Meet 8 of Israel’s Newest Citizens

01 May 2017


SUE FRIEDMAN: Born and raised in Germany, Sue Friedman was only 10 years old when she began collecting money for Israel with Habonim. When she was 13 years old in 1938, her family moved to Queens, though she remained focused on getting to Israel. It wasn’t until 1964 when she and her late husband, distinguished professor Gerald Friedman, visited Israel for the first time. Sue was enchanted, and thanks to his profession, they returned often. With two daughters, seven grandchildren, including Member of Knesset Rachel Azaria, and 29 greatgrandchildren in Israel (though plenty more in the USA), 91-year old Sue made the decision she’s wanted to make all her life. Now, she lives in Ra’anana in an independent living community which she loves, surrounded by many of her grandchildren, as well as new friends. “Making Aliyah has been something I’ve wanted to do forever. Every time I left Israel, I used to cry and every time I came back, I was happy. It was clear where I wanted to be, and now I couldn’t be happier.”

INNA URETSKAYA: Growing up in Brooklyn, New York, Inna Uretskaya was surrounded by Judaism daily, though Israel was rarely mentioned. When her Birthright opportunity came along in 2011, it was the first time Inna truly connected with Israel. Since then, she’s traveled back and forth, finding reasons to return and once even staying for seminary. It was then that she met a wonderful Israeli, and decided to follow both her love of Israel and her Israeli love to make Aliyah. Inna hopes to settle in Tel Aviv and continue her marketing career. “Israel makes me feel as if I’m home. It’s a totally different feeling than being anywhere else in the world. There is such a strong spiritual connection simply because of the essence which exists here.”

ARI BAR SHAIN: Growing up in a religious Zionist household, Ari Bar Shain studied at the Fuchs Mizrachi School, spent summers at Camp Stone, and was a big player in Bnei Akiva. It was no surprise that Ari would make Aliyah. Having just graduated high school, Ari joined the Garin Tzabar program. Ari is dedicated to playing an active role in the Jewish state and making a positive impact on Israel’s future. “I have an opportunity to bring much more than just one person to our homeland. I get to chart a new course for my descendants, and to alter the trajectory of my offspring. My kids will grow up in Israel and will feel the passion, idealism, unity, and fulfillment of living here.”

YAEL AND DORON OHEL: Living on opposites coasts didn’t matter to Yael from Boston and Doron from California. When a mutual friend and a well-timed weekend in California connected them, they hit it off and became a bi-coastal couple. Both had a feeling that Israel would be their final destination and after getting married, settling on the West Coast, and having three children, Yael and Doron were ready to connect with a slower pace of life and a new community–in Israel. “We were looking for more meaning in our lives, and we loved the tradition of Shabbat. We wanted our week to revolve around it, to celebrate the music, to bask in the community aspect, and to practice Judaism in our own authentic way.”

ADINA KARPUJ BORTZ: Originally from Chile but raised in Atlanta, Georgia, Adina grew up listening to Israeli music and reading Hebrew newspapers at breakfast. She was raised with Israel constantly on her mind, and because of this, making Aliyah wasn’t a question of ‘if’ but of ‘when.’ She knew she wanted to fully integrate herself into Israeli culture, and upon high school graduation, she decided to draft into the Israel Defense Forces. Adina joined Garin Tzabar, which offers support and guidance to young people who want to join the IDF, and is currently serving her new country. “Everything feels surreal and I feel like I’ve been given an enormous gift. I don’t feel like I’ve left home, but like I am home.”

RACHEL AND DAVID LESHAW: Before they got married two years ago, Rachel and David had a frank conversation about their future. The couple wanted to raise a family, and they both agreed that it only seemed right to do it in the Jewish homeland. Two years later, their plan came to fruition and, along with their four month- old baby Yehoshua, they have made Aliyah. The couple has settled in Efrat with Rachel’s parents, who visited Israel six years ago and never left. The young couple is looking forward to finding their own success—David in the tech marketing field and Rachel, who is studying to become a Yoetzet Halacha (a Halachic authority), within Israel’s women’s learning revolution. “Because Israel is the only Jewish homeland, there’s a feeling of responsibility for what goes on here. What we grow here belongs to us, and that matters. Here we have the chance to not just be intellectuals and focus on our relationship with books, but to establish roots and feel truly connected to the land.”

ANDREW ACKER: The only time Andrew Acker had been to Israel was for his Bar Mitzvah. A decade later, he graduated from MIT and knew he wanted to experience Israel as an adult. With a mechanical engineering degree and a passion for basketball, Andrew discovered the perfect opportunity. Only 11 days before he was meant to fly, he signed on to join the Israeli Basketball League and is now playing for the team in Shoham. Eventually, Andrew wants to become an orthopedic surgeon, but for now, he’s immersing himself in Israeli culture and loving every minute of it. “Before I moved into my apartment in Tel Aviv, I needed a place to stay. One of the team managers took me in, and was feeding me, driving me around, and was so hospitable in every way. Everyone is so welcoming. Even now that I’m in my apartment, I’m spending Shabbat with his family, who has become like my family in Israel.”

ARIELLA AND BARUCH HALEVI: A Conservative Rabbi and a yoga teacher living outside of Boston, Baruch and Ariella began yearning for a better way to connect to their Judaism. They had been toying with the idea of Aliyah for years, and finally decided that it was time to go. With their dream of moving to a good Jewish community in the mountains, the pair and their four children moved to a small community in the Central Galilee. Baruch began consulting for travel agencies, creating unique spiritual content, and redefining experiences for tourists. Ariella hopes to become a teacher and continue her Jewish yoga lessons. “We’re on the same page, even our fouryear- old. All of us realize this is the place we need to be. It’s peaceful and beautiful. Kids knock on our door, they run around free. It’s been amazing to get the warm welcome we were hoping for.”

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.