From March Madness to Astounding August to Emotional Elul: A Letter to Ilan

allstarlogo-2Dear Ilan:

Momentarily we will leave for the airport to greet a Nefesh B’Nefesh charter plane filled with Olim landing at Ben Gurion Airport. You are our most cherished amongst the 232 Olim Chadashim on this aircraft who will soon begin their new lives in the Homeland.

When you were born, our plan at the time was to move to Israel within the coming year. Well, one thing led to another, and we didn’t make it here for 20 years. At the time, you had just returned from two years at Reishit and opted to get your college degree in the U.S.

Mommy and I were uncertain if this day would ever come. Perhaps the most “All-American” of our four children, you always seemed content in the U.S. We were careful not to put any pressure on you to join us in Israel. And so we held our collective breath.

With a shuttle service rivaling some diplomats, a calm demeanor, and your studies in psychology, you analyzed the future carefully. Now at the age of 25, after completing your degree, you are ready. You are returning to Israel to make your home here. We can’t wait to see how the future unfolds for you!

Needless to say, we’re extremely happy at this turn of events and unbelievably proud of your decision. When you join us this morning on Israeli soil – not as a visitor, but a resident, our family will feel complete once again.

You are arriving in the first week of Elul, a time for taking stock and teshuvah. It seems a fitting time for your arrival, as we always strive as a family to come closer to Hashem and prepare for the Chagim.

As we await your arrival, I find myself thinking how this new passage in our lives is almost like a sporting event, but we are teaming up for something different this time. It is easy to think in such metaphors, as you have always been a sports fan(atic) like no other. Your name is synonymous with sports. Playing, watching, or announcing sports – it is your life.

Remember all the seasons when you and I would get caught up in the so-called “March Madness” of NCAA basketball play-offs? We’ve journeyed to Phoenix, Syracuse, St. Louis, San Antonio, Houston, Dallas, and Atlanta, in order to take part in the mid-Spring hoopla whenever our schedules allowed for it. (And when it didn’t, we caught the NIT championship at the Garden.) The Final Four was a point of envy as well as anticipation in our home. And yes, I resorted to bribery at times amongst the others to allow us to travel in relative peace.

So it should be no surprise that last week, when we were thinking of the best way to welcome you home, Adina coined the phrase “FINAL of the FOUR” to describe your homecoming. Along with Adina, Gilad, and Dafna, you are all part of your own Final Four.

Even in this season of contemplation, allow us our spirit of celebration. Whereas in your eyes (and those how you email), it is Yashinriox79nyi, in our eyes is it ILANROXISRAELIN15. I know you have dreamed of somehow being able to share your love of sports in our Homeland. In your own way, you have. You opted to take us to the championship game by coming home, and we are all members of the winning team – a team that will continue to build this land along with others who have come from near and far.

Ilan, your name is not only synonymous with sports, but also with caring – caring about both our people and our traditions. Whether on the playing field, as a madrich, or at home with those you love, you are a champion.

May you and the other 231 Olim Chadashim who accompany you have a Klitah Kallah. You will always be part of the ALIYAH ALL STAR team.

All my love,



About the Author
Stuart is a co-founder of the Nafshenu Alenu mental health educational initiative founded in 2022. He currently serves on the Board of Visitors of McLean Hospital, affiliated with Harvard University Medical School. He serves as Chairman of the Board of OGEN – Advancement of Mental Health Awareness in Israel; chairman of Mental Health First Aid Israel and a partner in “Deconstructing Stigma” in Israel. He is on the Board of Directors of the Religious Conference Management Association. He has counseled over 7,000 individuals and families in crisis
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