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Grasping the Kedusha, Avoiding the Pitfalls
When American Families Move to Eretz Yisroel
by Yair Spolter

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3/15/07

The Opportunities and the Challenges

There are few zechusim as great as the opportunity to live and raise a family in Eretz Yisroel. Eretz Yisroel is the land to which Hashem gives constant attention. This means that Hashgacha prattis (Divine guidance) is more tangible in Eretz Yisroel and that life there is more naturally imbued with meaning and spirituality. The Land of Israel is the porthole through which kedusha enters the world and where our tefillos ascend to Heaven. Living in Eretz Yisroel means kirvas Hashem, being close to the Ribbono Shel Olam. It facilitates siyatta diShmaya (Heavenly assistance) in limud haTorah and kiyum mitzvos (observance). It is the land where all Klal Yisroel are meant to be. Indeed, throughout the two-thousand-year galus, Jews have yearned to live in Eretz Yisroel, making great sacrifices simply to reach its holy soil. Inspired by the words of our chachamim (wise men), who extol the virtues of Eretz Yisroel in countless Gemoras and Midrashim, the Jewish people have always possessed a strong emotional tie to the land, and have desired to be among its inhabitants. Certainly someone who has spent time studying in Israel has experienced the sanctity of the land permeate his being, and feels the magnetic draw of Eretz Yisroel. These feelings stem from Avraham Avinu who, ever since he passed the test of “Lech Lecha,” implanted this yearning in the soul of every Jew.

Today, it is not only the love of Eretz Yisroel that draws Jews from abroad to make aliya.Many people are seeking to find an escape from the materialistic Western world that is replete with non-Jewish ideals and undesirable influences.In a time when most of the civilized world is uncivilized and common sense is uncommon, the search for a wholesome, sheltered environment in which to raise a family has drawn many to settle in the Holy Land.The chareidi communities of Eretz Yisroel, in particular, are oases of Torah ideals where the pursuit of spirituality is alive and well.Torah values have been preserved in their purest form, and Torah and mitzvos are the natural way of life.They have resisted the influences of the outside world to an unparalleled degree, and the insatiable thirst for material gains and pleasures that plagues the modern world is practically foreign to their inhabitants.It is no surprise, therefore, that thousands of families from across the globe are seeking refuge in these spiritual greenhouses, and planting their children in their institutions, where they can develop as genuine Torah-true Yidden.

Moving to Eretz Yisroel, then, is certainly a great opportunity, but it is also a challenge. And as with all challenges, certainly in the spiritual realm, there is also a possibility of regression or even failure, Heaven forbid.

The successful integration of American families into Israeli chareidi society is not always guaranteed.While some families make the adjustment with ease and embark on their new life in Eretz Yisroel with great success, many find the change from an American kehilla to an Israeli chareidi neighborhood an enormous challenge.These families often find themselves at odds with the Israeli mentality and educational system, and have difficulty getting their children acclimated to a new, unfamiliar environment.For some families, the bumps along the road to aliya are simply insurmountable, and their only solution is to head back to the US.

How does one prepare for a successful aliya?What are the factors that determine success or failure?What kinds of families are more likely to acclimate into Israeli society with ease?What do rabbanim, mechanchim, and gedolei Yisroel say about these issues?Who can one turn to for advice?This article is an attempt to survey these areas of concerns and offer some answers.

Getting Acclimated

Making aliya is not only a spiritual or geographical move.It also means completely altering your social atmosphere.Rebbetzin Yehudis Salenger gives parenting classes and is a source of personal guidance for hundreds of Anglo families living in Eretz Yisroel’s chareidi neighborhoods.“When someone goes to Russia or to Africa,” she comments, “he expects to encounter a different culture.But for some reason, people think that when they come to Eretz Yisroel, it won’t be that way.When they get here, they can be very surprised.”

Working for two years as the Director of Social Services for Nefesh B’nefesh, Dr. Dodi Tobin learned a lot about the effects of aliya on American youth.In her opinion, there is much to consider before deciding to bring children on aliya.“Identity and self-esteem are major issues for adolescents,” says Dr. Tobin.“Beginning around the age of nine and throughout the teen years, social life is a crucially important part of a child’s life.When an adolescent is plucked out of his environment, away from his familiar friends and community, and is placed into a new culture where everything is foreign to him and he can’t even communicate, it can be very distressing, and can result in rebellion.”Dr. Tobin points out that parents who make aliya often feel like strangers in a strange land, but being adults and having made the conscious decision to make aliya, they generally have the resources to manage.Teenagers, on the other hand, are brought to Israel by their parents, and may have more difficulty coping and fitting in.

American Youth in Israel – Not a Simple Situation

Problems with children can range in severity from an unhappy child who just gets by, to a depressed son or daughter who doesn’t want to go to school, to a rebellious teenager who is turned off from religion completely.Unfortunately, the latter is becoming a reality all too familiar to chareidi communities throughout the country.American olim whose children don’t make it in the system can quickly turn to the streets, where they meet up with more of their own breed.

Rabbi Yossi Amar is a Ramat Beit Shemesh resident who teaches in Ohr Chadash, a yeshiva/vocational training program in Telz Stone for American teenage boys.

Rabbi Amar began reaching out to troubled American teens in his neighborhood, helping them cope with their problems.“There are, unfortunately, a lot of them,” he says.“Both boys and girls.Some of these kids are new olim, and some were actually born here but they grew up as Americans.”Although he has had success in reaching many children, Rabbi Amar reports that overall, the issue of troubled American teens in Eretz Yisroel only seems to be getting worse.“In some communities,” he says, “rebellious youth have already created their own sub-culture and established themselves as an entity.If a kid is not making it in the system, he knows where to find friends, and then it’s all down-hill from there.”

Rabbi Zev Oratz has spent the past five years working with young adults from English-speaking homes who have strayed from Yiddishkeit.Two years ago, he opened “The Zone,” a teen hangout located in the center of town on a street lined with bars and night clubs.The Zone is staffed with counselors who try to make a connection with these kids and help them sort out their lives.The clientele are mainly American teenage boys and girls (on separate nights) who have come on aliya and turned to the streets.Rabbi Oratz estimates that between ten and twenty percent of children who make aliya in their teenage years end up going off the derech, meaning that a family that moves with three children in their teens (not an uncommon scenario) has a forty percent chance of one of their children abandoning Yiddishkeit.

Mashgiach, lecturer and author of numerous books on chinuch, Rabbi Noach Orlowek has been counseling American families in Eretz Yisroel for over twenty-five years.Rabbi Orlowek asserts that the most pivotal factor determining whether a family will be successful in tackling these issues or not, is family stability.“Strong shalom bayis,” says Rabbi Orlowek, “is imperative for a family to make it through aliya.Otherwise, the pressures and strains that are realities in Eretz Yisroel will have a very deleterious effect.If a family is strong, on the other hand, they may actually find the transformation from American to Israeli society to be a bonding experience, one that brings them closer together.”

Considering the effects that the severe changes of aliya can have on children, Rabbi Orlowek counsels parents to approach the idea of moving to Eretz Yisroel with children with great caution.He quotes Rabbi Nachman Bulman l”xz as having said that the time for families to come to Eretz Yisroel is either before the children are born or after they’re married.“I would certainly say,” he adds, “that parents who bring children here over the age of 6 or 7 are taking a big chance.” Rabbi Orlowek asserts that in order for children to successfully integrate into the Israeli system, they must be confident, socially stable, and have no language problems.An overly sensitive child will most likely experience difficulties.“The society in Eretz Yisroel is marked by a tougher mentality. In U.S. schools, you’re likely to find teachers more in tune with the needs of an American child than an Israeli teacher in a chareidi school.”

At the Core of the Issue – Clashing Mentalities

The most pivotal issue for American olim is the vast difference between American and Israeli-chareidi mentalities.In the words of Ohr Sameach maggid shiur Rabbi Dovid Kaplan, fitting an American family into Israeli society is like trying to plug a 110 volt appliance into a 220 volt outlet. Olim often find that where they come from and where they are now living are literally two different worlds, and that getting along can be a constant struggle.

Israeli society in general is very polarized.Affiliation with one group or another is a crucial fact of life.Either you decide to which group you belong, or society will take one look at you and label you.There is no riding the fence, no middle of the road, no “I’m okay, you’re okay.”The polar nature of Israeli society has driven the chareidim to express their extreme allegiance to Torah in every aspect of their lives.Where one lives, how he dresses, which institutions he supports, where his children go to school – each of these makes a public statement of affiliation.

There are strict unwritten rules about what children should and should not be doing, and many extracurricular activities or creative outlets are off-limits for boys.The home is meant to be a paradigm of Torah values no less than the classroom, and the community has a right (and the might) to demand that their standards be respected within the privacy of one’s home.Educationally, stress is placed more on excelling and covering ground and less on meeting the needs of the individual student.Socially, Torah scholarship and being in kollel are measuring sticks of prominence. By contrast, American society is built on egalitarian principles, which means respecting everyone for who they are, and downplaying differences and disagreements for the sake of unity and the common good.Americans are, in general, more unassuming and non-confrontational.In the context of the frum Torah world, the American mentality encourages self-expression within the framework of unwavering allegiance to Torah and mitzvos.A Torah community can thus be made up of families who fit into a general hashkafa category, despite minor discrepancies in their particular affiliations, mode of dress, or social interests.

Ask the Experts

Bringing these two worlds together is a very difficult task, and one that many families making aliya are simply unprepared for. According to noted lecturer and mechanech, Rabbi Zecharya Greenwald, problems occur when Americans come to Eretz Yisroel without wanting to make any changes in their lifestyle.People who want to live an American lifestyle in Eretz Yisroel are setting themselves up for conflict, especially between the home and the schools.Rabbi Greenwald tells families who are making aliya that they must become absorbed into society, which includes making outward changes.“Families are often attracted to Eretz Yisroel,” he comments, “because there are things that they admire about the chinuch or the simple way of life.What they must realize is that it is precisely the attitude of the strict Israeli system that produces these desirable characteristics.”

Others echo Rabbi Greenwald’s remarks.Rabbi Zev Leff, Rav of Moshav Matityahu, who counsels families making aliya to “leave some of your hashkafos from Chutz La’aretz behind.”When a family comes to Eretz Yisroel, he says, they must conform to what the school wants.

Rabbi Orlowek offers:“Parents must be aware that the system here has a very different approach from that of the American chareidi institutions.If you want to live in Eretz Yisroel, you must be in line with the daas Torah here.This means that your children’s options for parnassa are going to be very limited, by nature of the schools they attend.It means less limudei chol than you may have had.It means accepting and supporting an outlook that is more polarized than the typical American outlook.”

Rabbi Mordechai Rottman, who heads Kol Banaich, a yeshiva/vocational training program in Yerushalayim for bachurim who aren’t making it in the yeshiva system, points to incongruence between the home and the school as a major precipitator of problems for children of olim.Rabbi Rottman advises parents to make an honest assessment of themselves and figure out what hashkafa fits their household, before choosing schools for their children.If they can’t find a school that fits their home, he says, then they must make their home fit the school. Otherwise, they are setting their child up for conflict and confusion, and they are teaching him that “it’s okay to challenge authority.”

When parents show children that they disagree with the establishment even on minor points, they are giving their children a license to reject.The kids will decide what to reject.Rabbi Orlowek, who has witnessed this scenario time and time again, cautions parents:“When a parent says to his kid, ‘Yeah, that’s what the chareidi rabbanim say, but we’re different,’ the child learns quickly that there is ‘us’ and ‘them.’This can be very dangerous.”

Even when parents are willing and able to conform, their children may not be as quick to adapt socially to their new environment. Rabbi Greenwald observes that for many children, fitting into the Israeli system is a real struggle.“When children reach age nine or ten, they have already adapted an American mentality in many respects.They are used to dressing a certain way, acting a certain way, relating to their teachers in a certain way.They are used to a certain permissiveness.When they move to Eretz Yisroel, all of these things change.Unless a child is very spiritually motivated, extremely resilient, and easily adapts to new situations, he or she is being put at serious risk.”Rabbi Rottman adds that because American children might look and act differently than their Israeli counterparts, when choosing a neighborhood to settle in, olim should consider how their children will fit in.“In some chareidi communities,” he says, “a kid who wears white sneakers will be looked at as an outcast.You don’t want your children walking around feeling like bums.”

Rabbi Avrohom Weinberg, who heads a yeshiva for Israeli drop-outs in Rosh Ha’ayin, explains: “American kids come to Israel with a lot of cultural baggage,” he says.“There are things that are accepted in yeshivish American society that are considered by Israelis to be treif.If a bachur follows professional sports in America, for example, he is not looked at as doing anything wrong.Here, such a thing can get a boy kicked out of yeshiva.In Eretz Yisroel, if a yeshiva bachur shows up to shul in a blue shirt, he’s not normal.If he goes roller-blading, he has a serious problem.”When American youth exhibit behavior or interests that are frowned upon by Israeli chareidi culture, they are looked at as different, second-class.This often leads to low self-esteem, and disenchantment with the system in general, causing the child to live up to the negative image that has been placed upon him.

Rabbi Yaakov Hopfer of Congregation She’aris Yisroel in Baltimore is well aware of the challenges facing American families making aliya:“Thousands of people are struggling with these issues.Not hundreds – thousands! I would say that 50% of the kids who make aliya are getting married and settling back in America.”Rabbi Hopfer offers families making aliya the same advice that mechanchim in Eretz Yisroel are prescribing: conform.

“I am a shtark chareidi Zionist,” Rabbi Hopfer states proudly.“I truly love Eretz Yisroel and I have a deep desire to live there one day.Nevertheless, you have to think about the children.If moving to Eretz Yisroel is not going to be beneficial for the ruchnius of your family, or if it will have a negative effect on the well-being or stability of your children, then it is not the right thing to do.People don’t have the right to fulfill their dreams at the expense of other, more important priorities.”

American Chinuch in Eretz Yisroel – A Solution?

Many American olim may want to mainstream their children into the chareidi system, but since they don’t subscribe to all of the standards that the chareidi society sets for both students and parents, the chareidi schools simply don’t want them.The non-chareidi schools, on the other hand, don’t match the religious standards and ideals that these families want to ingrain in their children.

In recent years, a number of schools, both for boys and girls, have opened up that cater to American families who are looking for an alternative to the Israeli chareidi system.Whether an American-style school is a help or a hindrance to integrating children into Israeli society is a controversial topic among educators.On the one hand, having other Americans to socialize with helps children adjust by softening the blow of coming to a new country, and a school that is designed for olim is naturally better equipped to provide the extra help that is needed to get American kids on par with the system.On the other hand, many feel that being in school with so many Americans can leave a child without any incentive or necessity to integrate, and that in such an environment, children are likely to always remain “American olim.”

Many are skeptical of the whole idea of perpetuating American chinuch in Eretz Yisroel.They are quick to point out that similar attempts in past claimed many casualties.They fear that children who grow up in an American sub-culture in Eretz Yisroel will never fit into the society, and that they will suffer from a lack of religious and social identity.Rabbi Avraham Stern, Rav ofOhel Torah, the English-speaking shul in Betar, reports that when the idea of opening a school for olim was brought up in his community, he consulted his Rebbeim.“Both Rabbi Bulman l”xz and l”dby Rabbi Mendel Weinbach told me not to do it.‘Children have to be integrated,’ they said.”

All educators agree that olim must do a lot of homework before choosing schools for their children.Ironing out all of the issues and figuring out where each child is most likely to succeed is no easy task.“Treat it like a shidduch,” Rabbi Chaim Zev Malinowitz of Congregation Beis Tefilah, an American balebatish shul in Ramat Beit Shemesh, advises.“Make hundreds of phone calls.”When dealing with older children, educators advise involving the kids in the decision.Dr. Tobin recommends that children be brought along on a pilot trip and introduced to their new schools before making aliya.The more familiar children are with their new environment and the less surprises they encounter, the more likely they are to make a successful adjustment.

Making Aliya to Solve Problems

“Make sure to tell people that you shouldn’t make aliya to solve your problems.”This comment was the advice of a mother who iscurrently struggling with one of her children since making aliya four years ago.Her son’s lack of success in school in America prompted the family to leave the US, placing their hopes in the chinuch of Eretz Yisroel.“We thought that everything would get better when we came to Eretz Yisroel.But it only got worse.”

According to Rebbetzin Rena Orlowek, of Project Tvunot, this family is not alone.“Many families are making aliya in an effort to resolve some kind of difficulty – issues of shalom bayis or a child that’s not doing well.‘Meshaneh makom meshaneh mazal,’ they say, and they pick up their families and come here.Many of them end up in my office, searching for solutions to new problems.”

Rabbi Orlowek concurs: “If a family truly feels need for a change,” he says, “there are plenty of wonderful communities they can move to in the United States.Moving to Eretz Yisroel mightonly serve to exacerbate the situation.”

Finances

For many families, the simpler, more affordable life-style in Eretz Yisroel is an appealing alternative to running a household in the US.In some cases, this can be legitimate.Occasionally, however, families who are struggling to make it in America envision aliya as a magical escape from their financial burdens.Some even come with the resolve that it’s easier to be poor in Eretz Yisroel than in America.Rabbi Avrohom Stern (Betar) cautions against unrealistic expectations.Finding a means of parnassa in Eretz Yisroel is no easy task, he warns, and financial strain doesn’t just disappear when you enter the Holy Land.“Many men are unable to find proper jobs here, and they end up in menial, low-paying positions.This is a big problem.Although it’s true that many Israeli families live on kollel stipends alone and never work, the Israeli way of getting by financially just doesn’t work for the Anglos.Families who try to pull this off sometimes end up with tremendous debts.”

Some families relieve themselves of the problem by the fathers’ holding on to a job in the States even after making aliya, commuting regularly to America, often spending up to half of every year away from their families. Rabbanim take issue with this recent phenomenon, finding that it often has detrimental effects on the family.

Kollel Yungeleit

Although there is no model for the successfully adjusted family, kollel yungeleit who make aliya within the first few years of marriage seem to be integrating into Israeli chareidi society with relative ease. Generally, either the husband or wife has attended a yeshiva or seminary in Eretz Yisroel, acquainting them with the Israeli mentality.They want to live a spiritually-oriented lifestyle, and find the atmosphere of Eretz Yisroel’s chareidi neighborhoods conducive to achieving this goal.These couples are not questioning or fighting the Israeli system. On the contrary, they are impressed with all of its spiritual advantages.They encourage their own children to become part of this system. Families that follow this formula are considered genuine assets to their communities.By blending in with the society at large, they circumvent many of the bumps on the road to aliya that others encounter.

Even for families like these, however, there are a number of considerations to keep in mind.Rabbi Meir Kessler, Mara D’asra of Kiryat Sefer, counsels such kollel families: “Success lies in their conformity to the Israeli way, even if these hashkafos occasionally run contrary to the way they are used to thinking.”

Secondly, “In America, even someone who spends his first years of married life in kollel may eventually seek a means of parnassa.Either he will go into chinuch, or look for a job. In Eretz Yisroel, a young married man does not necessarily anticipate ever leaving kollel life.When the financial situation gets tough, he finds a way to get by.The Israelis grow up with this idea, and are able to live this way.For an American couple, it’s not so easy.An American woman may not be ready to live in a tiny apartment on a meager income.The husband might like to work after some years, but remains in kollel because of social pressure, or simply because he does not have any good options for earning a livelihood.It is very difficult for an American to find a chinuch position in Eretz Yisroel, and to find employment the work sector here can be even harder.These issues can be a source of great stress.Families must seek guidance before taking the plunge into the Israeli kollel world.”

A third issue Rabbi Kessler addresses: Somechildren, he says, adapt to Israeli culture much faster than adults.Parents who are still thinking and acting like Americans can have trouble understanding their now-Israeli children. Often these children are street-smart, and get into trouble without the parents having a clue of what’s going on.Taking advantage of their parents' American temimus (innocence), they cover up their delinquent activities. By the time the parents pick up on what’s going on, it is often too late, and their children have drifted away.Rabbi Kessler warns that American parents must get to know the Israeli culture in which their children are growing up, and understand their children’s ways of communicating to them.

Support for Olim

Considering the myriad of issues facing olim, finding support and guidance within their new community is a binding condition for American families.One organization that is involved in helping Americans successfully acclimate to life in Eretz Yisroel is Project Tvunot,established four years ago by Rebbetzins Rena Orlowek and Rivka Friedlander as an address for English-speaking families with family or educational issues. Since its inception, Tvunot has become a center for support and guidance for Americans throughout Israeli religious communities.

In addition, some chareidi neighborhoods contain their own supportive structure to help new families.Welcoming committees, organized shiurim, social events and information hotlines are some of the channels by which Americans become acclimated socially into their new environments, and find the resources that they need.In communities like Betar and Ramat Beit Shemesh, a new family can find a supportive kehilla, guidance for olim, and structured programs geared towards helping Anglos integrate into Israeli society.

The Gedolim’s Advice

When asked for their comments regarding the subject of American olim, both Rabbi Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg a”jyls and Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe a”jyls offered the same reply.“Speak to the mechanchim who are dealing with these issues,” they said.“They are the authority on the matter.”[I did.] Rabbi Scheinberg did insist, however, that it is imperative for families to do a lot of research before deciding to make aliya.He also stressed that olim must give their financial situation strong consideration, warningthat families who come to Eretz Yisroel without significant financial resources are likely to run into trouble.

In Conclusion

We are living in a unique era of Jewish history, when the mitzvah of yishuv Eretz Yisroel is within our grasp. The many issues and challenges involved in aliya and integration into Israeli society, however, can make moving to Israel a difficult task.Being aware of the risks and difficulties that aliya entails can help parents make an educated decision and plan a successful aliya for their family.The road to aliya may be a bumpy one, but it is a road that can be traveled successfully; by following the advice and guidelines of the people who are experienced and knowledgeable in the area, a family can ensure themselves a smoother, more comfortable ride.

Doing it Right – The Story of a Successful Aliya

Menashe and Miriam Levy made aliya six years ago with their five children – ages 11, 9, 7, 5, and 2. Menashe had spent a number of years as a bachur in a yeshiva in Eretz Yisroel, and Miriam attended a seminary in Yerushalayim. Both had always dreamed of returning to Eretz Yisroel and raising a family there. In their first year in Eretz Yisroel, the Levy's met with challenges and difficulties getting acclimated, but Menashe had a secure position in the administration of an established baal teshuva yeshiva, and they were well equipped to deal with the trials and tribulations.

“Our family was our main focus the first year. This was far more time-consuming than we had imagined. There were so many issues to work out – schools, transportation, camps – everything was new. It took the entire year just to get our feet on the ground.”

The Levy's initially moved to a community with a high percentage of Americans. “We wanted to make it easier for our children to adjust by starting out in a place where they could readily make friends. We also sent the boys to an American-type cheder. For girls, there was no American option, so we sent our 11-year-old daughter to the Israeli Bais Yaakov. She had difficulty adjusting at first, but now she is the most Israeli of all the kids.

“A lot of time and resources went into getting the children adjusted into the school system. First of all, we had to break the language barrier. Secondly, the Israelis are ahead in knowledge and skills, and our kids had to catch up. We spent a lot of time speaking to teachers and principals, making sure that our children were being brought up to par, and that they were placed in the right classes. And we spent a ton of money on private tutors. If you’re coming with children, make sure you have the money to provide them with tutors. It’s also a good idea for the children, and the parents for that matter, to get as much Hebrew language as possible before coming, as well as once they’re here. For the children, it’s crucial, and for parents, it’s important for communicating with their children’s teachers.”

The Levy’s did everything possible to make aliya into a positive experience. “We stretched our budget in order to rent a large apartment, so the kids wouldn’t feel cramped. We went on family trips around the country. And we constantly spoke in our home about the zechus of living in Eretz Yisroel. Our children were making sacrifices, and we wanted them to appreciate that it is worth the sacrifice.”

After a year, the Levy's realized that “being in a highly American community was ultimately not good for our children.” We saw that living in Israel as American chareidim just doesn’t work. It’s very hard to keep that middle ground, picking and choosing what you consider to be the best aspects of the Israeli system, without losing the advantages of the American approach. We noticed that when children see their parents doing this, they learn that it’s okay to pick and choose, and then they often pick and choose in ways that their parents don’t approve. This was happening to many families, and we didn’t want it to happen to ours. So we moved to Betar, determined to do our best to become a part of Israeli chareidi society.

“Meshing with the Israeli chareidim often means conforming to things that we’re not entirely comfortable with. Sometimes it means not squawking at rules or hashkafos that seem outlandish. When my 9-year-old son came home from his first day of cheder telling me that, today, the rebbi taught them that soccer is avoda zara. In Toronto he had been in a very frum cheder and the rebbis played soccer with the kids. My son was shocked! When my 7-year-old son got in trouble for wearing shorts (outside of school!), I was taken totally by surprise. In Toronto, my daughter could ride her bike outside on the streets. Here, girls don’t ride bikes.”

According to the Levy's, such situations are moments of truth for many olim. “How people react is so crucial in terms of determining their children’s success. We have learned to just roll with the punches, to support the system, and give our children the clear message that this is what we do (and don’t do). Kids here have to know which camp they are in, they need a clear identity. Parents who knock the camp that they are putting their kids into are confusing their children. They are trying to place them into a world that doesn’t exist here. We know many families who, as their children reach their teenage years, found their kids wanting to go back to America. In some cases, the children begin dressing in more modern styles. They need to identify with someone. They figure, If I’m not chareidi, maybe I’m modern. Unfortunately, this identity crisis sometimes leads kids – even from yeshivish homes – totally away from Yiddishkeit. It is essential that parents accept their children’s community as a complete package, and that they act in accordance with the accepted practices of that community, even in the privacy of their homes.”

The Levy’s five children are today fully acclimated to Israeli society, and are happy to be living in Eretz Yisroel. The Levy's attribute much of their success to the fact that “We made sure to ask she’eilos and get eitzos all the time. It’s a vital part of the process.”



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