Leaving New Jersey for Israel, Jews say they’re going home

13 01 2008

EDISON — Cheryl Jacobi had been on several flights to Israel. But this time she was traveling on a one-way ticket.

The oldest of four children from a close-knit family in Edison, Jacobi decided to make aliyah � to immigrate to Israel as a symbol of taking one’s Jewish life to a higher level.

The 23-year-old, who goes by her Hebrew name Yocheved in her new homeland, said she was anything but nervous as she boarded the plane to Israel in late December.

It helped that all 200 passengers on the chartered flight, which was sponsored by the Jewish organization Nefesh B’Nefesh, were also immigrating to Israel.

Nefesh B’Nefesh is a nonprofit organization founded five years ago to make it easier for American Jews who wish to move to Israel.

“We have flown about 14,000 Americans to Israel in the past five years; another 17,000 are in the pipeline,” Charley Levine, spokesman for Nefesh B’Nefesh, said.

He added that Israel needs these people, whom he described as the best and brightest the Western World has to offer, to help the country and the economy to grow.

“I’ve been singing songs about Israel and making maps of Israel since I was little,” Jacobi said, adding that as a child she went to both schools and summer camps that she said were incredibly Zionistic.

Simona Kogan, a departing Metuchen resident also on the flight, said being in a country where she feels connected to the people and the surroundings motivated her to move there.

“But,” she added, “it was a very tough decision because I was giving up everything I knew, the comforts of America, and of course my friends and family.”

Kogan, 25, said that in her new country she expects to make several adjustments, which include learning a new language, living in a home that is far more basic than what she has known in America, and working longer hours for less money.

New immigrants to Israel are entitled to a free five-month course in the Hebrew language as part of their acclimatization.

Jacobi, who made her first trip to Israel before she was 2 years old, said that she plans on taking the five-month course because, while she knows Hebrew, it is only as a second language.

She said she made the decision to move to Israel five years ago during a year at a Jewish seminary in Israel after high school.

A couple of her close high school friends are already in Israel, as are two of her younger siblings, which she said will make the move much easier.

“I find that when I’m here, no matter what city or what part of the country, I feel at home,” she said in a phone call from Israel.

Kogan, on the other hand, had several concerns before leaving � such as being away from her parents, relying on friends and family friends, traveling without a car, and having much less free time.

She also worried about communicating with relatives in America through different means � not to mention taking care of her own finances, bank account, and apartment for the first time in her life.

“Once I got to Israel, I knew I had made the right decision. I felt it. I don’t know, maybe in six months I will be saying something different but for now, I’m still on that high of doing something completely and totally out of the box and being happy with my decision,” she wrote in an e-mail from Israel.

Jacobi said that while she misses her parents, who are still in America because they have to take care of her grandparents, she knows that they will move to Israel eventually.

“Honestly, they are just jealous right now; they wish they could be here too,” she said.

She said a sense of Jewish community is very important to her, and it is something that she never experienced in America.

“There are Jews in America, too, but it’s just not the same feeling here and there,” Jacobi said, adding that after she graduated she couldn’t think of a place in the U.S. where she wanted to settle down.

“I encourage people who are thinking about making aliyah to make at least two or three trips there before they settle down, or they won’t know what they are getting themselves into,” she warned.

Kogan said that it was only until she came back to America that she became 100 percent certain this was what she wanted to do.

“They say being away from something makes you realize how much you miss it and for me, being away from Israel after being there for a year was the final decision to live there for good.” app.com




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