A tale of aliya success and Ohioan chutzpa

The past few months have been an exciting time for my parents and siblings. We celebrated our milestone 20-year “aliyanniversary” – 20 years since we left our home and family in Ohio of the United States to move to Jerusalem. And just this past week, as reported here, my father was appointed to head up the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, which means that my parents will now leave (temporarily) back to the U.S. to pursue this important “shlichut.”

While being extremely proud of my father for his accomplishments and recent relatively high-profile appointment, which was called by the Joint as an “Israeli Success Story,” which it is, there is another “aliya story” that I believe is worth noting. This story will receive no PR and little fanfare beyond our family, but that nonetheless is an incredible story of great professional success and of which I’m incredibly proud. I’m speaking of my mother, Rhona Gill.

Mom came here to Jerusalem as a wife and mother of 3 young children. Before our move she worked for years as a professional in the field of healthcare information management, specializing in medical record management and coding. After arriving in Israel and while struggling through Ulpan Etzion, she decided to knock on the door of the Israeli Health Ministry to see what exists in her professional field in Israel. She refused to take “no” for an answer. Turns out, they grow some Israeli Chutzpah in Ohio.

At the Ministry she found out that her field of medical record coding was far from advanced and way off the international professional standards. Well, Mom didn’t agree to take no for an answer, and successfully pitched them to hire her as a consult, to help bring the Israeli systems up to speed. Not only did she do that, she later became so vital to the Ministry that they brought her in-house as a permanent member of the Ministry staff. A real Israeli bureaucrat, but one of the good ones – I promise.

So Rhona Gill, the spirited mother of three and American “Ola,” found herself, with her broken and heavily accented Hebrew, rolling out a nationwide program to implement the new healthcare information management system and standards at hospitals and healthcare facilities all across Israel. These included training professionals, teaching classes in Hebrew, dealing with the Israeli exam culture of teamwork (cheating), working with senior hospital administrators and so much more. All with the highest international professional standards in her field, with dignity, modesty and a charm that didn’t escape the eyes of any of her colleagues.

Last week, my mother gave notice to The Israeli Health Ministry that she would be leaving after 20 years as an Israeli government employee. She came, she pitched, she implemented, she revolutionized her field. It’s a small story, but also one that is living proof that yes, one can come to Israel and be successful professionally, no matter how narrow your professional field is. When there’s a door in front of you, find a window. Break through. That’s what Mom did. All it took was some Ohio-bred Israeli Chutzpah and a deep level of determination not to allow the rough professional landscape here to deter her. I have been blessed to grow up with such a source of inspiration at home, a true “Israeli success-story.”

About the Author
Mati is an American born Israeli currently living in Tel Aviv. He is an attorney at one of the leading industrial companies in Israel and previously served as Bureau Chief of the Israeli Minister of Public Security and is a Major in IDF reserves. A social entrepreneur, Mati co-founded the "Sanhedrin Forum" for young Israeli professionals