At a retirement party for my sister a few years ago our eldest daughter, Amy, spoke, in Hebrew. She thanked my sister for all the many things she has done for our family, especially for the gift of Israel. Her words, sincere, emotional, and totally true, brought tears to my eyes My sister’s move to Israel changed our lives, as well as those of our children, our grandchildren, and, hopefully the generations to come.
And even the generations already gone. My parents lie buried in Herzliya instead of one of the mega-cemeteries that ring New York and New Jersey.
To call my sister’s aliyah a success would be woefully inadequate. She has now commemorated over 50 years as an Israeli. She has retired from a long career as a high school English teacher. She is author of a bestselling series of English textbooks used in schools throughout Israel. She is constantly busy with music, art and lectures, and spends spare time walking the land. She has two amazing sabra children, four wonderful sabra grandchildren, and was married to a consummate mensch in a relationship filled with love, gentleness and kindness. His passing, five years ago, left her sad, but strong and resilient. She continues with the same fortitude that she was blessed with from birth.
My sister, Janet Goren, is now visiting with us in New Jersey for a family simcha. She is the easiest of guests. Never complains. Always satisfied. We love having her here. We love living two buildings away from her in Herzliya. We especially love traveling with her as she has always enjoyed the Israeli wanderlust. We have been to widely disparate places like the Republic of Georgia (as well as the state), Russia, Alaska,Poland, Australia and innumerable other fascinating places.
But the gift of Israel? Indeed! My parents, typical New Jersey Jews, began making the pilgrimage to Israel from the very beginning of Janet’s aliyah. Those flimsy little aerogrammes that they were receiving, two weeks in the mail, did not suffice. So they went and went and went. Until, finally at age 80, my father made the announcement that he and my mother were moving to Herzliya. And so it was! And yes, they had many years of joy on Rehov Ruppin, hosting family dinners, making new friends and being shul stalwarts.
Our own children, with so much close family there, and having spent a formative year in Jerusalem in 1973-4, became frequent visitors as well. They did all the obvious programs from school and camp. Our two older daughters obtained their BA’s from Hebrew University. The roots ran deep and solid. Israel was a part of their lives. It still is.
Our grandson Josh is now an Israeli as well. We’re so proud of him. He’s been there for years, working for a huge international company.
And so, Amy hit the nail on the head. Janet did give us the gift of Israel. It’s a wonderful wonderful gift and we are still unwrapping the colorful paper. It’s a warm and emotional place where Israelis from all over have built lives together, commemorating their differences and what they share. That includes Jews from New Jersey, Jews like my sister Janet who celebrates her 75th birthday in a few days. Yom huledet sameach. Ad 120!