Volume 31 Number 33
                 Produced: Fri Feb  4  5:58:30 US/Eastern 2000

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Administrivia - Aliyah
         [Avi Feldblum]
Aliya to Save Your Children (2)
         [Joseph Geretz, Carl and Adina Sherer]


From: Avi Feldblum <mljewish@...>
Date: Fri, 4 Feb 2000 05:43:54 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Administrivia - Aliyah

This topic is one that both can raise the emotional level (on both sides)
but at the same time is in my opinion one of the important (but diffucult
for many) topics that face the Orthodox Jewish community. I will allow
this topic to continue, ask you to try and be moderate in your exchanges,
but I will try and help as much of the discussion continue as possible,
even if some of the postings get rather long (as is the case here), as
long as I think there is a good exchange going on.

Avi Feldblum
mail-jewish Moderator


From: Joseph Geretz <jgeretz@...>
Date: Thu, 3 Feb 2000 21:42:51 -0500
Subject: Aliya to Save Your Children

Dani Wassner wrote:
> Someone wrote:
>> -- no grandparents will be there
> To paraphrase Herzl: It is difficult to make aliya because of our
> grandparents. But we must do it for the sake of our grandchildren.

Interesting statement, in juxtaposition with the statements in favor of
Aliya, which were proposed on the basis of spiritual advancement
opportunities for the children of Olim.

I'm curious. What became of Herzl's grandchildren...  ?

Kol Tuv,

Yossi Geretz
Focal Point Solutions, Inc.

From: Carl and Adina Sherer <sherer@...>
Date: Fri, 4 Feb 2000 11:24:38 +0200
Subject: Aliya to Save Your Children

Freda B Birnbaum writes:

> > > -- no special job skills to take there
> When I made this statement (not an "argument", I was simply speculating
> on what people's reasons might be), I was thinking that MANY of us are
> just working stiffs, not brilliant lawyers or computer scientists.  Some
> of us are thinking survival versus non-survival, not higher-versus-lower
> living standards.

Most of the people who make aliya are "working stiffs" too. Most of us
do not come with large fortunes and move to Penthouse apartments in the
Wolfson complex. And while we can all cite anecdotal evidence of people
who came here and were ruined financially, on the whole, economic
circumstances in Israel have improved tremendously in the last ten
years, and for most people I don't think parnassa is an excuse for not
coming anymore. (To the point where I felt my stomach turning when I was
sitting in a shul in the US a couple of months ago and I heard a speaker
say, in essence, "come on aliya and you will all be rich." While that
may well be the case, for me at least, it is not a reason to make

And as far as the fact that "many of us are working stiffs, not
brilliant lawyers or computer scientists", that argument actualy works
in reverse. It can actually be *harder* for a highly trained,
specialized, top-money-making and very successful professional to make
aliyah than the average working stiff. The very high-earning and
specialized professionals spend a lot more time (and sometimes are never
able) to find something comparable, earning as much money in just the
right specialized area. They are often kept in the States by a very
tight set of 'golden handcuffs'. But the average wage earner, working in
an average job in an office, in sales, as a secretary, in a store, in a
business, as a mailman, can usually find something comparable here
relatively quickly.

But let's look at this from a different angle. When we daven on Rosh
HaShanna and Yom Kippur, we say "b'Rosh haShanna yikosaivun, u'b'Yom
Tzom Kippur yaichasaimun...mi yeasher u'mi yeani." (On Rosh HaShanna it
is inscribed and on Yom Kippur it is sealed, who shall become rich and
who shall become poor).  Chazal tell us that on Rosh HaShanna our
parnassa (financial support) for the entire year is determined, and that
beyond Yom Kippur there is nothing to do that can change that. When one
has a financial loss R"L and one views it as a kapporo (penitence) for
something worse R"L, one is acknowledging that essential truth.

Do we mean it when we say those words in shul, or are we just saying
them without feeling what we mean?

On one of my first Shabbosim after I came on aliya, I was at a Bar
Mitzva (of the son of an American oleh doctor who has been here since
the 70's). Rav Mordechai Shikovitzky zt"l spoke at the Bar Mitzva. It's
been more than eight years since that Bar Mitzva, and his words still
ring in my head, "bezeas apecha tochal lechem zeh lo mitzva - ze onesh."
(Eating bread from the sweat of your brow [i.e. having to work for a
living] is not a mitzva, it's a punishment (for eating from the tree of
knowledge in Gan Eden). Let's not spend more time and effort than we
have to on the punishment!

> I can tell you from personal experience that not all children are so
> adaptable.  When I was younger, we moved around way too much for my
> comfort level.  I was not at all a happy camper about uprooting from
> familiar surroundings. And a language change was not even involved.

I didn't suggest making your children into army brats. But one move (and
if you can keep them in the same school from the time you arrive it
really is only one move even if you start out renting and later buy)
will not usually be a difficult adaptation for a younger child.

> There are a lot of very fine baalei teshuva who have survived the public
> school system in America reasonably well.  

Ein hachi nami (that's not the point). The fact that most fruhm Jews in
America send their kids to Jewish schools - usually at great financial
sacrifice - tells me that they have reached the (IMHO correct)
conclusion that there is a much better chance of their kids staying
fruhm beyond the age of 18 if they attend a fruhm school. I doubt anyone
on this list will argue with that.

uri writes:

> > Anyone who can find a job in the US can find one in Israel. There are
> > very few unemployed American olim.
> How would you like to be one of those few yourself? How do you think
> a prospective ole (immigrant) evaluates [and likes] the odds?

I actually had more fear of being unemployed in the US in 1991 (when
corporate lawyers were being thrown out in the streets) than I have ever
had in Israel. Suffice it to say that being unemployed in the US is much
worse than being unemployed in Israel. There is much less of a social
services network on which you can fall back.  Not to mention how you are
going to pay your kids' Yeshiva tuitions.

> > I am appalled at this answer. We are talking about children who will
> > otherwise be sent to public schools, to a spiritual midbar (desert).
> First I'd like to remind, that not all of Israel is a "spiritual orchard",
> and not all of America is a "spiritual desert".

I was referring to the American PUBLIC SCHOOL system as a spiritual
desert and I stand by that statement. There is much I love and miss
about America, and I would be the last to refer to the Jewish community
in America as a "spiritual desert." (People who have seen me write on
tachlis have to be snickering at this point - I am a notorious
pessimist/realist and definitely do not hold from not showing people all
the faults before they come here. I am also the one who is constantly
pointing out things that are done better or more efficiently in

> > And you are worried about your standard of living?
> Well, in addition to be educated in schools, those children are supposed
> to be clothed, fed, entertained once-in-a-while - and spend time with
> their parents. While this time often isn't much in USA, it may become
> even less so due to lower life standard (i.e. you work more
> [time+efforts] and get less).

I would have to guess that I am one of the few people in Israel who
works as many or more hours than I did in the US. Most of my neighbors
are home much earlier than I am. Let's call the working hours
comparable, but keep in the back of your mind that no one here uses
their vacation days for Yom Tov and that many people here don't have to
use them (or use them at a rate like half a vacation day per day) for
Chol HaMoed. That's more time built in right there.

> It also says somewhere "Don't judge another person until you've been
> in his shoes".  The fact that *you* made a successful aliyah doesn't
> automatically mean others got "the same chance" and ought to try it.

I think there's anecdotal evidence in either direction. Of course, if I
had tried writing what I wrote before I went on aliya, you would
(rightly) have said to me, "let's see you make aliya and then you can
talk." Because of fear of that reaction, I felt so uncomfortable telling
people to go on aliya that I never even suggested it to anyone else
until I spoke at one of the shuls in my former community ten days before
I left. And although we always told people we intended to go on aliya, I
don't think most of our friends actually believed it until six weeks
before we left when we signed a contract on our house. So if I listened
to you, I would never be able to try to exhort anyone else to go on
aliya. If that's the case, maybe we should shut down all the aliya lists
on the net and the sachnut too....

> Public schools are "spiritual wilderness"?  Possibly, though I'd
> expect them to teach basic [secular] sciences and leave the spiritual
> to those who are qualified - and that necessarily includes the family.

Yes, of course, the family has to try to instill a love for Torah in
their children. But what kind of love for Torah is the FAMILY instilling
in their child when they send him to a place where he doesn't learn
Torah? And how is that child supposed to cope with the peer pressure to
do things that contradict the Torah? Ask any teenager how important it
is to be part of the "in" crowd.

> And it's related to the question of "how low the standard of living
> might drop", isn't it.  When it hits the floor, it isn't pleasant.

So what are you suggesting? That it's okay to send my kid to the
non-Jewish public schools so that I can make a better living? That I'll
make up an entire day of Jewish education in the extra hour that I will
(if I have time) spend with my kid in the evening? IMHO something is
very wrong in this picture....

> > How many of you have ever seriously looked at making aliya?
> Some have, I'm sure.  Myself for one. So...?

My point is that most American Jews have never even considered coming on
aliya. Living in Eretz Yisrael is a mitzva. Mitzva shebaa leyadcha al
tachmitzena (do not spurn a mitzva that is available to you). You want
to tell me that you cannot do that mitzva, okay, but I think that before
you tell me that, you have to do a real cheshbon hanefesh (spiritual
accounting) as to why you cannot do that mitzva and whether it is really
the case that you cannot do that mitzva. IMHO much of American Jewry is
substituting a cheshbon hakis (financial accounting) for that cheshbon

> > As much as I may have liked my goyische
> > neighbors in New Jersey, I could never borrow a cup of sugar from them,
> > I could never really invite them in for a meal (what if they wanted to
> > reciprocate), I could never discuss with them the latest sugya I was
> > learning. What is more comfortable than living amongst fruhmmer yiddin
> > (religious Jews)?
> First, there's more to Judaism than discussing sugiyot. 

Talmud Torah k'neged kulam (learning Torah is equal to all the others
combined - Peah 1:1).

Second, people
> have been solving the "kitchen" problems (how to invite non-Jews and how
> to deal with being invited to a non-Jew) successfully for a long time.

Is that what we really want to have as our social group? American goyim?
Is that what we want our kids to have as a social group and whom we want
to play with our kids? If that's the case, then why did chazal introduce
gzeiros (decrees) such as yayin nesech (not using non-Jewish wine), and
so on. Obviously because chazal did NOT want our kids playing with the
goyim. I don't know, maybe I'm weird, but I never felt comfortable at
all the social events I had to attend when I worked in New York. The
yacht cruises with the treif food and the fancy hotel dinners and the
parties at nightclubs and such never appealed to me. Maybe that's why I
made aliya.

> But the more important side of it is: a person who's lonely in US, is
> likely to stay lonely in Israel, and vs. versa - one who's done well
> here will probably do comparably well there, human-relations-wise.  

This is undoubtedly correct. If you are a small fish in a big pond
there, and you think that by coming here you will be a big fish in a
small pond, the odds are fairly high that you are mistaken.

> > ...that we are talking about our kids' future! How much money is it worth
> > to you to have your kids come out fruhm? And if you are going to put a
> > price on it, go ask someone who R"L has kids who have gone off the
> > derech (path) because I wil guarantee you that (assuming they themselves
> > are fruhm) there is no price they would not pay to put their children on
> > the straight and narrow.
> Are you saying that children in Israel are not going "off the derech"?!

No, I'm not naive enough to argue that. R"L there are kids here who go
off the derech too. But going off the derech here usually does not have
one implication here that it has there. Here, almost no one
intermarries. Here, even if R"L your child goes off the derech, at least
you will probably have Jewish grandchildren.

> > The Torah says
> > (Breishis 2:24), "Al kein yaazov ish es aviv v'es emo v'davak b'ishto
> > v'hayu levasar echad." (Therefore a man should leave his father and
> > mother and cleave to his wife and become one with her).
> Hmm, what does Torah say about respect for Mother and Father? If I recall,
> Jacob was very concerned meeting Esav, because he failed to fullfil the
> mitzva of showing that respect - by being away? Even though his being
> away was more than justified...?

Yaakov was on a much higher spiritual level than Esav, and therefore
Hashem was much more exacting with him than with Esav. Besides, it is
well known that Hashem tries to give reshaim (wicked people) like Esav
all of their reward in this world so that they will suffer more in the
next one. I don't think the comparison is apt.

Leaving that aside, I think Dani Wassner did a much better job of
answering you than I did. Dani wrote:

"> To paraphrase Herzl: It is difficult to make aliya because of our
> grandparents. But we must do it for the sake of our grandchildren."

> > Fourth, living in Israel is a mitzva. (I have done several posts proving
> > this in the past - there is one early in Volume 25).
> Apparently (even though Ramban agrees with you), Rambam does not. 
> I'd leave this issue of proof for the gedolim to deal with.

I will bli neder treat this in a separate post. Suffice it to say for
now that your conception of the Rambam is incorrect (IMHO anyway).

I just want to treat a few of the contentions that people have written
me privately as reasons not to make aliya:

1. Health insurance - there is now universal health insurance in Israel
through Kupot Cholim (sick funds - sort of like HMO's but ours at least
has been fabulous). The minimum basket has NO pre- existing condition
exclusions. The added services have NO pre- existing condition
exclusions but they do have 3-18 month wait periods for some services,
and you cannot get insurance for nursing-home care if you come beyond a
certain age. Private health insurance beyond that works the same way as
it does in the States as to pre-existing conditions (although I can also
tell you that despite all we have been through with him in the last
three and a half years, Baruch Yosef (zol zein gezunt biz hudert un
tzvantzig - he should live and be well to 120) has guaranteed
insurability for life for all coverages that were in effect when he
became ill). Suffice it to say, that if we still lived in the States, we
may well have been ruined financially by Baruch Yosef's illness, and it
is doubtful that anyone would have insured him beyond that age of 19).

2. "It's dangerous" - You've been watching too much CNN :-) Come here
and see it for yourself. Your odds of being mugged in any major city in
the US are greater than your odds of R"L being in a terrorist attack in

3. I can't find work exactly in my field - This is true. You may have to
make an adjustment in your career path, although the days when they
would tell nurses to retrain as bookkeepers are thankfully gone (I heard
that story from a nurse who has been here for more than thirty
years). But remember that the alternative under discussion was sending
your kids to the public schools because even all of your disposable
income is not enough to pay tuition in a Jewish one. IMHO that is
sufficient justification for a career change.

-- Carl M. Sherer
Please daven and learn for a Refuah Shleima for our son, Baruch Yosef
ben Adina Batya among the sick of Israel.  Thank you very much.


End of Volume 31 Issue 33