Ziona Greenwald
Ziona Greenwald

Considering Aliyah? Don’t overthink it

As antisemitism heats up in America, at once more brazen and more normalized than ever, some Jews (still a tiny percentage, to be sure) are experiencing a consciousness-altering shock and rethinking their future in the “goldena medina.”  Including a few of my own loved ones.

Making aliyah is a big step — hopefully a forever one — and the process of weighing and evaluating the costs and benefits, the knowns and unknowns, should not be short-circuited.

The pitfall, however, is that it can take on a life of its own. The deliberative stage, the attempt to cross all the Ts and dot all the Is, can drag on for an indefinite period.  Meanwhile, the kids grow older and more entrenched in their milieu, and the parents become less and less sure of their own capacity to begin anew in a new country, however beloved it may be.  An important life decision is at stake — yet after a long trial, reams of evidence, myriad witnesses, and days and days of deliberation, the result is a hung jury.

Hope. Agonize. Wait and see. Rinse and repeat.

As important as it is to embrace aliyah with positivity and with your eyes wide open, perhaps there’s such a thing as overthinking it.

Our chosen profession is sometimes referred to as a “calling,” a sense that that particular line of work is what we were meant to do, despite the challenges we need to overcome to get there. It’s not unusual for people to relocate for a job.  U.S. military families are often moved from base to base, their children having great adventures but never knowing what it means to be at home. Indeed, in many professions, including the rabbinate and chinuch, families sometimes relocate for Daddy’s or Mommy’s job, or for their continued education, medical residency, fellowship, or some other career opportunity too fortuitous to pass up.

Surely this is never easy, but viewing the move as a financial or logistical necessity to achieve their dream and/or earn a good living, they do their homework, pack their suitcases, pray with all their might, and take off.

Here in Israel, I’ve met several families who went abroad for a few years on shlichut with the Mizrachi movement or other Jewish outreach agencies.  Their kids had to learn a new language — which may be seen as a bonus — and attend new schools where they knew no one at all.  I’m sure there were massive challenges along with tremendous opportunities for growth, but the bottom line is that they did it together and lived to tell the tale.

There’s no single answer or path to decision-making; everyone’s aliyah calculus is different based upon their family’s particular circumstances.  But I wonder:  Do some who get stuck in the deliberative phase think of making the move as somehow selfish — something they really want to do, but which might be too hard on their kids?  Or as a poor bet – something they know is right, but which might just be too difficult on a practical level?  The reasons to come here and the benefits (no, I don’t mean the sal klitah) are beyond measure — literally and figuratively.  That’s wonderful, but rather impossible to input when you’re preparing a balance sheet.

If you hear your homeland calling you (credit to the Moshav Band for that one), I hope you’ll answer it if at all possible. Because once you reframe aliyah as a Divine call, a chance to actualize your highest potential as a Jew, a journey with G-d on your side and at your side, it’s much easier to do the math.

About the Author
Ziona Greenwald, J.D., a contributing editor for The Jewish Press, is a writer and editor and the author of two children's books, Kalman's Big Questions and Tzippi Inside/Out. She lives with her family in Jerusalem.
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