Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert may have declared the age of mass aliyah over, but aliyah from North America has ticked up in the last few years. And among those making the move this summer is a who’s who of Modern Orthodoxy.
Prominent rabbis and educators from the New York area, including Ari Berman, spiritual leader of The Jewish Center, a leading congregation on the Upper West Side, were feted last week by the Jewish Agency for Israel in its annual Olim Farewell ball.
Other notables include Woodmere, L.I., Rabbi Shalom Rosner, who hopes to lure some 400 families to Beit Shemesh; Rabbi David Wadler, principal at Moshe Aaron Yeshiva High School in Highland Park, N.J.; Rabbi David Silverstein, assistant rabbi at the Riverdale Jewish Center and a teacher at the Salanter Akiba Academy (SAR), also in Riverdale; and Jennie Rosenfeld, who has developed a sex ed curriculum for day schools.
Rabbi Berman, who has served The Jewish Center for 14 years, eight as senior rabbi, will be moving with his wife and five children. He is set to return to the home in Neve Daniel he inhabited this past year on sabbatical.
“Before the shul generously offered me leave [this past year], I told them that there was a chance I might stay and they understood that,” said Rabbi Berman, who made his decision to move last month.
He will also be returning, at least for now, to his studies at Yeshivat Har Etzion, located in nearby Alon Shvut. And after that, anything is possible, said Rabbi Berman, who wouldn’t rule out someday returning to the pulpit.
“For me, Israel really is the land of opportunity,” he said.
At last Thursday’s event, held at UJA-Federation of New York headquarters on East 59th Street, Boaz Herman, the head of the Jewish Agency’s aliyah department, offered words of congratulations to the 250 olim.
“There are 3,200 Jews from North America making aliyah to Israel per year,” he said, ranking them just behind Jews from the former Soviet Union, but ahead of both the French and Ethiopians.
Orthodox Jews tend to make aliyah in far greater numbers than those of other denominations, often reared in homes and schools emphasizing Jewish history and the mitzvah of living in Israel.
Rosenfeld, who was featured in The Jewish Week’s recent section, 36 Under 36: The Next Wave of Jewish Innovators, is moving next month with her husband Pinchas and 3-month-old daughter Neshama. They will relocate to the Katamonim neighborhood of Jerusalem, where she will participate in a research fellowship at the Avraham Harman Institute of Contemporary Jewry.
Rosenfeld has wanted to make aliyah her whole life. “I eventually realized I wasn’t going to do it alone,” she said.
A fellow oleh is Jason Schwartz, who will be moving to Beit Shemesh with his wife and seven children, all under the age of 10 — including 6-year-old triplets.
Schwartz, of Teaneck, is chief financial officer of Actimize, an Israeli software company with whom he will continue work.
“It’s something I’ve always wanted,” Schwartz said of moving to Israel, adding that the opportunities for his line of work will always be plentiful there.
Schwartz will be settling in the Nofei Hashemesh neighborhood of Beit Shemesh, a new and developing area being established with the help of Woodmere’s Rabbi Rosner, who is leaving his post and settling in the area to spearhead the project.
Rabbi Berman seemed to speak for the group when he explained Israel’s attraction, saying, “It’s simply because Israel is a wonderful place to live.”
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