PROFILE IN ALIYAH
Robyne Diller: A New Face From Israel
Shalom from Jerusalem,
I'm a 46 year old, single mom with three sons: Jacob, Benna and Noah. Jake is attending college in Illinois while Bennie and Noah made aliyah with me. I grew up in Chicago, received my PhD in Clinical Psychology at Emory University in Atlanta and moved to Hartford, Connecticut in 1986. I got married, moved to Deep River when Jake was six months old and eventually started a private practice in New London.
Along the way, I studied Hebrew, joined my synagogue choir, built the playground and was part of the cemetary committee at our synagogue. And all this time, the issue of making aliyah was percolating in my head.
It really started when I first went to Israel when I was 21. I had just graduated from Northwestern University and was preparing to move to Philadelphia for a year of freedom before going to graduate school. In was in Jerusalem, at the Kotel, that an Israeli soldier came up to me, asked if I was a Jew, asked me if I was an American, and, upon hearing my affirmative answers, asked me why, why wasn't I living there? I couldn't answer him. I said that my family lived in the U.S., that I was born and raised there, that my friends were there. Everything I said sounded hollow to me. Eventually the soldier gave up and walked away but that moment stayed with me.
A couple of years ago, my sons and I went with other members of our synagogue to Israel for ten days. Benna became a bar mitzvah on Masada. And when we came back I found myself depressed and couldn't let go of what was in my heart anymore.
A friend listened to me whine about my "homesickness" and finally he said to me, " When do you just pull the trigger and do what you want? When do you stop running away?".
And so I decided to finally do it and started the process of planning aliyah. It was a long series of steps, part of which was the difficulty of telling family and friends — some very upset, some were supportive. Eventually, my family began to listen to my plan for the move and were surprised and relieved to hear that I knew I needed to get a job, that it would be hard financially, that I knew I'd have to learn Hebrew, and that I knew it wouldn't be anything like living in the U.S. (Even though I was sure that the very large majority of them, including my sons, would have changes my decision if they could have.)
So I sold my house, closed my practice and by the time we left, we already had an apartment in Jerusalem, and I thought I had a job as a research editor for a psychiatric research group in Petach Tikva, but it never panned out.
So after arriving, I took a job at a small travel and touring company called Avitours where I do all sorts of fun and interesting things and I can fulfill my dream of helping to bring more people to Israel (and, in the meantime, take a breather from my very demanding former profession).
Now, we are in our second year here. My oldest son, Jake, is now a college sophomore (we had a wonderful summer with him here and can't wait till next summer when he returns), and my two younger sons and I are still adjusting but we have a great group of friends, belong to a wonderful Conservative synagogue (Moreshet Avraham) and live in a beautiful apartment in the Talpiyot/Arnona area of Jerusalem.
We're happy here although we've had lots of ups and downs — I think we all feel stronger, more self-confident and less likely to take things for granted than we used to. I know that I am extremely proud of my sons for how well they've done here, how wonderfully they're doing in school (they both go to Israeli public schools that are associated with the Masorti Movement) — and it thrills me to hear them speaking Hebrew (they could barely count to ten when we made aliyah).
Tomorrow I'll probably be speaking with our rabbi about a date for my youngest son's Bar Mitzvah. It is just dazzling, this life of ours, sometimes.
I had a good life in the U.S. I lived in a beautiful town, had a lovely house, great friends and a successful practice. My children went to great schools, we had access to great medical care, and we had a wonderful synagogue. But being here in Israel gives me the sense of wholeness and I don't think I'm romanticizing. It is crazy here; it is often difficult, strange and confusing. But the history, the ancient stones, the sky and the desert, they are all things that I am in love with and that feel to me to be imbued with G-d's presence.
There is also a real chance for me here to do something meaningful for the Jewish people. When I lived in the United States I knew that so much of what I did was really just for myself or for my family. Here I can contribute in a vital way that I could never do if I had stayed complacently in my old life.
Knowing what it is like to live here as an American-Israeli, I also know what we as Conservative Jews could contribute because of what we have already accomplished as a body in America.
We Conservative Jews are used to having a strong voice in the political, economic, environmental and civil rights spheres in the States and I have become involved in supporting minority and gay rights here.
As a Conservative Jew, I'm still committed to working toward justice and tikkun olam but now I can focus that challenge here for the benefit of Israel. I wish that more of us were here to do what needs to be done to bring Israel forward, ever closer to where she should be.
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