Additional photos from the event by photographer Shmulik Almany can be seen viewed at

Monday, June 13, 2011

Aliyah Countdown

As our flight date quickly approaches (we are now taking off a half hour earlier than expected), I thought it was time to post a little countdown. Not the usual counting of days, something a little different.

·         10 weeks ago we attended the Aliyah Mega Event in NYC. This was the second year in a row that we attended and I recommend going if you have any interested in making Aliyah. In case you missed it, you can read about my experiences here.

·         9 months ago we told our families that we were going to make Aliyah. That was an interesting experience. Some reactions were positive others were a little volatile. It was a hectic day and a lot for our families to process.

·         I hope to be having lunch or a cup of coffee with my Rabbi in 8 weeks. He has been a tremendous help throughout this process and he will be arriving in Israel two weeks after we land to teach at a Yeshiva in Jerusalem for a short period of time over the summer. It has been too long since we sat and talked. 

·         7 weeks ago we got our Aliyah Visas! We didn’t expect to get them so soon. That is the best lunch break I think I have ever had. I still pull our passports out every once in a while and stare at them in disbelief.

·         6 weeks ago we got the signed lease back for our apartment in Nachlaot. We finally got our home in the homeland. It took a few emails back and forth, the kindness of a new friend, and some negotiation but we finally got it done.

·         Throughout this process, we had made our Aliyah plans anticipating not having jobs when we get there. However, that changed a few weeks ago. So, in 5 weeks I will have my first business meeting.

·         In 4 months we will be fulfilling our declaration as the New Year begins... This year in Jerusalem!

·         3 days from now I will be on my way down to Washington, DC. A couple of weeks ago, my wife and I were invited to the Embassy of Israel for an Olim Farewell Party (I still don’t know how we managed to get invited). I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.

·         2 years ago we were falling in love with our Homeland while on our honeymoon. Oh, how things have changed.

·         Just under 1 month from now we will be Israelis. There is nothing else I can really say to describe the way that makes me feel so I am going to stop writing now.