Reconnecting to Providence from Israel

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I love feeling nostalgic. The connection to the past is one of the many reasons that I have been writing this column for almost 12 years. I am able to connect this home, Israel, that I chose over a decade ago, with the home that I come from, Providence, Rhode Island.

Of the many fond memories I have of growing up in Providence, a high number of them come from the Providence Hebrew Day School (PHDS), which I attended from kindergarten through eighth grade.

By the time I reached eighth grade, my class was a mere 11 students, myself included. In all of the years that I attended PHDS, this was my favorite. The 11 of us were a tight-knit group of friends. This year, two of my former classmates – Yoni Halper and Rivky (Rubenstein) Weiss – joined me in Israel after making aliyah with their respective families. 

The last time the three of us were all together was probably soon after eighth-grade graduation almost 25 years ago. Fast forward to a few months ago, when I had a chance encounter with Yoni in Jerusalem. From that encounter came the idea for this 12th aliyah anniversary article.

Now that over 25% of our class is here in Israel, I thought I should celebrate this milestone. Trying to get three adults together is easier said than done. So, our reunion took place via video conference.

Both Yoni and Rivky described the journey that led them to bring their respective families to Israel this past year. After getting married, Yoni worked at various Jewish Federations in the United States until he eventually decided to start his own business – a fundraising strategy and project-management firm.

One thing we have in common is that we have both published books. Yoni’s book is titled, “Date Your Donors.” Yoni and his wife knew that aliyah was a common goal. They got the wake-up call they needed when one of their recently-retired neighbors died soon before his planned aliyah. They realized that they should not wait any longer to make their dream come true. 

Rivky made aliyah while single, after coming to Israel for post-high school seminary. She and her husband stayed in Israel for a few years and then decided to temporarily return to the United States. Rivky became a professional dog trainer.

After 13 years back in the U.S., the puzzle pieces fell into place, and they decided to return to Israel.

Both Yoni, Rivky and their families live in Ramat Beit Shemesh Aleph. Their eldest daughters are in school together and are good friends, so a Providence friendship has truly carried on to the next generation here in Israel. Both families are in agreement – “We all love Israel!”

Of course there were times in our conversation that brought us back to the Providence connection. Yoni and Rivky compared life in Israel to life in Providence in terms of the freedom we had as kids in relation to the freedom their kids now have in Israel. Back in the old days, if we couldn’t find a parent to drive us to the movies, we’d just hop on our bikes and ride to the movie theater in East Providence. Here in Israel, that kind of freedom works to a higher degree, since you know that your child is being watched over by all the  moms who are looking out for your kid as much as their own.

Yoni added that he gave up a bigger home in the States where his children stayed inside playing video games, for a smaller one in Israel where they’re outside playing with their friends more. In fact, friendship for the children carries a whole new weight to it. Yoni’s eldest son describes the stark contrast between friendships in the U.S versus those in Israel. “When you fall down, you aren’t laughed at. You’re helped up.”

We also reminisced about our years together in Providence and at PHDS. There were times when we laughed about the past more than we talked about our present lives here in Israel. It gave me that boost of nostalgia I always crave. Israel is my home, but Providence, Rhode Island, will always be where I’m from. Nothing will ever change that.

DANIEL STIEGLITZ (dstieglitz@gmail.com) is a certified Life Coach who lives in Jerusalem. His collection of short stories, Tavern of the Mind, is available for paperback and Kindle purchase on Amazon. www.amzn.to/2Izssrz.