By Jessica Cutter
The second year of aliyah is a mixed bag of emotions. In many ways it marks settling into normal life as Israelis, while on the other hand, adjusting to a new normal that is still so new and so raw. This year, on Yom HaAtzmaut, we all celebrated differently than in years past, but for my family, this holiday turned into a truly defining moment.
Many olim feel that they have to create new lives in Israel and leave America or elsewhere far behind. However, my family and I have built our second year in Israel on the foundation that “home” can occupy two places in your heart and that old friends and experiences are just as important as new ones.
This Yom HaAtzmaut, thanks to Hebrew Academy of Long Beach (HALB) Lower School Principal Richard Altabe, HALB parent Azriel Chelst, HALB 5th grade teacher Rabbi Moshe Steinberg, and 3rd grade teacher Mrs. Tziporah Siegel, my older two children joined their former HALB classmates in a Zoom call as a surprise for the chag. The smiles on their faces and those of their classmates was such an incredible experience, and the joy with which my children joined these calls on their day “off” from school is a testament to the incredible educators at HALB who make learning an opportunity and a privilege, rather than a chore.
I have watched my children struggle as they make new friends in a new language in a totally new place, and I have watched them triumph in so many ways over the last 18 months we’ve lived here. I have tried my best to be a facilitator at this time in our lives, but, I too, struggled to make new friends in a new language in a totally new place. This is not to mention the other challenges associated with daily life in Israel.
As this second year teaches us to embrace the new with the old, I am forever grateful for our new community of Modiin and for the Mesuat Neriyah and Ariel schools that have so warmly welcomed my children, but I am also thankful for the Long Beach community and to HALB who will always hold a place in our lives.
Jessica Cutter made aliyah with her husband Azi and four children from Long Beach, N.Y., with Nefesh B’Nefesh. Since its founding in 2002, Nefesh B’Nefesh, in cooperation with Israel’s Ministry of Aliyah and Integration, The Jewish Agency for Israel, Keren Kayemeth Le’Israel and JNF-USA, has facilitated the aliyah of over 57,000 North Americans to Israel.