In recent times, many people are saying that what’s going on here in the US for Jews is reminiscent of 1930s Germany. The comparison is apt considering that Jew-hatred is very much on the rise. Popular media and social media are even normalizing Jew-hatred. Naturally, the aliyah salespeople are coming out in full force telling us to come home. And I don’t disagree with any of it. So why am I writing anything?
One of the points that the aliyah salespeople use is that many Jews in pre-WWII Europe, especially in Germany, were very comfortable there and didn’t want to leave and forsake their physical and material comforts for a life of material hardship in Eretz Yisrael. While that’s true, the salespeople leave out an important point. There were also many Jews in pre-WWII Europe who DID see the proverbial “handwriting on the wall” long before Kristallnacht and who were desperately trying to get out. But they faced serious obstacles that did not just go away. US immigration laws had quotas that were very restrictive and there was enough Jew-hatred going on to keep many Jews out of the quotas. The British had very restrictive laws to keep Jews out of Eretz Yisrael. Many other countries had similar immigration policies.
Yaffa Eliach z”l wrote about this in her book about the shtetl of Eishyshok. Her aunt, Hinda Sonenson Tawlitski, was trying to get visas for herself and her children to get to the US where her husband awaited them but the consular officials insisted she take a competency test that was impossible to pass. She and her children never got their visas and they were murdered by the Nazis. Peter Zvi Malkin wrote about his own experiences. He and his parents and brothers got to Eretz Yisrael while his sister, Fruma, and her family remained behind. His mother ran her feet off and talked to everyone who might be able to help. But Fruma and her family did not get any visas and they were murdered by the Nazis. Only later did Peter avenge his sister and her family by helping to bring Adolf Eichmann y”s to justice.
Of course, today, many of us Jews in the Western world do not have such obstacles. Medinat Yisrael is there and going strong and they don’t have immigration quotas. But even now, making Aliyah is not as simple as buying a plane ticket, packing, and going.
There are people like me and my family who have student loan debts and other debts and bills and don’t have a lot of money. Nefesh B’Nefesh tells us that we need money. They also told a friend of mine that “Eretz Yisrael is not a place to run away from debt.” There are people like my cousin’s mother-in-law who would probably love to join her married children and grandchildren in Eretz Yisrael but who has serious health issues (she cannot walk or go to the bathroom unaided) and can’t travel. There are people like my friend who have elderly parents or other relatives who cannot travel and who need their care. There are people like my friend who have adult children and grandchildren who cannot make aliyah just yet and who don’t want to leave their grandchildren behind. There are others who have other obstacles that I can’t think of right now.
These are issues that are constantly left out of the “come home” narrative. We want to come home. But we also want to be seen and heard about the very real obstacles that we face. We get that no one has any easy answers for us. And some of us (my family and myself included) are taking the “Nachshon ben Amminadav” approach. Meaning that we’re starting the process despite those obstacles. But these obstacles need to be acknowledged and validated. They’re not going away so fast despite one person’s saying that “these are just excuses” or another person’s saying that she has no sympathy for people like us and that some people just have the zechut to make aliyah while others don’t. Yes, those are real things that people have said to me.
Maybe, if these obstacles are acknowledged and validated, people might start brainstorming and coming up with ideas to get past them. That will definitely help.
The point is that those of us who want to make aliyah and the obstacles we face must not be left out of the narrative. We’re a part of this too.