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The How and Why of Moving to Israel

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SUMMARY

This series is sponsored by Unpacking Israeli History.

This episode is sponsored by Daf Yomi with Shaul C. Greenwald, a fast-moving energetic daf shiur, delivered with clarity and intensity.

In this episode of the 18Forty Podcast, we talk to a series of guests who have made aliyah about the practical factors involved with building a life in Israel.

Serena Benovitz, Chana Berkowitz, Yehoshua Fass, Edo Lavi, and Ahron Levi shed light on the nuances and complexities involved in moving to Israel, though for many of us, the mere thought of uprooting our lives and going to an unfamiliar place is intimidating enough. In this episode we discuss:

What inspires people to leave their homes and begin anew in Israel?
What are the difficulties that come with making aliyah?
What does the process of moving to Israel generally involve?

Tune in to hear a conversation about what is unique about deciding to lead a Jewish life in the Jewish state.

Serena Benovitz Interview: 11:58
Chana Berkowitz Interview 37:17
Yehoshua Fass Interview: 43:27
Edo Lavi Interview: 1:40:10
Ahron Levi Interview: 2:08:18

Aliyah—the “pilgrimage” of moving to Israel that literally translates to “ascent”—is a multi-layered subject. We are joined by Rabbi Yehoshua Fass of Nefesh B’Nefesh to break it down.

Rabbi Yehoshua Fass is Co-Founder of Nefesh B’Nefesh and has served as the organization’s Executive Director since 2002. After receiving his rabbinic ordination and degrees in biology and education from Yeshiva University, Rabbi Fass assumed the position of Associate Rabbi of the Boca Raton Synagogue of Florida and served as a member of the Beit Din of the Orthodox Rabbinical Council.

This episode is sponsored by Daf Yomi with Shaul C. Greenwald, a fast-moving energetic daf shiur, delivered with clarity and intensity. The shiur moves swiftly through the daf, while still managing to explain well the difficult portions of the sugya. The shiur is available daily on all podcast platforms, All Daf, and on Torah Anytime.

References:

The Koren Mahzor for Yom Haatzma’ut and Yom Yerushalayim by Jonathan Sacks

Genesis 12

Nefesh B’Nefesh

Tzidkas HaTzadik by Tzadok HaKohen of Lublin

Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner

הארץ אשר אראך by Rabbi Shnayor Burton

David Bashevkin: 
Hello and welcome to the 18Forty Podcast, where each month we explore a different topic, balancing modern sensibilities with traditional sensitivities to give you new approaches to timeless Jewish ideas. I’m your host, David Bashevkin, and this month, we’re exploring Zionism.

Thank you so much to our series sponsor, Unpacking Israeli History, the podcast that gives a fresh perspective on some of the most controversial and interesting events in the country’s history. Catch the current season now and don’t miss the special three-part miniseries on the founding of the state of Israel. Listen to Unpacking Israeli History wherever you find podcasts, or follow the link in the show notes.

And thank you to our episode sponsor, the Daf Yomi podcast of Shaul C. Greenwald. That is of course available on OU’s all daf app. The Daf Yomi is actually starting tractate Gitten this coming week, I think on May 18th. Fun fact, it happens to be my absolutely most favorite tractate, masechta. It’s the only one that I learned in every single yeshiva I’ve been associated with. Now, I am very familiar with the Daf Yomi classes of Shaul C. Greenwald. He is really unbelievable. Very to the point, gives you the basics. It’s no frills in the sense that he really sticks to the main ideas, the conceptual underpinnings, and does an absolutely fantastic job. You want to check that out. Thank you so much for sponsoring this episode.

Our podcast, 18Forty, is part of a larger exploration of those big juicy Jewish ideas, so be sure to check out 18forty.org where you can also find videos, articles, and recommended readings. This is the final episode, of course, for now in our series on Zionism, and we have gotten so much feedback, and I feel absolutely terrible that we can’t include all of it right now. I hope that we’re able to come back to it in a listener feedback episode.

A lot of the feedback, as always, is really positive and wonderful, and I find the negative feedback for this episode is so thoughtful. People have reached out, some with frustrations, difficulties about how they are contending with our depiction of Zionism, and they don’t always appreciate it. I got an extraordinarily thoughtful email from a friend, somebody I know. I’ll say his name, I asked his permission, Aaron Roller. And he wrote as follows. “There’s one point I really wanted to address, particularly because it was a clear blind spot for you and because it was something you came back to again and again. You repeatedly contrasted an American religious Zionism that consisted of marching in the parade and eating blue and white cookies with the love of Eretz Yisroel you absorbed at Southshore as if these were two alternatives, one of which is very vocal in its love of Medinas Yisroel, but kind of shallow, and the other which is deeply rooted but relatively silent on anything to do with the modern state. I need to share with you, not for the sake of being argumentative, but rather to sensitize you to a different perspective, born of a different experience, that this juxtaposition is wrong. The religious Zionist perspective is extremely deep, spiritually and emotionally. I say this as having absorbed it from my own parents.”

And the email goes on and it has a very moving description of growing up and going to Yom Haatzmaut events, and I very much appreciated this kind of feedback. He wasn’t reaching out to give me a pat on the back. He was saying I misrepresented religious Zionism in America. I’ll be honest, it’s not entirely convincing. There was a fantastic review by Rabbi Saul Robinson, who is the rabbi in Lincoln Square Synagogue in Jewish action of the Koren Yom Haatzmaut Machzor. They put out a special compendium for the Yom Haatzmaut service. And in his review of the machzor that they put out, this compendium for the services of Yom Haatzmaut, he is quite frank in his assessment on how the American expression and love of Yom Haatzmaut, as wonderful as it is, did not really take hold in the way that I think many in modern orthodoxy had hoped.

It was an extraordinarily thoughtful review, and ultimately a lament. And God forbid, my intention was not to degrade or put down the way religious Zionism is taught in America. But I do still believe that it is not the only path to cultivate that deep connection to the land of Israel, and for a host of reasons, not all of which we have unpacked and can unpack. There are many, many in the American-Jewish community, orthodox, non-orthodox community, that that approach, that classical religious Zionist approach in America has not taken hold and cultivated that affection, not even to make Aliyah, but in the younger generation it has not really taken hold. I would just ask the basic question, how many adults, not children, how many adults do you know who even attend a Yom Haatzmaut service of that night? This is a lament. I’m not proud of this. But I do think that there is a larger lens through which we can cultivate these relationships. It’s not exclusive and tied down to one particular approach. And that’s particular to America, where by and large, a lot of the excitement that you feel in Israel on Yom Haatzmaut did not carry over and is hard to produce.

Though there’s some incredible stuff. I’m not, God forbid, saying the things that we do in America don’t work or aren’t good. A lot of it is wonderful. But it hasn’t taken hold on the mass scale that I think a lot of people, certainly of my parents’ generation, would have hoped. Though there are wonderful things happening in elementary school, but I’m always suspicious of religion that’s just targeted towards children. I like religious experiences that you can grow up with and continue to nurture as adults. Now unfortunately, again for a host of reasons, the rituals, the ideas that we associate with religious Zionism in America still need to be nurtured and developed to reach that wide audience, I think, that Aaron Roller so eloquently described in that email.

And there were so many other emails, feedback, pushback. And again, the pushback was so thoughtful. And hopefully in our next listener feedback episode, we will get to a great deal of that. Today I really want to do something different, which is talking about the Aliyah experience, the original promise to Avraham, to our forefather. The promise that begins in lech lecha, lech lecha martzecha umi moladecha umi beit avicha el haaretz asher erecha. God tells Avraham, Abraham, “Leave your homeland, the place of your birth, and go to the land that I will show you.”

There are two things that are missing in this original promise, this original conversation that we’re still involved in now between God and Avraham. There are two crucial things that are missing. Number one, we’re introduced to Avraham and told nothing of his childhood. We’re told nothing of how he grew up and what merited this call from God to leave your homeland and where you were brought up and go to the land that I will show you. When we’re introduced to Avraham, according to most commentaries, he’s already in his 70s. We know nothing of his childhood, his teenage years. A lot of it is filled in in midrashic literature, but we’re told nothing of him growing up. And this is pointed out by the Ramban, by the Maharal. So many commentaries point to why are we being introduced to him now? Why did God choose him? We’re not told any of that.

And secondly, not only are we not told anything about Avraham’s childhood, God doesn’t tell Avraham exactly where he’s going. Imagine rounding your kids up on a family trip, getting them all into the minivan. You pack the snacks and the kids are saying, “Where are we going?” “We’re going to the place that I will show you.” And then you start driving off. I mean, the kids would rebel. You better have loaded up that iPad or whatever you do to entertain your kids on long car rides. That is not going to work.

And I believe both of these things are very deliberately absent to tell us something extraordinarily important. Number one, there are so many doorways to the journey of Lech Lecha. There are so many pathways to begin this journey. God did not want to tell us Avraham’s past because there are so many reasons why people begin this journey throughout the generations. And it’s these stories that we’re going to highlight today. And once you get to Israel, there’s such a beautiful idea. There’s so many different experiences that people have in Israel; some difficult, some uplifting, some nourishing. The Ishbitzer Rebbe says that one of the names of Israel is Haaretz asher erecha. It is the land that needs to be experienced. You can’t just hear it secondhand. You can’t just look at it in brochures or go to websites. It is the land that needs to be experienced. God tells Avraham exactly where he’s taking him. “I am taking you to the land that needs to be experienced.” That is our homeland. And throughout this episode, we are going to explore that decision, the decision to bring your family to Israel to begin a life in Israel. Why people do that. What are the challenges? What are the difficulties? Now, obviously we can’t highlight all of the experiences. We have some incredible essays on the website that we’ll be dropping that will fill in even more.

But I wanted to begin this lech lecha story of why people go out, leave where they grew up, leave where they came from, with a family that was really the first family that I knew really deeply from the United States. I grew up with them. They had an incredible influence on me. And then, at the very end of my high school experience, they decided to make Aliyah. And that is the Benovitz family, and I spoke with Serena Benovitz. Serena and her husband, Rabbi Mosha Benovitz. It’s hard to put into words their influence on my life. He’s one of a handful of people that I address to this day as Rebbe. Although we are colleagues, I still feel the only way to articulate that relationship is as Rebbe. He taught in the high school that I went to. He was actually brother-in-laws with Rabbi yisrael Kaminetsky. I remember when he first got hired, in the back of my head, I was in 10th grade when he got hired, and I was like, “Okay, the head of school hired his brother-in-law. Okay, we’ll see how competent this person is.” It looked like the ultimate nepotism, and nothing could be farther from the truth. Those who know us both would also accuse me of actually plagiarizing the very lilt and tone of his voice, which continues to play an influence on my life. I’m very close with the entire family.

And a few weeks ago, I was talking to his wife Serena and reminiscing about the announcement that they made to make Aliyah. I already graduated from high school. It was after my year in Israel and I was serving as a counselor, as an advisor on the incredible life-changing program NCSY Kollel, which I went on when I was in high school, and I was an advisor at the time. And I remember, he got up at shalosh seudos to speak, and he spoke about being a ben aliyah, somebody who is always striving aspirationally. Aliyah not in the geographic sense of making Aliyah, but being a person who always asks, “What’s next? Where could I take my life next? Where can I take my life towards?” And it was at the very end of the speech that I began to realize, and he kind of disclosed to the audience, he’s not just talking about Aliyah in the religious aspirational sense. He just announced that he’s going to be making Aliyah. That he’s going to be bringing his family to Israel.

And I was astounded. I said, “You have an empire. Not only do you have an empire, you have a relationship with Israel itself. You take your whole family every summer. You have the perfect setup. Why would you need anything more than that?” And I was talking to his wife Serena, and she gave me such a moving answer. And I said, “I’d love to come onto 18Forty and talk a little bit about your journey and why you decided to make Aliyah, some of the challenges and opportunities of bringing a family there.” So it is my pleasure to begin this journey with our conversation with Serena Benovitz.

I wanted to begin with a very basic question. There are so many different reasons that draw people from America to think about making Aliyah to make Aliyah. I knew you and your family. You had an absolutely wonderful life in America. I think very often about the alternative history of what it would be like if you were still in the United States. I don’t know, you’d probably be running some modern orthodox educational institution, et cetera, et cetera. There’s a lot to think about. I’m curious if that thought ever bubbles up. But take me back to the decision. Why on earth, if you had such a great … and when I say comfortable life, I’m not talking material comfort. Religiously comfortable. It made sense. It worked. Why did you decide to make Aliyah?

Serena Benovitz: 
So I’m going to go back very briefly to my seminary year, where, like many, many students, I was really excited about Israel. And I came home from seminary saying, “I want to make Aliyah.” And when I started dating, I was only dating guys who wanted to make Aliyah, until my roommate in college set me up with my husband. And after the first date she said, “How was it?” I said, “Actually, it was great.” I said, “But you know I only date guys who are making Aliyah. Why on earth did you set me up with this guy? What were you thinking? You know that.” We were friends. We used to talk, and she knew that. Now, it wasn’t that my husband didn’t want to make Aliyah. He was very passionate about Israel. It’s just that he was doing things in America at that point. We were still young then. He had a trajectory laid out in front of him. He was doing good things.

David Bashevkin: 
He had an incredible impact on me. He’s world-renowned, definitely in that single gender, modern orthodox world. There are a few who have had the impact that he has had. Yeah, things were very comfortable.

Serena Benovitz: 
Exactly. So after we got married, I married him, all was great. We did not make Aliyah. And we used to come every summer to Israel for a summer program for six weeks every summer. And after a few years I kind of felt like, “You know what? This isn’t so bad. We have a great life back in New York. We come for six weeks every summer.”

David Bashevkin: 
You’re spending time in Israel. Significant time.

Serena Benovitz: 
Exactly. “We’re able to spiritually recharge those batteries, and maybe this isn’t so bad.” And at that point, we would go every summer and we would be in home rentals, like apartment rentals. Some of them were so dark and dingy, and my kids were always dirty, and it’s a dusty country. And I’m like, “You know what? I don’t need this necessarily for more than six weeks.” Okay, so that was the mindset then, and we really, really never brought it up again until it was 2002. So we were married for seven years, and there was a speaker who I used to go to when we were in Israel for the summer and hear her give shiurim in Israel, where she lived. And she was in America and she was coming to my neighborhood and she was giving a shiur. And of course, I was going to go to the shiur, because I really had learned a lot from her and thought it’d be interesting to see her in my neighborhood and coming to New York and all that. And I just wanted to hear words of Torah from her.

It was during the time of the Second Intifada and there had been a bombing, I don’t know if it was a few hours earlier or the night before, in a pool hall in Rishon Litzion. And she basically said, “Before I start the shiur , I want to recite a perek of tehillim. There were a bunch of people that were killed, a lot of wounded people. I want to say tehillim for the neshamos of those who are no longer with us, and healing for the injured and for the wounded.” And when she started saying the tehillim, her voice cracked. She was clearly holding back tears. She got so emotional. And I remember sitting there thinking, “What? She’s a really religious woman. She doesn’t know anybody personally who was at that pool hall in Rishon Litzion.” And I also heard this news a few hours earlier, and I said, oy vey. Another attack in Israel.” And I kind of just went on with my day. And I’m like, “She has something that I don’t have.” She feels a connection, even though there’s no personal connection to these people, presumably. But I didn’t feel that.

And all of a sudden, I don’t know, I felt very hollow. I sat through the shiur and I came home and I told my husband what happened. And I said, “We need to give this a try.” I said, “I don’t even know if I want to live in Israel anymore. I don’t know if I can live in Israel. But I know that we have a responsibility to try.” And suddenly, I don’t know, I was experiencing something that I hadn’t felt beforehand, and I expressed this to my husband right there and then. I said, “The past is the past. I wasn’t around for 1948 or 1967. But the present, there’s a story that’s being written here, and we could be a part of that. Israel is being built up every day, and we need to have this connection, and clearly we don’t have it here.” And I said, “As far as the future, everybody knows where the future is. The future’s not in New York. We have to go.” That’s what I said to him. I said, “We have to try.”

David Bashevkin: 
What I find so moving about the story is that it inverts a lot of the normal trajectory of an Aliyah story, which is the Aliyah of opportunity, the Aliyah of all of the technological innovation and professional opportunities, and how amazing the food is in Israel and all that stuff. And what I find so moving is that what really pulled you to rethink was the sense of distance you felt in the aftermath of tragedy. And it’s something that resonates particularly with me on a personal level. You know I’m very active on social media, and I am always at an absolute loss. I can’t even say words after a terrorist attack or something tragic happens in Israel. All I’m able to do is maybe share a passuk, a verse from the Torah, because I don’t feel a part of it enough to even use words to express my connection. It’s when I feel most distant. And that drew you. It’s remarkable and it’s interesting, and you ended up making Aliyah after that summer?

Serena Benovitz: 
I want to tell you another part of the story, which was crazy. Basically, when I was talking to my husband, he said, “Sit down for this. You’re not going to believe this.” I’m like, “What?” He’s like, “Two things happened in the last week.” He said one happened literally the day before, the other one was a week earlier. He said, “I didn’t even discuss it with you yet because I haven’t had a chance to internalize it.” He’s like, “I don’t even know what I think.” He said, “I’ve been on Nefesh B’Nefesh’s websites for the last two days. Nefesh B’Nefesh was just starting that year. This was in 2002. I don’t even know if they had their first flight that year or maybe it was out there now. And my husband was friendly with Rabbi Fass at the time, so he had certainly heard about it. I think their first flight maybe was the following year.

But I’m like, “What? You didn’t tell me any of this.” And he told me on the spot two stories that had happened. One was an incident that happened the week before. There was a family who had lost a young child, and they wanted to dedicate a Sefer Torah in her memory. After they had already had this thought, and again, this was the time of the Intifada. There were a lot of tragedies going on in Israel. And there was a certain settlement that there was one of these Arab infiltrations, that terrorists came in and went into a house and shot some people and whatever. And the family in America thought that it would be really appropriate to bring this Sefer Torah to Eretz Yisroel to give it to the community as a show of solidarity, whatever.

So they go and they come with the Sefer Torah and they meet representatives of this yishuv, of this community. The mayor of the city was probably there, representatives from the municipality, and some of the residents themselves were there. And they wanted to give over the Sefer Torah and then they realized they didn’t have a translator with them. They’d forgotten to bring someone who could translate. Now, the family was able to speak some Hebrew, but in their bumbled Hebrew, I guess they were also nervous and whatever, and giving over and meeting the people, whatever, they said, “We feel sorry for you.” Now, what they meant to say was, “We feel sorry for your loss. We feel sorry that you needed to experience this tragedy.” They didn’t mean to say that, but that’s what came out. “We feel sorry for you.” And one of the representatives came closer to the guy who had said that and said, “Please.” Stuck out their hand like, “Please, don’t feel sorry for us. We are living the dream. We have a connection to this land. We are building this land. Our children’s connection. These are things that our ancestors have dreamt of for thousands of years. You don’t need to feel sorry for us.”

I think part of the undertone was kind of like, “We feel sorry for you, that you can’t be a part of what we’re a part of over here.” I can’t say that for sure, I can’t verify that obviously. But that was basically one of the incidents that my husband had heard about. And the second one happened, literally my husband experienced this. There was another such tragedy. This was in Gush Katif. In Gush Katif, a lot of the Jews there were farmers, and they had Arab workers working for them on the farms. And some of them had workers who were loyal workers for many, many, many years. And there was a time period where some of these workers turned on their bosses, and there were stabbings. Sometimes literally the workers stabbed their employers. Other times it was just, again, going into a random house and whatever.

Anyways, there was literally a tragedy that had just happened, and my husband had a good friend who lived in Gush Katif and he called them up. At that time, he was the director of student activities in a boys’ high school. And he said, “Listen, we have money and we have resources and we want to help. What can we do? We can send money. We could send pizza to all the residents of the community. We could send teddy beers to cheer up the kids. Something. We want to do something to show you that we care and whatever.” And the guy’s like, “No.” And my husband keeps throwing out ideas and he says, “No, we don’t need that. That’s not going to do it.” My husband finally said, “What can we do to help you?” And he said, “You want to know what you can do to help? You can move here. Come to Israel. That’s how you can help us. Numbers matter. We need more Jews here.” And he said, “You want to build the morale of the people of my community? If they see people willingly come. We’re not escaping inquisitions anymore. We’re not running away from poverty. If they see people coming and making Aliyah willingly and whatever, that’s what’s going to boost their morale, and that’s what’s going to show the connection and whatever.”
And it was those two incidents that prompted him when I came home-

David Bashevkin: 
On his end, unbeknownst to you.

Serena Benovitz: 
On his end. That we were literally completely in sync.

David Bashevkin: 
For nearly identical reasons. One of the big issues when it comes to Aliyah is the question of education. And particularly we know the format, and I know this for myself, I know how to raise kids in America. And very often, when you try to transplant the American options to Israel, I’m associated with YU, with ner yisroel I know the options, I know the landscape, particularly within the orthodox community. There’s a whole nother set of issues in the non-orthodox community that we’re not even going to have time to unpack. But in the orthodox community where you emerged from, how should one go about figuring out the educational landscape in Israel for their children?

Serena Benovitz: 
So your question, I think, has three elements to it, and I want to just break it down to make it a little bit simpler. The first thing you said is that you know how to raise your kids in America and you don’t know how to raise your kids in Israel.

David Bashevkin: 
Allegedly.

Serena Benovitz: 
Yes. My answer to that is that I firmly believe that the most important factors in raising your children are really universal. First of all, prayer. None of us can raise our children on our own. We need divine assistance. We need to daven for the success of our children. That happens wherever you are. Another universal factor is that in order to raise successful children, you have to have a happy, caring, loving, accepting home. You can live anywhere in the world and you need that. It wouldn’t be any different. There definitely are aspects that are different here, and it’s possible that we made more mistakes here than we would’ve made in America, because there’s a lot here that we didn’t know. But they weren’t mistakes in the foundations of parenting and the foundations of raising children.

There were probably a lot of decisions that we made using input from our children more so than we would have had we been making that decision in America. Our kids were definitely partners in a real sense, because they just knew things that we didn’t know. A cute thing, they used to write their own late notes to go to school, because they just wrote it so much better than we did. We were like, “You just write it and we’ll sign it.” Obviously there were more serious things as well. That’s just a cute example. But bottom line is our kids are natives, we’re foreigners, and there are still things that they know and understand that we just don’t. And that’s definitely a difference. I don’t know if that’s bad, but it is different.

The second part of your question is referring, I think, about hashkafa and where people like us fit into that.

David Bashevkin: 
Exactly. Communal alignment. Let’s call it that. I’ve already written about my distaste for the word hashkafa. I don’t know. There’s something about the very term that feels very synthetic. I don’t like it. But communal alignment, not to say that that’s any better of a term. When I say I know how to raise kids in America, I know what the inputs and outcomes are. I know ballpark, within a spectrum, what’s the bell curve of a graduate from ULA, from SAR, from DRS? I know the bell curves of where they go. You never know for certain how your kids are going to turn out. I don’t have any idea of the bell curves, the options, what happens on the other side when you graduate from the institutions in Israel? I don’t know the landscape, which is what I really mean when I say I don’t know how to raise kids. So how did you approach that, knowing that it’s not a direct one-to-one relationship of like, “Oh, DRS in Israel? That’s X. Your high school that you went to, that’s Y.” How should one go about that?

Serena Benovitz: 
So we were definitely different than most here in the fact that we educated different children in different … I won’t call them hashkafic systems, because you don’t like that, but in different paths. However you want to say it. Now, I don’t necessarily recommend that. It worked great for us, but it doesn’t always work. And sometimes there’s pushback from the schools here when you try to do things like that. The most important thing in educating your children and when you’re talking about choosing systems and how to educate them, home above all. Our children spend a lot of hours in school, but they always come home. And they will learn the religious values and the expectations of your home. And that’s why, despite our children being educated in different systems here, they’re remarkably similar in their religious observance and in their hashkafos. What’s important to know for our demographic-

David Bashevkin: 
You probably mean from within the YU to more like the modern yeshiva world. Call it in that universe. American yeshivish to the more yeshiva part of YU.

Serena Benovitz: 
Right. And things here are much more black and white. So you have a daati leumi system, and you have a chareidi system, and sometimes you have to choose something. And what we always tell people, because my husband and I get a lot of phone calls with this question in particular, is that if your child is educated in the daati leumi system, certain things will be lacking in their education and you will need to supplement that at home. And if your child is educated in the chareidi system here, there will be different things that are going to be lacking in their education and you will need to supplement that at home.

And another thing we try to teach our children is to respect always a religious life. As much as possible, not to put labels on people, not to try to put people into a box. It’s a little harder here in Israel to do that, because there definitely are very defined tracks, but it’s still a very important lesson that you need to teach your children.

David Bashevkin: 
Allow me to just highlight one point that you made, because I think that’s the biggest difference in terms of parenting in America and parenting in Israel. It shouldn’t be the biggest difference, but it has to be a difference. I wish it was the same in America. But taking an added responsibility of knowing that the institution that you send your kid to school is not a factory that gives you a certain product. I always look at modern orthodox education in America, it feels like one of these moving sidewalks in an airport, where you put them on in kindergarten or first grade and you take them off after they come back from their year or two in Israel, or even after they graduate from YU.

And there’s a remarkable amount of passivity that the American education system can cultivate among parents. I’m not condemning parents for that, but there is a passivity because we’ve become so familiar. We’ve almost convinced ourself how tried and true it is, as if it’s been this way for 100 years, which it hasn’t. Far, far less than that. Less than even half that. And I think in Israel, it requires and forces parents. You can’t just plop your kid onto a moving sidewalk. You have to really stay alongside of them as they go through the institutional system in whatever path they are and really make sure that the fit and the alignment and that you’re able to supplement whatever that individual child needs.

Serena Benovitz: 
Yeah. There’s no educational system anywhere in the world that’s perfect. There are issues with the way you’re describing schools in America also. You’re going to have that anyway. And yeah, navigating the system here is hard, because it’s foreign to us, and there are some real difficulties here. Schools are not necessarily well funded. My son in seventh grade has never spent a day in a school building. He learns in a caravan that drips in the rain and is too hot in the summer. Bottom line, with regards to our kids’ education, first of all, all our children and our children-in-law who have been educated here are incredible. We have one daughter-in-law who wasn’t educated here. She is incredible as well.

David Bashevkin: 
She’s great too. I can vouch for that.

Serena Benovitz: 
All of our children are all sincerely frum baruch hashem. They have beautiful middos and they are very well-educated. Girls and boys have different systems here. So all our boys, sons and son-in-law, are in the chinuch system. They’re learning on very high levels. The girls, my daughters, my daughter-in-law, having gone through the system, they’re well-educated with impressive degrees that they earned here in Israel. So baruch hashem, they thrived in this system. You have to sometimes look at the end result. There are some growing pains along the way sometimes, but we have found the system to be fabulous. We just had to hold our kids’ hands along the way a little bit. And I think there’s always supposed to be that cooperation between parents and the school.

David Bashevkin: 
1000%. That is a mantra of 18Forty. I think we’ve become far too reliant on institutional education, though there are institutions that have been doing an incredible job, and taking the family to be the central mediator of religious life in a child’s world. I think there’s nothing more beautiful, and it’s not something that you need to groan about or express frustration. It should be a point of pride and the ultimate responsibility of a family. And I think that’s a really healthy way of thinking about it.

My final question, and I know this is so brief and in these issues, there’s so, so much more to unpack, but what advice do you give in general when people reach out to you? Your family was that first generation wave of coming with Nefesh B’Nefesh. You were pre-internet, pre-streaming. What general advice do you give to encourage to think about people who are approaching Aliyah?

Serena Benovitz: 
So the first thing I always tell them is that making Aliyah is hard. Packing up your entire life and moving to a new country is difficult, and if anyone tells you otherwise, they are just not being honest with you. But you can’t let that stop you, because the rewards far outweigh the difficulties. As they say, kol hahatchalot kashot. Everything is tough at the beginning. It gets better. It all gets better.

We tell people, my husband and I, about the importance of maintaining connection with family and friends. That’s so important. And in this day and age, it’s easier than ever with technology and international travel. The two most important things I think that I’m going to say this evening, and I think this is going to take us back full circle to that night 20 years ago, know that that connection that you will have here is so strong. The block WhatsApp group where you borrow milk from the neighbors also has ride offers to the dee and palay shivas and to the funerals. And of course, the, “Anyone want to come with me today to kever rochel” WhatsApp messages.

This is awesome. My daughter just came home a few hours ago from a school trip. I don’t think they have school trips like this in the educational system in America. Their first stop was at the chasah lettuce and cabbage factory. chasah lettuce is where they grow the hydroponic lettuce so that there are less bugs and all that. First they went to the fields to see the vast amount of lands and things growing there. And then they went into the actual factory and they met with the workers and with some of the mashgichim, who were teaching them about the laws of bugs and checking and all that kind of stuff. And then there was somebody there who was talking about the amazing inventions in Israel of being able to do this. It was such a nice shiluv of things.

And then their next stop was to Sderot, which was a little brave, considering that we have a little bit of a tenuous ceasefire going on right now. There were just rockets there on Sunday and Monday. We know that obviously from the news, and we know that because when we lived in America, our house was near the flight path over JFK. But here, we’re clearly in one of the flight paths that goes to Gaza. So we know before the news when Israel is attacking. We hear those planes.

David Bashevkin: 
Wow.

Serena Benovitz: 
So anyways, it was very brave of them to take the girls today. I said to my daughter, “Weren’t you scared?” She’s like, “Mother, there’s a hafsaka eish. There’s a ceasefire.” But whatever, they were there. Now, they did all the usual stuff in Sderot, and then my daughter’s 15 years old, she’s in 10th grade, they met with their parallel class of the local girls’ high school. And they didn’t hear a speech from anybody. They sat in groups of three or four girls together, chatting amongst themselves. And they spoke about living life with a mission, living with emunah. One of the girls, my daughter told me, on Monday there were few rockets this time that were not intercepted, and this daughter’s car was hit on Monday by a rocket.

David Bashevkin: 
Wow.

Serena Benovitz: 
Hearing those people talk about emunah is just incredible, and that’s a lesson in emunah that’s going to stick with my daughter more than any lesson written on a smart board, which we don’t have here.
And also important, going back to the original story of how we got here, that drive that I had to be a part of the story of Israel. It’s happening, and anyone can easily be a part of that if they pick up and come here. You can witness the prophecies of the naviod yishama baray yehuda while you’re standing at chupah in yerushalayim. You can merit a connection to the land through a year of shmitah observance. Everything you do here takes on an added level of significance because you’re part of a story. You’re not just working in high tech, you’re building the startup nation. You’re not just a nurse or a pharmacist, you’re giving quality of life to the people of Israel. When you’re teaching and learning Torah, you’re protecting Israel and you’re building Torah in our homeland. And yes, those are all my children’s professions.

And the last thing is the future, of course, is here as well. It’s not in America and it’s not in Europe and it’s not anywhere else. I remember promising my then first-grader, when we told my oldest son that we were making Aliyah. He was worried about leaving family and close friends, and I promised him that someday they’re all going to follow. I told him, “Some of them are going to come on an El Al plane.” And some of them have. My in-laws made Aliyah after we did. My sister did. I have a nephew who did. “And the others,” I said, “They’re going to come on the wings of an eagle. However they get here, though, we’re going to be here to greet them.” I’m pro Aliyah.

David Bashevkin: 
That is absolutely beautiful. I’ve had conversations with my own kid. It’s why I got a little emotional hearing that. My son really wants to live in Israel, and I don’t have the best answer for a first-grader of why he’s not. And your response of, “Eventually this is where we are all headed,” resonates deeply, and I hope we merit and we all merit to see with our own eyes. Whether it’s on an El Al flight or on the wings of an eagle with the help of God, I know, as do you, that is the trajectory of Amcha Yisroel, to reconnect with Eretz Yisroel. We should see it in our time. Thank you so much for sharing your perspective and experience today.

Serena Benovitz: 
Thank you, David, for all your great work.

David Bashevkin: 
I was very moved by all of her words, but especially at the end. Our trajectories towards Israel sometimes have a very wide and long arc. Sometimes they have a very sharp and narrow arc. And whether or not we are going to make it there on an El Al flight or on the more redemptive mystical end of the arc, the longer-

David Bashevkin: 
… or on the more redemptive, mystical end of the arc, the longer arc. Al Kanfei Nesharim, on the wings of eagles, so to speak, in that time of redemption. There’s no question that all of our lives of the Jewish people are faced towards the land of Israel and what brought her there has always fascinated me, and that’s what I was so moved to include this. So often what you hear people talk about, why they make aliyah, it’s because of the comfort, the opportunities, the excitement, there’s so much work going on in the startup nation and what intrigues me so much is what actually pulled them there wasn’t startup nation, though that’s certainly a big part of it, was being able to connect even in times of pain, even in times of difficulty, and not feeling like a bystander, like that famous quote that I’ve mentioned before, “The man in the arena,” by Theodore Roosevelt, where you’re not standing on the sidelines but the credit belongs to those who are actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly. And that experience is not on the sidelines, posting emojis onto Twitter, which is essentially what I’m doing during times of difficulty.

I feel like I want to connect, but nothing accentuates my distance more than all that I’m left with during a time of difficulty. But being there in the land with the people, to have that be the reason why you were drawn, I just find that incredibly moving, almost biblically moving, and I so appreciate her thoughts on that.

I spoke to somebody else who’s really so incredible and so thoughtful, somebody who’s reached out to, has been a longtime listener. I’m so thankful that she jumped on because she also addressed a very fundamental question that so many people have as it relates to Aliyah. That’s specifically the parenting question. And she added on a little bit more, they did not take the same approach as the Benovitzs, they took a very different approach and I just so appreciated her thoughtfulness, more than anything else, aside from her words that she shares now, just the encouragement she’s given me over the years of just really being a listener and understanding the world from which I emerge.

We grew up only a few blocks away from each other. This is our conversation with CB, otherwise known as Chana Berkowitz, and her decision not just to make Aliyah, but more specifically how they navigated the educational systems for their children.

I think one of the most complicated equations to figure out is how to reimagine the educational experiences that you had in America, and what that looks like in Israel. What would you tell people, and I’m curious for yourself, how did you find and make decisions about schooling for children?

Chana Berkowitz: 
It’s definitely, the schooling system here is very different. We moved when our oldest was four, which was also-

David Bashevkin: 
It’s a good age.

Chana Berkowitz: 
… early. Exactly. We wanted to move as early as possible with our children as young as possible. We also kind of had to think about what sector do we want to be in. Obviously no one likes to put themselves in boxes, but the reality in Israel is that you kind need to choose. Are you chiloni, daati or chareidi, and that will also inform a lot of choices including school choice. So we chose to identify as Daati Leumi. We live in Beit Shemesh, which has a lot of school options from all areas, all sectors. And the first school that we put our older kids into, we were very happy with it and our kids are doing well, but it was really not at all how we grew up and were educated, and eventually we did feel like things were lacking. Our kids stayed there in first through sixth grade, but it was definitely not-

David Bashevkin: 
Give me some examples. What were the examples? I mean, they didn’t have color war, they didn’t … what?

Chana Berkowitz: 
No, I think the most surprising was the limudei Kodesh First of all, the day is not structured as limodei Kodesh in the morning, Limudei Chol in the evening, or afternoon, I should say. It’s mixed up. Some days they start with math, some days they start with chumash. Some days they maybe have only one limudei Kodesh class. It was very weird to me to see it being treated as just another subject, rather than this is our priority and how we start our day and then we go to-

Speaker 1: 
Which is pretty standard in America?

Chana Berkowitz: 
Right. I went to Beis Yaakov, I went to TAG. That’s kind of what I was expecting and I was a little bit surprised at that attitude. It felt a little bit like very basic, yahadus like we called it in America, is taken for granted that the kids will know the dates of the chagim, and they’ll know all the parshas in order, and it didn’t go that way, which was a little surprising.

When it was time for my youngest to start school, another child started in the same school that my kids were in, and then we switched to another one and it was way more what we had been looking for, and way more what we were used to.

Speaker 1: 
Also within the daati leumi world?

Chana Berkowitz: 
Also, yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s Tama Torah. It was still Dati Leumi, but the religious Judaism was much more organic and well, just way more what I was used to growing up in Queens, Beis Yaakov, Rockaway TAG.

David Bashevkin: 
And that educational question, it definitely does loom large. It is complex and I think about what both of they said, it can be navigated and I just feel that so much of the success of educational institutions in America, which we already discussed previously in our education series, can end up ossifying and paralyzing people, where they’re unable to find any other path except particularly in places where you have very strong schooling, they feel like you just go onto that moving sidewalk and there’s no other approach to raising children.

Though Israel may be very different, I think it can be navigated, and I hope that more people speak specifically on how to transition specifically as it relates to educational institutions for children. I think that’s so, so important. And so often you have people talk about and emphasize, clarify, to only make aliyah with the right motivations, because if you have the wrong motivations, God forbid, in Israel you can religiously fall apart and you’re not going to be able to transition the religious identity that you’ve cultivated in America and be able to sustain it in Israel.

I actually push back on that, specifically with my own students, and I think very often people who feel that they have a brittle religious identity, the best place to be is actually in Israel. A brittle religious identity, one that you’re nervous and for yourself, you’re not from the … on whatever all-star team, whatever community, you’re not on it. And if you make aliyah, it’s a good chance that religiously you’re going to look very different, and evolve in ways that in America would be seen as becoming even less religious. But I always look at Israel as, at least when you are walking that high wire of constructing our religious identity, there is a net underneath. And that net is your connection to Amcha Yisroel, to the Jewish people. And when you are walking that high wire in America, particularly with a brittle religious identity, there is no net underneath.

And God forbid, as people know, as I know firsthand, it just takes one generation in America, where God forbid you can lose everything. You can lose everything of your connection to the Jewish people, connection to Yiddishkeit. And I sometimes think that we place too much emphasis on clarifying the right motivations, and how everything’s going to turn out in Israel. Of course there are risks, but maybe the best place to introduce risks is in Israel, and having risks with the safety net of the connection to Amcha Yisroel that is baked in to the very fabric of society, rather than America.

I wish we had more examples and almost highlighted people who maybe they did religiously deteriorate in Israel, whatever that means, on whatever scale you’re talking about. But if you’re going to go in that direction, I think the best place to do it, and maybe people don’t want to speak this out loud, I think the best place to do it is in Israel, rather than in America, even if we may be more comfortable with some of the institutional support, et cetera, et cetera, that we get for people who are struggling with that.

Wherever you plan on transitioning, and whatever reason you have to consider aliyah, there is no person who has done more to encourage aliyah, particularly from North America, than Rabbi Joshua Fass, the founder, co-founder, to be specific, of Nefesh B’Nefesh, an organization that, I think it took both of my sisters, definitely one of them, on an early flight, who made aliyah. And for so many people has really placed the notion of aliyah within our grasp, not something that seems outlandish, or scary, or foreign, but something that can really be integrated into the American psyche and to the North American experience.

And he has done so much, which is why I knew this episode needed to be anchored with a conversation with a person who has dedicated his life to this mission, and continues to dedicate his life to this mission, which is why it is my great privilege to introduce our conversation with Rabbi Joshua Fass.
What exactly does Nefesh B’Nefesh do?

Normally, when you immigrate to a new country, I assume you interface with the government. The government decides whether or not you can become a citizen. So what role, assuming Nefesh B’Nefesh is not a government position and a government organization, and I could be wrong on that, what exactly does Nefesh B’Nefesh do?

Yehoshua Fass: 
Okay, that’s a great question. We have to examine a little bit of history to the organization and to aliyah, and define the evolution and the transformation of the organization itself.

In 2002, when we founded, myself and Tony Galbard found in Nefesh B’Nefesh, we realized, by the own acknowledgement of the government of Israel, that Israel has always created the construct of aliyah, the immigration, or aliyah of refuge for those running away from distress, persecution, anti-Semitism, Israel was constructed, its infrastructure was created as a haven, as a homeland for those who were fleeing from something.

But by their own admission, Israel never established an aliyah channel for those of aliyah of choice, either opportunity, or idealism, coming to move to Israel to hit the ground running, not to take or to receive, but actually to give. And after much research, of seeing the low number of individuals moving to Israel, and realizing that it wasn’t indicative of a waning passion of Zionism, but there were actually thousands who wanted to move to Israel, and also by speaking, discussing with institutions, the historic institutions, we realized that something had to change. And we wanted to create a foundation that removed the obstacles, either financial, social, bureaucratic. And in 2002 to 2005, we were the new kid on the block.

David Bashevkin: 
Were there other organizations doing this?

Yehoshua Fass: 
No. We came on saying that we will be the intermediary between you and the government. We will work with the government to think out of the box. Even the first charter flight in 2002, we took Ministry of Interior officials on the plane and used the 11 hours in transit to process everyone, so that when we landed, people were able to leave the airport instead of going through those two days of misery, of bureaucratic misery. So it was teaching the government and the country to think differently, to be creative, to leverage their Zionist idealism, because I think even the lowest level of clerkdom has that fire within them to help, and to give them a partner to try to make that change.

David Bashevkin: 
Why do they trust you? I think you’re American-born. I have a hard time getting credibility with a cab driver in Israel to take me half seriously. I don’t take myself seriously when I’m in Israel. I’m embarrassed to speak Hebrew in Israel because I could read fluently, I could type fluently. I don’t feel Israeli. You had to get the credibility of the government of Israel to say, “Hey, we want to help people from West Hempstead make aliyah. I understand why the cause would interest them. How did you get their credibility?

Yehoshua Fass: 
That’s also a phenomenal question. Before we launched the organization, before we launched Nefesh B’Nefesh, myself and Tony Galbard, we traveled to Israel and we share the idea with many politicians, and chief rabbis, and past prime ministers and we say, “We have this crazy idea. We want to rebrand, recreate, refashion immigration of choice, and brand aliyah of choice. Would you be receptive to it? Would you be receptive to think out of the box with us, and be receptive that two Americans could come in to teach the government of Israel how to transition, and to morph what they’ve always done since 1948?”

And we were received with such embrace and receptivity that gave us the extra fuel to move on and to launch the organization. Now, we thought that once the first plane landed and we delivered the product of 419 new Americans off of a charter flight, we thought that people would be throwing money at us and embracing us, and supporting us. But it takes a few years to deliver on products. We’ve never over promised and underdelivered. So we created a reputation of that what we said is what we meant, and we would deliver upon that product.

In 2005, the Prime Minister at the time was Ariel Sharon, and he fell in love with the organization. He felt that we were nimble and had chutzpah and that we were moving things along. And for the first time in Israel’s history, they passed a unanimous cabinet decision that they were going to privatize, in a way, aliyah. That even though aliyah is a governmental responsibility, for the first time, the Prime Minister’s Office was going to fund, in a public-private synergic relationship, to outsource some responsibilities to a private NGO, which was huge.

And then from 2005 to 2008, I call them the ulcer years because you had the establishment that continued to dominate that field, but yet the Prime Minister’s Office, and then it was already moved to different Prime Ministers, were pushing us to expand both horizontally, vertically articulated growth in services, and we were clashing.

And in 2008, the Jewish Agency and Nefesh B’Nefesh created a contract that we would be, in essence, an outsourced arm for the Jewish Agency in North America. And since 2008, we have been the address for North Americans moving to Israel. There is no other way of moving to Israel, not with a Nefesh B’Nefesh channel.

David Bashevkin: 
Wow.

Yehoshua Fass: 
Meaning that we collect all the documentation and we’re connected. Our servers, our computers are connected with the army, with Ministry of Interior, with Ministry of Immigration, with the Jewish Agency, we share information. The Jewish Agency still is a representative of the government of Israel, of giving out the aliyah visa, of eligibility of return. But all the interactions through the flight, after the flight, integrating the oleh, is our responsibility.

And for the first chapter of Nefesh B’Nefesh, almost for the first 10 years, we were a facilitative body. That’s it. Family from Cherry Hill, New Jersey wanted to move to Modiin. We got you. We know your fears, wants, concerns, needs. We’ll address them and we’ll help you move to your new community and make sure that you’re thriving, not just surviving. The second 10 years of the organization, we started getting knocks on our door from either foundations, or the government.

And they say, “Listen, you have unbelievable olim that are moving to this country. We have national concerns. Can we leverage,” and I’m going to use a weird phrase, “… human capital? We leverage your human capital to answer national needs.” Whether or not it was education, or developing the periphery, or lone soldiers from around the world, or physicians, we started becoming solution peddlers, leveraging the olim on a macro level to fulfill national needs.

And that was a huge maturation for the organization because we went from micro servicing, to at the same time filling macro needs. And all of a sudden the organization started to interact with the government of Israel on a very different level. And then a year and a half ago, we shifted to the third chapter of the organization, when we received this beautiful campus in Jerusalem, right across from the Supreme Court, it’s on the National Mall. That itself, as we say, gave us a huge stamp of approval-

David Bashevkin: 
Yes.

Yehoshua Fass: 
… from the government, that we share it, right across the Prime Minister’s office, two minutes away from the Knesset, right across from the foreign ministry. It gave us, on National Mall, a huge property for us to have almost a Zionist campus, an aliyah campus. And at that time, I said, “Okay, it’s time for the third chapter.

The third chapter of the organization is not just to facilitate, but it’s to advocate, celebrate and educate. And we branded, almost using the campus as a canvas of creativity, of being able to entertain all these different projects as almost like a Petri dish to see what works, and then from then expand and expound upon them. So we’ve started to advocate creating an institute, a public advisory council of people looking through the data. We have 20 years of aggregated data.

David Bashevkin: 
I want to get to that data in one second. If you let me jump in-

Yehoshua Fass: 
Jump in.

David Bashevkin: 
I want to first ask some very basic, pedestrian questions.

Yehoshua Fass: 
Go for it.

David Bashevkin: 
People all the time, they’re sitting in their house, maybe their kids just went to sleep, and there might be a couple sitting together in the living room and saying, “Hey, maybe we should think about moving to eretz yisroel. Maybe we should be thinking about making aliyah. In a very technical, pedestrian way, what are the first steps that you need to do before actually making aliyah? Is the first step going to the Nefesh B’Nefesh website? Are there basic ways to kind of make the process even less painful than it has to be? Is there a checklist that you tell people when their ruminations … they’ve gotten together and for the fifth time on a late Motzei Shabbas Saturday night, they’re sitting together and they’re saying, “Hey, maybe we should really do this.” What are the very basic first steps?

Yehoshua Fass: 
The logistics and the technicalities of it is like a scavenger hunt. It’s laid out very, very … on a rudimentary level of what you need to do, and the order of what you need to do it. You go to our website, Nefesh B’Nefesh, nbn.org.il, and it’s handholding. There are tens of thousands, literally, without exaggeration, of explanations of pages on every single thing you can possibly even want to know about living in Israel, and of course the process and the policies that are necessary to move to Israel.

I think the more necessary step is to make sure, let’s say, this couple who are discussing their aliyah plans are on the same page.

David Bashevkin: 
Or individual, yeah.

Yehoshua Fass: 
Or individuals. It needs to be a fully developed, and even nuanced conversation with two people, or a conversation with yourself of what are the challenges? What am I giving up? When am I gaining through the process? What do I want to see? What’s the metrics for success for me? And how do I quantify this as being a successful aliyah? And really mapping that out, because the technicalities are technicalities.
Technicality, you get your birth certificate, you notarize this, you get a passport, you send it to this, this person reviews it, they send it back, you get a visa. It’s very technical. It’s immigration. And I study immigration policies throughout the world, Israel, even though we talk about bureaucracy of Israel, it’s fairly … you could do it in a few weeks, in a couple of months. It’s fairly straightforward.

David Bashevkin: 
What’s the usual timetable you recommend between, somebody says, “I want to make aliyah, I haven’t gotten off my couch yet.”

Yehoshua Fass: 
A family should start around nine months beforehand, really starting doing the processing. An individual, four or five months, getting the material together and to start creating the plan. But usually it happens a year prior. Usually the Pesach before the person makes aliyah, of the following summer, bshana haba byerushalyaim is potent, is visceral. They sit down afterwards and they said, “Okay, let’s go this summer to Israel. Let’s look at different communities. Let’s start looking at schools.” And then they have a whole year to really plan both community, and education, and work, and the move. Along the side have an aliyah advisor assigned to you from Nefesh, and they’ll help facilitate process and you can start going through the paper with the Jewish Agency.

It’s fairly technical. It’s frustrating sometimes because it’s a technical process-

David Bashevkin: 
Sure.

Yehoshua Fass: 
But you need to think beyond the technicalities, and beyond the logistics. And that is to think of what you want your life in Israel to be, beyond the flight, beyond that event.

David Bashevkin: 
Let me ask too, maybe they’re a little bit touchy, a little bit sensitive, but I’m curious, what is Nefesh B’Nefesh’s relationship too olim people who want to immigrate from America to Israel who are not Jewish? And secondly, what is Nefesh B’Nefesh’s relationship to people who want to make aliyah who are not Orthodox?

You clearly wear a yarmulka. You are a rabbi, an Orthodox rabbi, who then came into this incredible miracle of an organization. I’m always sensitive to Israel being for all Jews, but at the same time, there are some very real politics that sometimes can make people who grew up non-Orthodox in America feel very differently about their religious life in Israel. It’s very different than growing up … I’m using air quotes now, “non-Orthodox” in Israel. So I’m curious, have you had instance for non-Jews? And what are the conversations like with the non-Orthodox community and making aliyah?

Yehoshua Fass: 
Okay. The second question is what’ll spend time on because it is something that’s very dear to my heart. Two days ago I had a delegation of degel hatorah by me, the full Orthodox political party within the government, and this morning I had representatives of the conservative movement Alliance Council by me. My proudest moments of Nefesh B’Nefesh is on the charter flights. Why?

David Bashevkin: 
Tell me.

Yehoshua Fass: 
Because it is 11 or 12 hours of the best of what our nation can be. I don’t sleep on the flights, I walk up and down the aisles. And you just see this tapestry, this mosaic of every Jew that you can find, Ashkenas Sephardi reform, ultra-orthodox, sharing this common denominator, this common dream of wanting to build their future families in the state of Israel. It is glorious, it’s gorgeous.

David Bashevkin: 
Are you on every charter flight?

Yehoshua Fass: 
Yes. I haven’t missed one.

David Bashevkin: 
Wow.

Yehoshua Fass: 
And it’s a beautiful, beautiful experience. And when we were given the building rights, I said, “I want to capture that every day,” that 11, 12 hours. I want to capture that every day. We have 20 years of building trust with every Jew. We’ve spent 20 years of making sure that we’re apolitical. And even though I’m an Orthodox rabbi, non-denominational, I respect every single Jew and we have to. I say this to my staff all the time. We’re the George Washington Bridge. A person’s coming on George Washington Bridge, they don’t want to know your political affiliations, they don’t want to know your religious affiliations. They want to know that the bridge stands still-

David Bashevkin: 
Functions.

Yehoshua Fass: 
… across. So, it functions. So we focus on service, focus on our clients, focus that their fears, wants, concerns and needs are met and addressed. We have specificity. Retirees have certain aliyah advisors, youngsters have a different aliyah advisors. Our Yiddish speaking community has their own aliyah advisor. I want to make sure that they feel that we’re an address, kol haamim to our every single one of type of Jew. And we’ve built that trust that we’re non-judgemental and super respectful, and we are opening to the entire tribe, the Jewish tribe. That we’re able to have every single day, hundreds of people, without exaggeration, of all walks of life, coming in to our campus to either be processed for aliyah, to learn about Zionism.

That’s one of the things we were talking about, the shift. We have a Zionist education initiative that we have. Gap year programs. Anywhere from young Judea to Gateshead, coming to our campus to learn about modern day Zionism, and the modern day miracle of the state of Israel, and the gift that this generation has received.

I pride ourselves, if you want to get into data, 70% of families consider themselves, or 65%, self-identify themselves as Orthodox or modern Orthodox. A majority others are conservative, and a very small percentage-

David Bashevkin: 
75% of olim?

Yehoshua Fass: 
No. 68 to 70%.

David Bashevkin: 
Of olim-

Yehoshua Fass: 
Of the families.

David Bashevkin: 
Of the families, okay.

Yehoshua Fass: 
Will self-identify themselves as Orthodox. Now orthodox is any … modern orthodox-

David Bashevkin: 
Sure.

Yehoshua Fass: 
… chabad, yeshivish the whole rubric. And then the others, a majority of that remaining percentage are conservative and very few unaffiliated reform. Now you take that statistic and flip it on its head when it comes to young professionals. Anywhere between 18 to 30 year olds. 18 to 30 year olds, almost 65% of them are not orthodox. These are products of ramah. These are products of birthright, products of being on campus, defending Israel against BDS, and they come to Israel with a different type of aliyah dream, but building Israel nonetheless.

And we have to, not only pre-aliyah, before that decision, be able to cater to their needs, and the information that they seek, and the shoulder to cry on and to rely on. But post-aliyah, we have to be a very different type of organization as well. We can’t just be Jerusalem-centric and have Friday night meals, and a shiur from Roche Weis. We have to have events in Tel Aviv.

We have a Tel Aviv hub, so we have a Tel Aviv hub that is like a community center during the day and it has pluralistic Friday night shabbatot dinners on Shabbas, giving a sense of community that is open to all different walks of life. So we’re constantly trying to cater to the needs of this fully colorful nation of ours that are interested in moving to Israel.

David Bashevkin: 
The imagery of you walking up and down that plane, I mean, my heart stopped for a moment. It’s so beautiful. I’ve never been on a charter Nefesh B’Nefesh flight, unfortunately, not yet. And usually flights to Israel, it can get ruckus on a normal flight. Everybody’s moving, so many different people, but I guess everybody’s flying together for the same purpose. That is so deeply moving. But I want to go talk briefly about the non-Jewish community-

Yehoshua Fass: 
Non-Jews are not eligible to move to Israel under the right of return. They’re able to come on working visas and student visas, so Nefesh B’Nefesh is not involved in that migration. Although, you will love this. We have been studied by other countries. This symbiosis between public and private, of outsourcing immigration, has caught the eye of many different countries. So we’ve been studied by fascinating countries. We had delegations from South Korea three times. The government said just to learn about could they set up a nonprofit, a public entity that could help with immigration, or those flooding from North Korea. We had Armenia, we had Germany, so it’s been fascinating to meet counterparts in other governments and other agencies that look at immigration positively and look at Israel as an ohr lagoyim, as a model that has its own ministry of immigration, it has a ministry of absorption, which is a rarity around the world. That actually wants to help, and accelerates, and gives benefits.

So it’s been fascinating, and it’s an incredible feeling to represent Israel in that way with counterparts who are trying to understand how do we more benefit and service immigrants in other countries.

David Bashevkin: 
I want to ask about the data of the when of aliyah There’s always a running meme on the internet where people will say, “Time to contact Nefesh bn Nefesh,” whenever anything goes wrong in America, or something’s going on in the world, there’s a, “It’s time to call Nefesh B’Nefesh.” I am curious if your data reveals when there are peak interest, when there are spikes in your website of when people want to make aliyah, and whether or not the political climate, especially now, Israel has been in the news over the judicial reforms, there are people who feel very alienated in America, at least, because they’re watching from a distance.

They’re not protesting on the streets, they’re watching from a distance, and they feel alienated from Israel. People who are good, decent people. And I am curious if you see drops in aliyah when either there are political issues, are there drops in aliyah after terror attacks, or does that spike aliyah? What are the trends? What does the data tell you, in what you see on the website in terms of interest in aliyah, based on what’s going on in Israel and America?

Yehoshua Fass: 
Awesome question. Awesome questions. We are very data driven. We collect everything. So we can tell you spikes of hours, spikes of days of not only phone calls coming in, and website, and which pages people are searching, down to application downloading and what’s moving people, or impetus for people, or catalysts to submit documentation. We analyze all this, and trends back, and dissecting it to almost ad nauseum. But we have the data.

It’s interesting. Every single time you see a meme that says, “You got to call Nefesh,” as we’ve all seen them, there’s never a spike. There are memes in itself. It’s funny. And when you would think, you and I would think there would be a spike, there isn’t. And when we would think there would be a drop, there isn’t. I was speaking this morning to a bunch of communal leaders. I was saying, it’s fascinating, there is a conveyor belt of Zionist expression in education that happens in America.

And there are different ingredients that go into this conveyor belt. It could be summer camp, it could be Israel Day parade. It could be an incredible teacher, it could be Hebrew teaching in a school. It creates this 6000, 7000 people a year that are interested in this concept, where 4000 of them actualize on that dream.

It’s fascinating when you would think that there would be a drop, it doesn’t happen. Even with all the political turmoil now, there’s not a change whatsoever. What shocks me is that when there is major wars, or major terrorist spikes, it just galvanizes those who are sitting on the fence to move forward. There’s a feeling of, if you have this, this built up fire of Zionism, and a passion and a decision to make, you’re undeterred. And it almost pokes you a little bit to plant your flag and to show the world that “I’m undeterred,” and-

David Bashevkin: 
To be in the ring.

Yehoshua Fass: 
Exactly. We’ve seen that. The major, major spike that we saw, I mean, that was historic … and we have the data since 1948 as well, that we work with the Jewish Agency, not to the depth of when we started the foundation, but during COVID. COVID created an unprecedented spike for a few reasons. Number one, people were working remotely and encouraged to work remotely. And where professional growth was always a deterrent, or an obstacle for aliyah, all of a sudden that didn’t exist, because they can work remotely.

Family. People shifted to connecting with people, and people maintained relationships, even intensified relationships. And when people felt that it was impossible to leave that cousin, that brother, that mother, all of a sudden they lived for two years without that and that also diminished, not removed, but diminished that concern and want. But most importantly, it was a pause. It was a major historic, hopefully once in a lifetime, pause on a pandemic level, that people were able to sit around that table for a long time and discuss with their spouses, or with themselves, or with their children, what are we doing?

David Bashevkin: 
What are we doing?

Yehoshua Fass: 
What’s our future trajectory? What do we stand for? We’re so caught up in life constantly with the noise of life and sometimes we’re so involved in community that our identity is so fused and interwoven with our community affiliation and allegiance, that we can’t even remove ourselves, divorce ourselves-

David Bashevkin: 
Sure.

Yehoshua Fass: 
… from that identity to explore what we want as people, as individuals. COVID forced us, all the gabbaim, the presidents, the rab. We were home, we were home around our table and it forced us to view our own identity, to explore our own identity. Many times, for the first time in a quiet area, for an extended amount of time.

And we saw people saying, “We wanted to do this, but then we got caught up in life. We got detoured and now we want to get back on that highway, we want to get back on that path.” And we saw a deluge of applications of interest. So much so that we’re dealing right now in 2023, with all the new applications that are coming in and getting back to that spike of people who said, “I want to do this.” Then somehow life went back and the masks were removed, and then you went back to Shul, you went back to the work, and now the question is that, could we get back to that spark? Is there any of that spark still left, or was that just an episodic anomaly?

David Bashevkin: 
But you saw a major spike. I know countless people who made aliyah during COVID myself, anecdotally.

Yehoshua Fass: 
It was so off the charts of interest, that statistically you can’t even relate to it.

David Bashevkin: 
Broadly speaking, very broadly speaking, we have a modern Orthodox community, we have a Yeshiva community and we have a Hasidish community. I am curious in that breakdown, you said you have between 68 and 70% of your annual olim come from the Orthodox community. Of that 68 to 70%, what is the breakdown? Modern orthodox, yeshivish, hassidish, obviously the typical … when we talk about Zionist education, we usually associate that with modern orthodox schooling and I am curious if the data, does that translate into higher percentages of olim? I’m curious to see, in that breakdown, what percent come from each of those communities?

Yehoshua Fass: 
Your supposition is correct. I don’t want to throw out data or imprecise data, but I can tell you, it’s not empirical, but I can tell you gut. 90% of the Orthodox self-identified affiliation is modern orthodox, or maybe 85% is modern, the rest is chabad, yeshivish, chareidi aliyah, is something that never caught on either because of IDF obligation, or the Zionist expression of it. Not saying that there’s no love for israel, and there are not thousands of couples and avreichim coming here to learn, not questioning that. I’m just saying that the institution of aliyah but we are seeing an uptick for sure of conversations within Lakewood and Passaic, especially over COVID as well, of people feeling that America is a different America for them.

This is how they’re expressing it. The cost of tuition is astronomical, and roshei yeshiva are individuals who were always dissuading aliyah, all of a sudden you have daas torah in the Yeshivish community that’s saying, “You know, can do it but do it correctly.” So I’m having conversations with these institutions, and with these personalities, and it’s fascinating because they very much feel that they’re thousands of numbers of individuals. And they claim they’re sitting on their suitcases waiting to make this decision. Even being a catalyst for me to make sure that I had a staff member who was able to speak their lingo, their culture, their sensitivities, their nuances.

David Bashevkin: 
I was about to ask that. You have this synergistic relationship with this actual state of Israel, and I’m curious, is there ambivalence or concern, given your relationship with the actual state of Israel, in terms of olim, people who are coming to Israel, who you know the culture within their community, their values, they do not want to serve in the IDF. They want to come and have the exemption so they’re able to learn and study Torah all day without taking a value judgment on that ability of communities to do.

Do you have any pressure? Do you have any guide for when you’re talking with a couple, or an individual and you know there’s no interest whatsoever, in fact, the biggest impediment is the fact that normally in Israel, part of living in Israel is serving in the Army, and they’re never going to want to do that?

Yehoshua Fass: 
It’s realistic expectations. I don’t feel pressure. It depends on the meetings that I have throughout the day, of the sensitivities and sensibilities of individuals that are expecting certain responses from you-

David Bashevkin: 
I just want to pause. Sensitivities and sensibilities is my line, so …

Yehoshua Fass: 
Oh yeah, I’m sorry.

David Bashevkin: 
Every 18Forty intro, I’ll allow you to borrow it, but I very much appreciated that.

Yehoshua Fass: 
I’ll try to find another … okay, going back to our question, I think it’s the realistic expectations that we have to pose, that I try to pose, and we try to pose to each oleh. And there is not a duplication of life. You’re not duplicating your life here. Even though many times we default to want to move, like likes like, I hope that’s not also another one of your sentences, but we tend to default to what we consider normal. So I have to adjust expectations, not just for the client, for the oleh, but also for the institutional pressure of what they are expecting. And it’s across the board, the modern Orthodox family-

And it’s across the board. The Modern Orthodox family might expect Jewish education to look a certain way, and then shocked to see what a classroom looks like. A Reform retired couple expect to be part of a Reform synagogue or temple when they get here. They’ll be shocked that they can’t find one in their neighborhood. A Charedi family or a Yeshivish Baltimore couple who feels that they could be both an incredible lawyer and a lamden in the beis medrish will be shocked to feel that that is a unicorn in a sense. So you have to have people start to adjust.

And again, going back to what we said before and had conversation of what is considered quantifiably a success story for us, and then reverse engineer it. What steps do we need to do, to take, to ensure that we get that happiness without blinders on? Understanding how we have to redefine, define, adjust, compromise, reinforce, instill values, compensate, all those different verbs to create the success. So it depends. I have meetings and sometimes I know what I’m going to expect at meetings. I can sit with one branch of the government and they’re shocked that I’m meeting with other denominations and vice versa. But I pride myself and I pride our organization that they know that we are respectful of every Jew, and we are that bridge to fulfill their dream. So I don’t have that much pressure anymore. I used to, intensely.

David Bashevkin: 
What was that pressure for?

Yehoshua Fass: 
To bring a certain type.

David Bashevkin: 
Gotcha.

Yehoshua Fass: 
I don’t want to get into trouble.

David Bashevkin: 
Get into trouble. It’s 18Forty. It’s what we do.

Yehoshua Fass: 
Yeah, why not? So I had a few conversations with Shimon Peres. I had many, many conversations with him, a brilliant human being, even though we differed politically, or I don’t have to even say where I stand, because I usually don’t. But he was once standing at a bottom of a charter flight welcoming a charter flight. And people were coming down the plane, and he pulled me aside, and he said, not derogatory, “But it seems like they’re all Orthodox.” So I pulled over the person that was wearing a black hat, who looked as Yeshivish as possible, but I know the background of the Olim. And I said, “Mr. Prime Minister, I want to introduce you to so-and-so.” And then I said, “He’s going to be the new head of this department in this hospital.” And he paused and he was like, “What?” I said, “It’s not monolithic. It’s not black and white. Zionism comes in many, many different colors.”

And it was an eye-opener experience because until then, and this was years and years ago, people had this notion that Orthodox looked a certain way. Our aliyah from North America looked a certain way, or zionism in certain camps looked a certain way. And you can’t label. And the more that we develop that hybrid and celebrate that spectrum, it will hopefully trickle down to educate, to nuance, to a deeper sense of appreciation. And maybe that charter flight experience, and maybe what happens on a day-to-day basis at our campus, might be felt outside of those daled amot,

David Bashevkin: 
Broadly.

Yehoshua Fass: 
Exactly.

David Bashevkin: 
That’s very, very beautiful. I’m curious about what happens after the dream and the initial… I’m thinking of Rav Zadok’s words. Rav Zadok in his first Chasidic work, Tzidkat HaTzadik, opens up and says “The initial entryway to the service of God has to be very quickly.” You move very fast. It’s with this passion and excitement. Afterwards, you have to move a little bit slowly.

I want to know about the data, the conversations, of when Aliyah does not work out. There are people who I know who went through everything. Then they come back a few years later. Sometimes it’s helpful almost in the same way, like a Shalom Task Force or organizations that educate about marriage, like what are the causes of divorce, so to speak. And it’s not such a farfetched analogy, given that the tractate that talks about divorce talks about leaving Eretz Yisrael. What are the reasons why it doesn’t work out, and what are the conversations you could have now that could help almost preempt or navigate those issues that you see, those thematic issues that come up, that make the dream after realizing it suddenly erode?

Yehoshua Fass: 
Awesome. First of all, in studying and doing the research, now, we did twofold, two tiers of research before we launched the organization. Number one, the dormant applications to move to Israel. Why did people start the process and just stop? What obstacles were they encountering that just created a cold feet experience? And second, why was there such a high level of return and a lack of recidivism or retention rate within the Aliyah? Just know, before 2000, up until 2001, we made the foundation 2002, statistically… Sergio Della Pergola, he’s a famous statistician in Israel. The rate was almost 56% failure rate within the first year and a half of Aliyah from North America. Today, as we’re audited and we’re in the kishkes of government audits, and we’re at a 90, 91% retention rate.

David Bashevkin: 
Wow.

Yehoshua Fass: 
Which is awesome. And that’s why we’re studied around the country. And we know when people leave and we know when people come back. And I don’t want to get into Big Brother-ness of it all, but it’s still, we’ve helped 80,000 Olim. 80,000 Olim with a 10% failure, that’s still a lot of… Those are the people that you and I know. It still hurts. If you and I were shadchanim or marriage counselors or matchmaking and we said that 90% were successful marriages, we’d be happy because the divorce is horrific. But still, it hurts you when you see something fail.

Now there’s certain reasons that are beyond anyone’s control. A sickness requiring a person to go back, a family member that requires added closeness or proximity with a relative, or opportunities, incredible opportunities that are miraculous that a family will be stupid for them not to take. But then there’s the painful ones. Painful ones fall into two different categories: the people who ignored advice and the people who tried everything. The people who tried everything, it just… Life is challenging. Sometimes you’re hit with variables and encounters and experiences that are just not fair. They’re just not fair. It could be marital, it can be health, it could be financial, wherever you are. And it’s painful to see people who tried and struggled, and those hosts of factors would’ve made anyone have a difficult or miserable experience wherever they would be. It’s hard because they invested so much and they sacrificed so much and compromised so much and had such a beautiful taste of that dream. And to see it fail is painful. And then you have the others that just frustrates you because just don’t listen. They don’t listen.

David Bashevkin: 
What are they not listening to?

Yehoshua Fass: 
I’ll give you an example. Wife is kicking and screaming that she doesn’t want to move to Israel. Her husband was like, “This is going to happen. We’re doing it.” You can predict a day where either the Aliyah will fail or the marriage will fail. Or the parents are dead set on making Aliyah, but they have a junior in high school who’s about to start a senior year. Wait a year. Just wait a year. It’s going to kill you just waiting a year? And you should just know, I get flack from the government. “What are you doing? You’re dissuading people from moving to Israel?” I said, “I’m investing in success and people and helping people actualize their dream, not accelerating a train wreck.” You have to know your family. Even to the point that I sometimes say to a family, “If you have two tickets that you can spend on a pilot trip, then one parent and your eldest child should go on that trip.” You need to get the entire family involved and in sync in this decision process. And sometimes you have individuals who make educational mistakes.

David Bashevkin: 
What are the most common educational mistakes? Because I know that’s an issue that comes up.

Yehoshua Fass: 
You’re going to get me in trouble on this.

David Bashevkin: 
Say it.

Yehoshua Fass: 
Families come, and they feel a pressure, a religious pressure to affiliate with a certain institution or an educational track which is in contrast to what their child is used to. And it creates a disconnect or a dissonance to a point that children either feel a hypocrisy of family values to the educational institution that they’re placed in or a duplicitous of sorts. And it creates conflict, it creates friction within the family. And I see it and I can predict it. Certain issues, familial issues are unpredictable. Certain ones, you can see it in the making. It’s hard to see people not listen for an inevitable result. And it’s challenging.

David Bashevkin: 
And you’re honest when people come to you. I’m sure educational issue is a big thing. Even a, so to speak, more American-type school. I don’t know. It’s not DRS, it’s not TABC. That model doesn’t really exist in Israel. The counterpart in Israel, and this is I guess, really hard for a lot of people, and I guess it includes myself, of the, I don’t know if you want to call it right-wing Modern Orthodox or maybe single-gender Modern Orthodox, people who send to like a DRS or SKA. The educational parallel to that in Israel can be hard to find because culturally a more daati leumi school feels like culturally, not really, culturally a different world. And the Charedi schools are like otherworldly. So you could kind of get lost in that. Do you work with communities to try to create schooling that is more in line with that kind of center of the Modern Orthodox world?

Yehoshua Fass: 
The first few years I tried, and it failed because the infrastructure, the schooling systems are not lent for that. And you don’t want just pure Anglo schools, even though unfortunately, and I say unfortunately, we’re seeing that develop with hyper super-concentrated areas of Anglos.

David Bashevkin: 
Like fully Americanized schools.

Yehoshua Fass: 
Oh yeah. I made a joke to a principal a week ago. They didn’t appreciate it. I said to this principal in Bet Shemesh, I said, “You have to create an Ulpan in your school.” And they said, “We do have an Ulpan for the new Olim.” I was like, “No, no, no. You have to have an Ulpan for the Israelis, the few Israelis left to learn English.” They were not pleased. But no, because having that super concentration.

And I don’t think it’s the model. I think we have to… There’s certain incredible schools that understands that balance and nuance and that cultural sensitivity, and they’re trying to integrate the positives of what we see overseas. But the culture is a culture that you and I can’t change. We’re in the Middle East. It’s a different kind of culture that pervades everything. And the Charedi-Yeshivish community has its own culture in itself. The only way that can be morphed a bit or sensitized a bit, if there was a full wave of a North American Charedi or Yeshivish Aliyah. Or you create an institution that’s parallel.

And I know that there is a movement, and I’m involved in it, of creating almost a torah umesorah kind of track within a kinder, gentler track for the Yeshivish community that put a attract North American Aliyah. But there are institutions in Israel that are incredible educational facilities that are teaching that, between you and me, when it comes to Tanakh or Gemara or math, completely superior than some counterparts in America. The size of classes, what the school looks like, would scare a lot of people off, but it’s lopsided in that nature.

David Bashevkin: 
Yeah, I just want to say, because I have fully Israeli Charedi nieces and nephews, I just want to say to our listeners, there are very subtle cultural changes taking place in this generation of Charedi teenagers. They’re remarkable. I don’t want my sister to kill me. I’m not mentioning any names. Like I have a nephew, a Charedi nephew, who has run the Jerusalem marathon. Fully Charedi, went into all the schools. There’s always a holy volatility in Israel where generation to generation things change, things merge. Things react to one another. I’m just curious, just overall at Nefesh B’Nefesh, how do you deal with both the American instinct and the Israeli instinct to push back on the Americanization of Israel itself?

Yehoshua Fass: 
It depends on the receptivity of the institutions and the communities. You have some individuals that are so desirous of Anglos moving to their community, feeling that it could be a catalyst for their municipal or educational progress, that are willing to hear and are receptive to change. There are others that feel that they’re fine with or without. And it’s picking your battles. It’s also choosing what requests you need to make. If I know that a school is going to have an influx of 30 new second graders coming in the summer because of a wave of Aliyah to a certain area, so my chip that I’m going to cash with a mayor or with the educational committee is to add a classroom or a caravan or whatever it needs, not, “Could you nuance this to absorb people, or have you decided to change your classroom ratio?” You’re picking your battles in certain areas.

But again, we’re the ones who are coming into this homeland. And sometimes it’s also humbling and a good perspective for the immigrant and for myself to have constantly. We’re coming. Even though we think that everyone should cater things for us and roll out the red carpet and dance the hora every single day for our deliverance, they’re respecting and according and very, very celebrative of our arrival. But again, we’re joining the collective. And we’re joining something that has had 75 years of a momentum. So we can teach, we can nuance, we can help, we could lead by example, but there’s a certain amount of expectations that we need to also understand and expect. I love your holy volatility. I’ll give back sense and sensibilities, but I’m taking over that.

David Bashevkin: 
You take holy volatility. It’s really remarkable the work that you’re doing. I’m curious, is there a specific shul or a specific community that you give the award to for most Olim?

Yehoshua Fass: 
Most Olim from the states or in Israel? Receiving or giving or providing?

David Bashevkin: 
Coming from the United States to Israel. What community is the league leader?

Yehoshua Fass: 
The tri-state area as we know, and Teaneck has a beautiful production factory of Olim. In Israel. It’s interesting, Yerushalayim is still highest for families. Tel Aviv is for singles. And then after that you’ll have a shared between Modi’in, Beit Shemesh, Greater Beit Shemesh and Greater Gush Etzion. So those three will share, even though we’ve been pushing to the periphery and developing north and south, and that’s been quite successful. But those are the top five. Yerushalayim, Tel Aviv, Modi’in, Ra’anana. Ra’anana’s also in the mix. Modi’in, Ra’anana, Beit Shemesh and Gush.

David Bashevkin: 
When you’re looking in the eyes of somebody and you see that they’re on the fence about whether or not they want to take their life and move to Israel, what is the case that you make to make Aliyah?

Yehoshua Fass: 
I don’t make the case. I give them the information, and I say, “When it clicks, it clicks. You’ll know.” Just like when you know to marry a spouse. There are a lot of rabbinic sources that compare our relationship with Israel as a union between spouses. And I think it’s beyond that metaphor. I think it’s very much that emotional connection of when there is a sync, cerebrally and emotionally, when there’s a sync that you have weighed the pros and cons, when you see the meta picture of it, when you’re willing to take that leap of faith based on your research, your information, but your love and your desire for a different future. And it clicks, you feel it. And if a family, if I see them equivocating, struggling, I’ll give you all the information that you need, decision’s yours. And if you don’t feel whole and shalem with that decision, then don’t do it.

And you see that. You see it at JFK, you see that Newark, you see it in Toronto. You see it when people get to the plane. No one is standing in the corner vomiting that they have butterflies in their stomach. They’re saying goodbye. They’re getting their brachot from their parents. But there’s a resolute confidence in the decision. And that’s shared throughout the thousands and tens of thousands of people who I’ve been able to have the privilege of watching close, frontline seats of watching that experience.

Yehoshua Fass: 
For that shidduch between amcha Yisrael and Eretz Yisrael, I could not think of a better shadchan than the work that you are doing at Nefesh B’Nefesh. It’s really heartening. I always look at the videos. I have so many friends, so many family members who have joined the state of Israel in Aliyah, and it’s one of the most emotional things to watch. And thinking about it now, it’s the only celebration I’ve watched remotely other than a wedding. It really has that similarity and that overlap. I always close my interviews with more rapid fire questions.

Yehoshua Fass: 
I thought I was going to be spared.

David Bashevkin: 
Is there a book that you recommend to people, either to learn more about the state of Israel, about the Aliyah experience? Are there books that you particularly appreciate and recommend?

Yehoshua Fass: 
No, that was a rapid fire. Am I done? It depends your orientation and it depends on-

David Bashevkin: 
Well, now I’m just talking to you. Do you have a favorite book? This isn’t Nefesh B’Nefesh official policy. Do you have a book that has helped you, instilled you, with that, either the experience of living in Israel, of moving to Israel, of love of Israel, the history of Israel, whatever it is, do you have books specifically that resonate with you? You can say no, given that it’s a rapid fire.

Yehoshua Fass: 
Listen, it’s weird. I consume managerial books, all those paperback books that you see at the airports, those—

David Bashevkin: 
The HBR collections.

Yehoshua Fass: 
Freakonomics, they created a whole series for me. I like American political biographies. I like exploring that side of things. But on my desk, I have two seforim that people have asked me to review on the mitzvah of living in Eretz Yisroel.

David Bashevkin: 
The book on your desk on the mitzvah of living in Eretz Yisroel I assume was from Rabbi Rabbi Shnayor Burton?

Yehoshua Fass: 
Yes.

David Bashevkin: 
Okay. It’s a wonderful book. It’s in Hebrew for our listeners.

Yehoshua Fass: 
Yes.

David Bashevkin: 
But it is beautiful and I do want to give him a shout out, somebody I know and I really love his book.

Yehoshua Fass: 
I have David Freeman’s book that I review. It’s interesting. People come in and say, “Pick a lane man.” And I say this to them, “You either need to double down in strengthening your core and then you’re going to be feeding the very essence of what’s driving you forward. If it’s Torah, then there are so many Torah sefarim. Then others who are not motivated by that, it’s more of the historic context of it. So many people, in their essays, in their Aliyah essays, I know this is not rapid fire, but so many express, “I don’t want to be on the sidelines. You only live once. This is incredible history.”

David Bashevkin: 
What is an Aliyah essay? Wait, wait, wait. What’s an Aliyah essay?

Yehoshua Fass: 
Oh, when you’re filling out your application, people describe why they’re interested in making Aliyah, and you get to learn a little bit more about that individual.

David Bashevkin: 
Are those publicly available?

Yehoshua Fass: 
They’re not. But one day when I make my book, it’s going to bring in a lot of those vignettes.

David Bashevkin: 
You have a storage house of thousands of essays of why people make Aliyah.

Yehoshua Fass: 
Tens of thousands. And tens of thousands of people who wrote that they want to move to his or what they didn’t.

David Bashevkin: 
I hope one day we’re able to see that. I didn’t know that that’s a part of the application.

Yehoshua Fass: 
They used to be mandatory. It used to be mandatory for financial assistance for the grant from Nefesh. But people write and it’s incredible. And in our conversations with them, everything’s annotated and everything is reported. I mean, so we have those conversations of the motivational factors, of the fears. And it’s beautiful. If you want to have nechama, some comfort after a three-week experience, just go through some essays of just the longing and the visceral emotive connection that our Jewish people have with our homeland, and it’s just only more stunning.

David Bashevkin: 
Any essays you want to share with me, I wish some of them were public with or without names, we’d be happy to publish them. That’s a treasure trove.

Yehoshua Fass: 
No, a hundred percent. It’s also interesting to see the shift. I’m seeing shifts with young professionals, how they express their want to move to Israel. And it’s this whole generational phenomenon. It’s very much you have individuals saying, “I want.” It’s very I focused. “I want to this.” And now people are looking at it as Israel’s an opportunity, seeing over and over again instead of being number 40,000 in line for Google or in Silicon Valley, I can be number 400 in line in Haifa or Intel. They’re looking at Israel as the land of opportunity when that is incredible. But it means also that if it’s very much a personalized-centric dream, that means when the going gets tough or when there are opportunities that are not fulfilling that person’s want or need, then they’ll just shift to it another more attractive opportunity. So we have to be sensitive to also those trends of what kind of servicing we need to give because we have to acknowledge that.

David Bashevkin: 
Knowing that those essays exist makes my heart flutter. That’s very, very beautiful. My next question, if somebody gave you a great deal of money and allowed you to take a sabbatical with no responsibilities whatsoever to go back to school and either write a book or get a PhD, what do you think the subject and title of that work will be?

Yehoshua Fass: 
I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t take off.

David Bashevkin: 
You wouldn’t take off. I see it in you. You are passionate.

Yehoshua Fass: 
I’m one of the first ones who come to the office in the morning. I pinch myself every morning that A, that we have an incredible campus, but that we get to do incredible work every day, and we’re able to actualize dreams and fulfill dreams. Mr. Gelvin and I, Tony and I speak all the time. “We got to sit down, we got to put these stories.” We have hundreds of stories, crazy stories, 20 years of doing this on a political level, on institutional level, on historical level, on a threat level. But we just don’t have the time. And I don’t want to take off.

I was planning to become a doctor 20 something, 28 years ago. I was always on that track to go into pre-med. Sometimes I toyed, maybe I should go into sciences for a year. Could I get something done in a year? Or my kids want me to go to culinary school for a year. My wife wants me to sit in a beis medrish for a year. Besides all of that, I wouldn’t give it up. I wouldn’t give it up. If I would carve out time, I would start just winding down some of these memories because they have been for me so intensely beautiful. They’ve exposed the best of our nation and the best of people and the leap of faiths that people make and the sacrifices that people make were something that is greater than themselves. And for me, that’s heroism. When someone does something and is defined by something that is greater than themselves, that’s inspiring. And we have tens of thousands of individuals that have done that, and it’s just gorgeous.

David Bashevkin: 
Absolutely beautiful. My final question, I’m always curious about people’s sleep schedules. What time do you go to sleep at night and what time do you wake up in the morning?

Yehoshua Fass: 
I don’t know if it’s a bracha or a plague. I need four and a half hours of sleep.

David Bashevkin: 
For real?

Yehoshua Fass: 
Yeah. So my health has been a little thing. So I take my medicine like at 11:45, 12:00, I’m done. But 4:30, I’m up. I can’t go back to bed. So 4:40, I’m out of bed already and-

David Bashevkin: 
You’re like my father.

Yehoshua Fass: 
I’m texting Tony Gilbert, my partner for 20 years. We talk multiple times during the day. 20 years of doing this, we haven’t missed a day except for chag and Shabbos. He sends me a text or calls me before he goes to bed. At 4:45 I’m already texting him. I hide in the bathroom so I don’t wake up my wife. For me, the biggest treat is going to shul when it’s still dark. It’s quiet. I love it. I also feel like I’ve already gotten a couple of hours more than anyone else. So it’s like a little bit selfish. So like I’ve been driving back, I already had two hours. But yeah, I’ve been blessed or cursed with that.

David Bashevkin: 
It’s definitely a bracha and my only guess is that it is because you have brought so much bracha to so many families and to Amcha Yisroel. Rabbi Fass, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us today.

Yehoshua Fass: 
My absolute pleasure.

David Bashevkin: 
I had never spoken to Rabbi Fass before this interview. I was absolutely kind of blown away to the mission that he’s dedicated his life. This Herculean, sometimes Sisyphean struggle to bring Aliyah to the North American psyche, could sometimes feel impossible. I find that when I visit other countries outside of Israel, but not in North America, when I spent a few months in Sydney, Australia, when I spent time in London, in these countries, the Jewish community, there’s something much more real about their tether to Israel. There is something less permanent that I feel in the Jewish communities outside of North America.

And I’m not talking about those in Israel, those outside of Israel, but outside of North America. Particularly when I was in Sydney, Australia, the level of longing in so many of my friends that I made when I was there so many years ago, specific shout out to my dearest friend, Benji Levy, who I’m still in touch with, the pull, the draw, the knowledge that this is not it. This is not where it happens, and we need to continue our lives in Israel is something that I really have felt deeply, most deeply in communities outside of Israel but outside of North America.

And it has been a struggle because of the success of North American Jewry, what we’ve built here, it is easy for it to feel permanent. It’s easy for it to feel like the default and where we should be. And it’s something that I very much identify with. And the fact that Rabbi Fass has dedicated his life to reimagine that default in the place where it’s most difficult to reimagine is really incredible.

But I actually wanted to close this journey with two interviews that are maybe even less typical. I’m always concerned… We’re certainly not the mouthpiece for any organization. We don’t have a formal relationship with Nefesh B’Nefesh. And I wanted to be sure to include not just the story of Aliyah, but a family that made Aliyah and then came back, it didn’t work out, why it didn’t work out. Now I know a lot of families who that happened to, most notably my sister, who lived in Israel for over a decade and came back.
I asked my sister Rachel, begged her to come on. It is very much not within her nature to join a podcast. If you’ve ever met Rachel, imagine me, but the opposite in all the good, holy, decent, pure ways. My sister Rachel is one of my great role models. And her move back to America was difficult, was, I’m going to use the word traumatic. I remember those years, to uproot this kind of angelic life that you’ve built in Israel and come back to America can be very, very difficult. But she didn’t want to come on and I understand why she didn’t want to come on. And there is another incredible family that I met that I would like to introduce you to because there are so many connections to 18Forty.

Many months ago, in September, I believe I was invited to a wedding from a past 18Forty guest that I’m sure many longtime listeners will remember. Benji Frish, you may remember his mother, Rabbi Robyn Frish. I was invited to his wedding. I was so touched. His wedding was in Baltimore. And I said, “Absolutely, I would love to come. Is there any way you could arrange for me a ride to Baltimore for your wedding?” I have a very hard time doing those long drives. I can’t check email or do anything. And more than anything else, I get very tired on long rides. I fall asleep immediately. I just get so, so tired. I don’t trust myself, certainly not by myself, to do a long ride like that.

And he said, I’ll look around, let me see what I can do. And he got back in touch with me a couple days later and he said, “Yeah, I found somebody. He actually listens to 18Forty and he would be so excited to drive you to Baltimore for this wedding. Not only is he going to drive you to Baltimore, he’s going to drive you all the way back.” So there’s one person. I said, “Okay, it sounds absolutely crazy to me, but sure.” And I was bracing myself to be in a car for about six hours with an absolute crazy person, somebody who’s willing to drive me three hours each way. But I said, “Sure, it’ll get me there. And if I have to have an unhinged conversation for six hours, so be it.”

Nothing could be farther from the truth. The person who drove me is somebody named Zalmi Lavi. And Zalmi picked me up. He was the sweetest guy in the universe. And believe it or not, and I’ve made reference to this earlier, but I’ve never really told the full story, during the car ride, he was telling me the difficulties of his religious outlook, what he called hashkafa, a word that as many of you know, I do not like, and the difficulty of his religious outlook and why that’s so hard for him to figure out his path, so many of the issues that we talk about on 18Forty. And one of the big difficulties he said was dating. “I don’t really know which community I should be dating. Should I be in the Modern Orthodox community. Should I be in the Yeshiva community? What is the right path forward for me?”

And he kind of said, more as a side point, he said, “I haven’t really started dating. I have family friends. There’s this one friend that my family has. She eats over all the time, but she’s also not right for me because she’s too X, Y, and Z,” and explained why her religious outlook would absolutely never work for him. If you listen to our series on dating, you will know that my response right away was, “That doesn’t really sound like an irreconcilable religious difference to me.” With all my respect to Netflix’s Jewish Matchmaking show, I don’t believe in breaking off a relationship because of nuanced kind of very nitty-gritty niche religious differences. I think they’re doable.

And I looked at Zalmi and I said, “I’m going to be real with you. I think you’re absolutely crazy. You don’t need to marry this girl who you mentioned offhandly, but you should give her a shot. She sounds like somebody who sees you fully and knows your entire family.” And we had six hours together. We kept on talking about this relationship. He says, “Nah, it’s not going to work.” His father called in the middle, Edo Lavi. He said, “Hey, how’s the ride going?” I’m like, “Forget the ride. What’s the deal with this girl? Why isn’t Zalmi going out with her?” He said, “Oh my gosh, you guys really got into it.” And the entire ride, he’s like, “Well, when would I ask her out?” The wedding was on a Thursday, we’re driving back late at night. I said, “I don’t know. How about Friday, tomorrow and go out with her on motei shabbos ?”

And believe it or not, he actually took my advice and he asked her out. They went out that motzei shabbos. They got engaged around Thanksgiving time. And I was recently at the wedding, and that is how I met the Lavi family, that through the wedding of a former 18Forty guest, Benji Frish for my ride there, I was at Zalmi’s wedding. I actually signed his ketubah. And that moment, that one car ride, fortuitous car ride, to kind of create another bayis neeman byisroel. I didn’t introduce him to this girl, but we pushed pretty hard on that six-hour car ride to give her a chance and to date and to really see if this could work. And thank God, it did.

And being at that wedding and connect connecting to the family was really, really incredible and really kind of brings full circle our conversation because Edo Lavi is extraordinary close with the Benovitzs, and Edo Lavi is Zalmi’s father. And I spoke to him because not only did he make Aliyah, live there for 16 years, but after 16 years they moved back to America. And what we spoke about was the decision initially to make Aliyah, why they made that decision, and most importantly, why they decided to move back and how he lives with that decision. He is really an incredible person and an incredible family, which is why it is my absolute privilege and pleasure to introduce our conversation with Edo Lavi.

I would like you to take me back to the initial decision. Why did you decide to make Aliyah? At what stage in your life were you, and why did you come to that decision?

Edo Lavi: 
Okay, so this is a story that I told many times, but I haven’t actually told in quite a few years. And I used to tell this story when we did the panel discussions for the yeshivas. And that was one of the first questions that we would ask. We’d have a bunch of people in the Ramat Beit Shemesh community speak to members of the yeshiva and show them that there are people who can work and learn and live in Israel, that living in Israel was an option. We want them to start thinking about living in Israel as an option.

David Bashevkin: 
And just to be clear, that you were on the panel sessions. You were the poster child of making Aliyah and doing it right?

Edo Lavi: 
Yeah, there were a bunch of us could have been any number of us because really Ramat Beit Shemesh is loaded with people who are idealistics. One of the incredible things about being there on a daily basis, it’s not just when you walk around at a special event or on a Shabbos, it’s really a part of your daily life to be surrounded by idealistic people who are really trying to maximize the potential in all the values that we espouse. In that sense, I was a poster child, and many people look at me as that, so this is definitely an ironic role for me.

But anyways, the story was simply, I was going through many years of dental training after college, so the context is important. I was I guess what you would call why YU Yeshivish or YU Beis Medrish ], motivated, sincere, idealistic, and going for a career. And so we lived in Passaic actually for about eight or nine years while I was going to dental school and then residency and then a specialty in orthodontics. And then when we were about to graduate from orthodontic school, my wife and I turned to each other and it was really shortly before I graduated. Let’s say I graduated in the summer, so it was in the spring of that year, not unlike the way we came back on the back end 16 years later.

But on the way there, the whole world was our oyster, right? We had the options of staying in Passaic or moving somewhere else. I was going to have this ability to move somewhere and sort of stake my ground and start my life. I was 30 years old at the time, and we already had four children, three boys, and then our daughter, Chana, was six months old, and we were going to go wherever we wanted. And it felt crazy to not at least attempt first and foremost to go and live in Israel. We looked at each other and we said, “You only get one chance at this.”

The joking way that I used to tell the story was orthodontics is considered to be lucrative. So the way I used to tell the story, I turned to my wife and she turned to me and she said, “Is that what you really want, to work two and a half days a week and have fancy cars and golf the other two days of the week and have a life of leisure and luxury?” And I said, “Isn’t that what I went to school for?” And the reality is that it’s not. But we never lost our idealism, and I’d like to think we still haven’t, for sure. And so we just always wanted to live the most meaningful possible life. We had the opportunity to do so. At that time, Nefesh B’Nefesh has just started. Rabbi Josh Fass is a dear friend, and we were very much in touch. And he was very enthusiastic, and so he moved us along.

David Bashevkin: 
How old was your oldest child? He

Edo Lavi: 
He was eight years old, so we figured if not now, when? So he’s in third grade. We knew that that’s a window of opportunity that closes. Yeah, we were inspired by somebody very special and very dear to us who passed away very young, who had always pushed us. We were very, very close friends in Passaic. He had pushed us to come to Israel. And when he passed, my wife went to visit his widow in Ramat Beit Shemesh. And from that moment, it was just basically, it was going to happen. But he had always said… His name was Michael, alav ha-shalom. He was a chevrusa of mine and a dear, dear friend who still, all these years later, is I know on top of a lot of people’s minds.

I’m leaving out parts of the story. But the bottom line is we gave it a shot. We were given a boost by Nefesh B’Nefesh. It made it easy. We were idealistic, and every part of it was exciting. Actually, it only got more and more exciting. I mean, it was actually… Even upon arrival, right away we realized we were living a totally different quality of life than we were living in America in terms of, I guess you could say spirituality, in terms of just being around so many people who were motivated and idealistic. It was really like a dream. It felt like pinch me. And certainly, Moshiach was coming around the corner right behind us. That’s what it felt like at the time. That feeling really never got old.

David Bashevkin: 
Let’s pause and transition. That feeling never got old, but mentioned, 16 years later you moved back. When was the first conversation you remember? Who brought it up, “This is not working. I think we need to move back”? And why on earth, if you’re living the dream, you’re surrounded by idealism, you’re making a living, maybe not the living that you would make in America, maybe not the fancy cars, maybe not as much golf, but what’s the first conversation where you remember sitting down with somebody or somebody approaching you and saying, “This might not be forever”?

Edo Lavi: 
This is actually unique to us, I think it’s important to say. First of all, I still don’t play golf and I don’t think that was ever going to happen. But we did experience sort of like a couple of traumatic events having nothing to do with finances or with our family living in America except for-

Edo Lavi: 
-events having nothing to do with finances or their family living in America, except for what was gradually happening, that our children, our oldest three children, were boys… So our oldest son decided to move to America. We didn’t really think necessarily we would follow our kids. You don’t necessarily follow your kids where they go. They have their lives and you have your own. Then my second oldest moved to America.

David Bashevkin: 
What was the motivation there, just broadly speaking, without getting too in depth? I’ve threatened my parents at times growing up, “I’m going to move out, I’m going to run away. I’m going to start my own life.” Usually children do not actually follow through with that until they are much older and married. What was the animating issue there of why a child would leave their parents?

Edo Lavi: 
Okay, so I think that’s the crux of the issue. I think that ironically the reason our kids, our oldest kids, left… I mean, obviously in every situation, it’s a multitude of reasons, and most of the kids in Ramat Beit Shemesh stay, the overwhelming majority. But the reason our kids left was almost because, whereas we thought we would have our own lives in Israel and we did, carved out our own lives, with my practice in Ramat Beit Shemesh and Atara doing all the chessed] that she was doing and all the friends that we had, we were a place for all the Yeshiva people to come and congregate. That was our life. But when our kids started their own life, we would figure they would have their own sort of Israeli lives. So the irony is that most of what motivated them to go to America was not to have a different life from us in Israel, but to have lives similar to what we were modeling in Israel.

So we kind of put them in that situation. I think this is at the crux of the issue. I think this might be important for people to understand. There was an article written in Mishpacha magazine towards the end of 2016 by somebody very, very special in Ramat Beit Shemesh who we’re close with, about Ramat Beit Shemesh being a bubble, an Anglo bubble, and whether that’s a good thing, and it quoted local rabbinical figures and mechanchim, what is their opinion about the culture because that was the culture that we were cultivating, to a certain extent. We were melding it with the Israeli culture, but for the most part there was not much of a concession to the Israeli culture, which is to say, sermons in our shul were in English on purpose. The Rav of that shul, Milinowitz, who we were close with, was of the opinion that it’s more important to be authentic and to send a message that resonates and that we only should galvanize as a family.

And so that was kind of our thinking when we went to Ramat Beit Shemesh. A lot of people said, “Oh well, what will your kids do about being Israeli?” And I remember Michael Selesli, a”h said it’s mitzvah to live in Israel but it’s not a mitzvah to be Israeli. So we may have taken it to an extreme. So that’s part of what made our story unique. I mean every summer we went to visit our family in America because we could, and then ultimately when our kids… but a lot of people say there’s issues with chinuch education. The fact of the matter is in Ramat Beit Shemesh, the so-to-speak experiment felt like it was working. Elementary school was incredible. Shout out to our people at magen avot and Darchei Noam and all the amazing people in the amazing schools and the high schools and there’s more high schools there now.

So it’s really an amazing experience and an amazing place to grow up, and you don’t really lose that feeling of being American. It’s not for failure to integrate because you’re in that cocoon anyways until after high school, at least for the boys, because my three oldest were boys. After high school, they made a decision. At that point, you really have to either go to the Army or a Hesder there or a Haredi Yeshiva. I mean those are three options that I’m aware of. And so you really have to do some soul-searching because if you are from Baltimore, Passaic whether you’re from Ner Yisroel or Yeshivish or whatever you are, that’s who comprised a lot of the people in Ramat Beit Shemesh. So at that point you have to make a decision and my kids weren’t comfortable for whatever reason. I think a lot of it had to do with the fact that we lived an American lifestyle, we were exposed to American kids, they were coming to America for the summer.

So ended up going to American post high school yeshivas in Israel. And it was really there, where that was just the culture that they were connected to. And that actually was still working in other words, so even two, three years post high school, they were living the life. Now my son who is eight years old when he came, my oldest son was let’s say 22 and we were still living the life. And then it became a situation where he didn’t have a very already well-trodden path to go on that was comfortable for him because we have this mantra, it’s mitzvah to live in Israel, it’s not a mitzvah to be Israeli.

And to this day I question that was really the crux of the issue. Would it be worth it for us to encourage a more Israeli life? And that was the crux of the article because the article in 2016 caught a lot of flack because it’s a very emotionally charged issue because we’re all family, but most of us are displaced from our actual families back in America when you’re all leaving Ramat Beit Shemesh. So you’re talking about people who have made each other family and if one person sort of drops out, it’s very traumatic for that person and for everyone else.

David Bashevkin: 
Traumatic for the rest of the community who stay because we’re all here making this sacrifice together. Do you think when you decided to leave, the trauma was like the doubt or are we doing it right? Was it just this family who left? So think it surfaced a doubt that a lot of people live with.

Edo Lavi: 
People did talk to us after that and some people at that point felt because we were in that situation that they would express some of their feelings because the fact of the matter is none of the things that I’m saying are really novel. Everybody knows that there are challenges, but most people you’ve been living that 16 years is, and it’s such an incredible opportunity, what are you going to do going to, instead of trying to make it work, you’re going to move to Baltimore? That doesn’t seem to be one of the options on the table. So our first son almost made it. We thought we navigated system but it wasn’t well trodden, but he actually found a Sherut Leumi, which was almost like option E, right? Where he was able to kind of go to Yeshiva but do Sherut Leumi during lunch. Then afterwards though he found, when it came to dating, he didn’t find that he was in a mainstream situation getting suggested necessarily.

He had an experience where he didn’t feel like he fit in. And again, a lot of that was our doing, right? He had gone to American yeshivas, he was culturally American and growing up in Ramat Beit Shemesh had enabled him to do so. Now we were almost like a bubble inside a bubble. I don’t know if it’s that strong for everyone. Most people at some point burst the bubble before Ramat Beit Shemesh. I don’t know if that’s a bubble anymore, that’s a lot more Israeli. But for our specific experience, they felt extremely American. A lot of that had to do with us as parents choosing to live in Israel but not to be Israelii just because it wasn’t culturally comfortable. And sometimes I think about whether that was the right decision or not, but at the time I felt like I can only be me, I can only be authentic and I can only impart the values that resonate with me.

And so really, and Israel was an immigrant in that sense. We were locking into a lot of the culture, but a lot of the culture was kept Americans. So what ended up happening was we went to Rabbanim to ask what should we do? We have a first son who left a second son who left for the same reason again because they felt culturally American and now our third son who wants to go to dental school and he comes to us and he says, “I think I want to go to Ner Yisroel and Stevenson’s College because I don’t know what I could do, if I have options in Israel.” We went to three, I would say gedolim-

David Bashevkin: 
-Big, big rabbis.

Edo Lavi: 
Big rabbis, three of the biggest rabbis we know that we had a very close relationship, two in Israel, one in America, full expectations of getting actually encouragement to stick it out. You know, don’t live your life for your kids, you live your life because you’re having an amazing life. We’re blessed with seven children. You never know which ones will end up where so you don’t just follow them, but it wasn’t that they left, it was the reason they left.

David Bashevkin: 
Were the three rabbis all give you more or less the same answer or three very different answers.

Edo Lavi: 
We thought they would give us support like, “Stay.” Sometimes there is this concept that says staying in Israel involve sacrifice. I mean this is what we talk about always and that’s what we always assumed. Yet, they unanimously, after us telling the story said, it sounds like at this point you should focus on keeping your family intact and kind of staying close to your values based on your story. They unanimously told us we should go and we were shocked and it’s not what we expected. We were talking to them with the expectations of them talking us out of it because we needed to hear why we were still in Israel. And when all three of them unanimously said, what are you talking about? It’s time that you go. That’s when we first started thinking about it seriously. We didn’t think it was real or serious. To this day, I’ve hardly processed it and we will be going back.

David Bashevkin: 
I want to ask you about that. Once you’ve come to the decision, I don’t know if it’s your last Shabbos or there was a final moment, but was there a way that you ritualized saying goodbye to Israel? I

Edo Lavi: 
I guess you could say there was because our very last Shabbos, in fact was Shabbos lunch. Sorry, I guess you could say our last formal Shabbos meal in Israel was actually at Josh Fass’s house in Ramat Shilo.

David Bashevkin: 
Wow.

Edo Lavi: 
There was a full circle aspect to it.

David Bashevkin: 
The person who brought you and facilitated your arrival was the person who held your hand as you left.

Edo Lavi: 
And it was very meaningful to us at the time because I was actually terrified to even tell him. This is a person who’s devoted his life to American aliyah, North American aliyah and the person who put his trust and faith in me and I felt like I was letting him down and I was letting down the movement. I was setting his mission backwards.

David Bashevkin: 
Would you use the word betrayal?

Edo Lavi: 
I mean listen, it feels something close, like I betrayed his trust. That’s what it felt like. And he did a very good job of reassuring me. He said, “This is not a linear thing where life just starts and ends in this chapter. It was very much this chapter was necessitated again possibly by our own actions, but for whatever reason that chapter had to happen. That doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t be back.” And he told me a story I remember of his own parents who attempted aliyah at least once, maybe even twice when he was in grade school. And each aliyah lasted about a year and yet now his parents live in Israel and all of his siblings live in Israel. So something was planted and it’s about planting seeds and it’s about, for us at least, inculcating your children with your values. So that’s the irony.

Our children, instead of taking the ball and carrying it in their own way and within Israeli culture, they wanted to sort of emulate what we did. And so I have no doubt that along with us eventually ending up back in Israel at some point, I have no doubt that our children, many of them, well, some of them will. But the love for Israel thankfully, has been instilled and I think it’s a blessing that we go back.

Even though we ended up choosing to go based on advice that we got, we were able to leave with understanding at least that there is no place like home and that Israel is our home and that it is for pragmatic reasons that we have to have a temporary chapter here. And those reasons actually ended up in a way… Sometimes when you make a very, very difficult decision, things fall into place to make you feel like maybe it was the right decision and you actually had a hand in it.

Because aside from the fact that Covid hit, then my mother-in-law moved next door to me. My sons who had been living in New York and Connecticut moved next door to me and then my son, who is going to dental school ended up marrying the girl three doors down. And now you don’t have to play the music. This is the Rothwachs episode, but he did marry the girl three doors down and…

David Bashevkin: 
Nice throwback there.

Edo Lavi: 
Yeah. I love Rabbi Rothwachs. It is traumatic for me now though by the way, rabbi David Palmer, Rabbi Larry Rothwachs, and now I hear Rabbi Tsvi Rimon all the people that were Mount Machshemesh were my chevra growing up through YU.

David Bashevkin: 
– and now they’re at the stage where they’re making aliyah. Families a little bit more grown up. When you first came back, you know, used the word trauma, but you were referring to the people you left that first Shobbas back in America, those first couple months, did you acclimate quickly? What were those feelings like those first couple weeks and months?

Edo Lavi: 
We were totally stunned. We didn’t know whether we were coming or going. Personally, I was starting my career as if I’d just come out of school almost 50 years old and I’m basically starting over from patient zero looking for a job.

David Bashevkin: 
We always tell stories about Israeli culture that we find idiosyncratic. I’m curious, after 16 years in Israel, were there parts of American culture? We were like, “I totally forgot people were so into this.”

Edo Lavi: 
That’s a really good question. Baltimore is actually unique.

David Bashevkin: 
Yes, yes it is.

Edo Lavi: 
One thing I love about Baltimore, I really appreciate the people were very, very welcoming. That made a huge difference. Ner Yisroel have any room for high school. My son Nachii was starting ninth grade. They wedged him in there and they treated him amazingly. Now he’s graduating, so he’s had the four years and it was an amazing experience for him. Beis Yaakov people were great and just the neighbors that we found an amazing block.

But the one thing I was going to point out about Baltimore is that one thing I love most, I would say is that everybody feels sorry for us that we live there. Meaning there is no feeling this Baltimore pride like, “Oh, you found the promised land.” And there is a tremendous, tremendous desire towards Israel in Baltimore. As a matter of fact, we host a lot of people as they come from Ramat Beit Shemesh to give their symposiums about aliyah in Baltimore and they tell us every other city in America, it’s like just a smattering of people that they feel like the interest is there but really muted. Whereas in Baltimore it’s just wall to wall. I mean, I think that just last summer sent 24, 27 families to Afula. It’s unbelievable.

David Bashevkin: 
You’re speaking my language. I can wax poetic about Baltimore for a separate series, separate episode. You know, were the poster child of making aliyah for 16 years and I don’t know that you… Certainly nobody wants to embrace the model of the poster child of moving back, but I’m curious. I think you’re the poster child of weighing the options and I’m curious if there’s anything you would change that you used to say on those panel sessions, anything that you would do differently. You know had mentioned that article in Mishpacha. If you could bridge the two bookends into one panel session, what is the core advice you give to people who are contending with the decision of whether or not to move to Israel?

Edo Lavi: 
Yeah, I think most people looking at the surface would assume that I would be humiliated. How could I speak on behalf of aliyah for 16 years and be the poster child and then turn around? It seems hypocritical and very much contrary to my core belief, but you hit on it. The reason we made aliyah was because we thought that it was the right place for us to grow. We thought that it was the right place for our family to maximize our potential and our value system within our family. And to that end, I have no regrets at all. In other words, that was certainly the case for every one of those 16 years, you could not have compared.

In other words, we sometimes say that maybe certainly if you would’ve told us for sure you’re coming back in 16 years, we would’ve paused and thought whether it was worth it. But we’re glad we didn’t know. That’s why it’s sometimes good you don’t know what the future brings because we are very, very glad. I mean just the relationships, it’s about the people, it’s about the land, it’s about the experience. You can’t compare it to anything else. And that, God forbid, there’s certainly no regrets. I have to be honest and say I don’t know what it would’ve been like if we had done it differently. I ask the question all the time whether we should have done the Israel experience differently.

David Bashevkin: 
The bubble question.

Edo Lavi: 
Yeah, the bubble question is a question-

David Bashevkin: 
-Do you caution against the bubble? Because I know a lot of people, particularly during Covid who made aliyah fairly quickly, “I want out of here.” And I assume to some degree or another are creating some cultural bubble for their kids. Some bubbles are thicker than others. We have a mutual friend who is probably less of a bubble than you, but as kids, I have no doubt know exactly tonight who’s playing in the NBA finals and who got MVP of the season. I’m sure they’re following all the sports as our mutual friend himself knows. I’m curious for you, are there certain bubble choices that you would caution against?

Edo Lavi: 
That’s a really, really good question and I have a feeling that my friends would line up to offer a list of suggestions of what we could have done differently. Because again, based on how we did it may have been just an extent of fait accompli. But again, the decision was Rav Melinowitz was always very consistent about this. I think it is important to mention he passed only a few months after we moved and it was very sudden, but before we left, I managed to have a conversation. I was in his neighborhood at that time. He was not feeling well. Nobody realized it was life-threatening. His leg was hurting.

Anyways, I had a long conversation with him in his apartment. Atara at that point was already in America with the kids getting them settle for school and I was sort of transitioning my office. And he said to me before I left, he said, “Tell Atara…”, and I didn’t even know he knew her first name, but he said, “…Make sure…” It was the last thing I ever heard from him. He said, “Make sure you tell Atara that wherever you end up, that’s where you’re supposed to be. That’s where your work is. That’s where your Avodas Hashem…”, as he would phrase it, “…is.”

David Bashevkin: 
Your service to God, your spiritual purpose and mission.

Edo Lavi: 
Your spiritual purpose and mission is there. I think we are unique. I think it would be tragic if it was mass exodus. The fact that we are very, very unique has a lot to do with the fact that we were a very thick bubble within a bubble. It has to do with it. But our being a thick bubble within a thick bubble was ironically a way of our trying to stay authentic to ourselves. Haredi life was not culturally palatable to us. Being Dati Leumi has its own challenges. I can’t speak very intelligently about both those cultures because I didn’t embrace, I didn’t jump in fully, but I could tell you some things. I mean I have eyes and ears and we see what we see and so we just felt those things aren’t authentic to us. I question all the time, whether it was a lack of bravery to not just jump in. But ironically the fact that aliyah is so easy and Ramat Beit Shemesh is so comfortable makes it that way, right?

In the olden days, making aliyah… I had a friend when I first make aliyah said, “You guys are like Yankee fans. You feel so entitled. You think it’s so easy. You think it’s supposed to win Every year.” We made aliyah. When we were Met fans, you know? We came and we knew that we would have to be Israeli or else we would sink. And so the fact that it became so much easier, we leaned so hard into that. But by the same token, like you say, would I have chosen? I don’t know what would’ve happened. I know of consequences where families weren’t authentic to themselves or maybe they were, but families just chose very deliberately. The mutual friend that we have, that’s a unique individual and there are a lot of unique individuals.

David Bashevkin: 
Each child gets the attention and the path that they need.

Edo Lavi: 
Every child gets the attention and the path. And we could have done that. That’s what we were trying to do with the Sherut Leumi with my oldest son, carve a path for each of our kids that they could stay and still be different. But at the end of the day, they didn’t necessarily want to be different. It’s hard to expect your kids to do that. They wanted to be their peer group. And their peer group as it turned out, again due to a lot of our decisions was American. And so they went with their peer group and they really thrived. And so I have to say they seem true to themselves. They seem like they’re thriving. They seem thankfully… Even though it was a very emotionally dangerous move, much more so than moving to Israel in retrospect for the children because of the fact that all the decisions we made in Israel were motivated.

Just like our decision to move to Israel was motivated by a sincere, authentic desire to do what’s best. And that’s what I would tell, if I was on panel today. I mean, I joke with my friends who put me on panel. I said, put me on panel when I come back to visit, tell me when panel is. And they think I’m kidding, but what I’m really saying is put me on panel so I could tell them, “Guys, don’t miss this opportunity. I don’t know if everybody should live in is Israel. Everybody without exception should definitely consider living in Israel. You have to because it’s so different. It’s so qualitatively better in the spiritual sense. It’s so qualitatively different than anything else you’ll get anywhere else. You can’t not think about it. But by the same token, it was that very same thinking that caused us to dig so deep into the authenticity of our intentions, to admit to yourself, it feels like admitting defeat feels like admitting failure, but to admit to yourself that maybe this isn’t the place where I’m going to thrive the most.”

It was really difficult to arrive at that decision after assuming otherwise for so long. And that’s what Rav Melinowitz Zt’l was trying to explain to me to sort of understand that that circumstance happened to us and that was meant to happen to us and meant for reasons that obviously some of them may be beyond us. And we take great comfort knowing that at this point I just stay to my authenticity. I just have to stick with, if it makes sense and it feels like I’m maximizing my potential. One of the things I took on learning incentives for myself, took on certain things that I said my schedule’s going to be qualitatively different than it was just because I’d gotten so busy and I allowed myself to be looser with my schedule because I was in Israel. And so maybe when I sort of rebuilt my life, I decided I’m going to rebuilt this chapter on solid foundation so that when I come back to Israel, God willing soon, God willing, I will have been enriched.

Now if I had not been in Israel the last 16 years, I’d be nowhere near the person I am today. And so I’m hoping that we sort of embrace our family, get our foundation where we can come back more solid as Josh Fass predicted. And Israel itself is changing. I mean we left for Israel knowing that there was polarization and knowing that people who are middle-of-the-road sometimes have a difficult time with that, but thinking there was a critical mass of people that would forge a middle ground. And that’s what I talk about with our mutual Rabbi Breitowitz all the time. Shlita, right? We talk about this idea that that’s something that hopefully will develop over time and it has developed tremendous amount from the time that we got there to the time that we left and continues to do so. And so good things hopefully are ahead for Israel and hopefully it’ll be a fitting place for us to return to very soon.

David Bashevkin: 
I feel like all of your decisions embody in the truest sense of the word being a Ben aliyah, someone who is always moving upwards and infuses even your yerida, of course is litzorech aliyah, even coming back is ultimately serving the purpose to move back, to continue writing new chapters for you and your family who I love so much. And you know that. And I cannot thank you enough for sharing your story with me today. So thank you so much for your time.

Edo Lavi: 
Thank you for your interest. Thank you for all your help and support. You’re one of the many people that we feel were sent to us to guide us along in this chapter of our journey. And I sincerely hope that you’ll join us on our next chapter-

David Bashevkin: 
-on the next leg-

Edo Lavi: 
-be able to join the next leg all the way back home.

David Bashevkin: 
Amen. Amen. Before we conclude, and if you’re still listening, God bless you. And I’m sorry if you’re stuck in traffic if you’re listening to this long of an episode, but I felt there was something missing in our conversation and that is really not the ideological presentation of anti-Zionism, but the experience of growing up not in the modern Orthodox community in Israel, which so many of our guests kind of fall within those contours. But what is it like growing up in the Chasidish, Haredi community in Israel? And I reached out to a friend of mine I’m still in touch with from Mishpacha Magazine. I’m not going to disclose who that is. You’re probably going to guess wrong. That’s the honest truth. Somebody who I hold an incredibly high esteem who is deeply immersed in the Haredi, Hasidic community. She herself belongs to it. And somebody who has been incredibly helpful to me over the years actually invited her to join.

She declined for 1,001 reasons and none of which surprised me. But she said, I have somebody who I think you should speak to about what it’s like, the relationship to Israel. And she introduced me to an incredible person Rav Ahron Levi who is a sanzer living in Israel. I reached out to him who’s incredibly kind. He’s not a rabid anti-Zionist. He grew up Haredi and Chasidish in Israel. He lives there now. This is the world that he inhabits. And I asked him about his conception of anti-Zionism. I appreciate his response, obviously it is some form of apologetics which I understand and appreciate. Listening to my conversation with Rav Ahron Levi.

Ahron Levi:
The Chasidish community is a very large community in Israel. They contain, I don’t know, 300,000 people, maybe 400,000 people, something like that. The amount of people who live in these half a kilometer and a half a kilometer in meah shearim altogether is maybe 10,000 people or 15,000 people. That’s what we’re talking about. From them, some of them are protesting because they have ideology that, “I can go in.” But I just want to say the Chasidish community, the mainstream of the Chasidish community was never part of that behavior. And I’m not judging the behavior. We’ll touch it in a minute. It’s not my style. I’m not teaching my kids to do that. But first of all, we were not part of that community. It’s a very small community.

David Bashevkin: 
Did you grow up hearing speeches and all of that stuff? You heard a little bit of that or not really?

Ahron Levi:
No, not really. That wasn’t a topic.

David Bashevkin: 
Wasn’t a topic.

Ahron Levi:
Wasn’t a topic. There was the secular world. Our world, we have to stay away from any secular things because any secular thing is part of it.

David Bashevkin: 
And they’re included. There is part of it, but it wasn’t directed specifically that way. You didn’t grow up, that was the major battle. It

Ahron Levi:
Wasn’t at all. It wasn’t at all. And on the other side, when we talk about those communities, some communities are there. So some of them, again, it’s not even by them, there’s so many small communities within the communities. There’s all sorts of variations within them. But they have a ideology which is trying to stay as much as they can from any symbol of the Zionist country, the Zionist state for example. You can see sometimes how they ban the flag. So what does it mean banning the flag? A flag has a meaning, is a symbol for something. They say this is a symbol of the Zionist idea. We are not part of Zionist idea. The Zionist idea wanted to destroy us. So we are trying to stay as far as we can away from the… So much so that on Yom Ha’atzmaut I think they even do a Yom Ha’atzmaut.

Yeah, with the slickers and stuff, you can look at it and say, “You know what? They’re crazy. They lost it.” I don’t think this is the right way to look at things. I think they have, maybe it’s not my idea, I don’t like it so much, but they have a ideology, that stays behind it that maybe for a secular person, it’s hard to understand and to value. But the ideology is something that is very important for them, which is being attack. And when somebody is in a surviving mode like them, he’s going to do everything in order to survive. Don’t talk to him about wellbeing. It’s not nice. It’s not ethical. Don’t talk to me about it. I’m surviving. I’m in trauma. Don’t talk to me about, “Well let’s make it, let’s go out for coffee, let’s talk about it.” I’m not talking about it, I’m just surviving. So that’s the concept.

David Bashevkin: 
And I really appreciated his follow-up story about the Klausenberger Rebbe.

Ahron Levi:
I remember a story that he met Ben-Gurion and Ben-Gurion told him, “Rebbe, what do you say about Israel?” So he said to him, “You want to tell me a small thing or big thing? What would you want from Israel?” So he said to him, “The small thing is I’m happy that I can go around this way with my tallits, tefillin on the street or outside with my Hasidic clothes and it’s all right. Nobody disturbs me and nobody hates me because of that. And I’m fine.

David Bashevkin: 
And this is somebody who lost his entire family in the Holocaust.

Ahron Levi:
This is a person, a Holy person-

David Bashevkin: 
-the holiest-

Ahron Levi:
-11 kids and a wife in the Holocaust and stood up from the ashes, mamash from the ashes, stood up and he built a beautiful community.

David Bashevkin: 
It’s one of the most incredible personalities and stories in all of Jewish history.

Ahron Levi:
In movies about him, he’s an incredible person and he’s governing and he’s praying and he built Laniado Hospital. It’s an amazing person who is like a model for life.

David Bashevkin: 
Correct.

Ahron Levi:
So then Ben-Gurion told him, “And what’s the big thing that you would want to see?” He said, “The big thing that I would want to see, you with a shtreimel and a bekesheh.”

David Bashevkin: 
Yeah, we basically finished the interview and I didn’t really ask him much about his current life, what he’s up to. And as we were finishing up, he told me something remarkable. And that was his relationship to the Torah of Rav Kook, which we already covered in my conversation with Rav Bezalel Naor. I never would’ve imagined that the works and the Torah of Rav Kook is something that he would really connect and be immersed to. But not only did that surprise me, but why he’s so connected to Rav Kook really caught me off guard. I’m expected this is somebody really, you could hear it in his voice, you could hear it in the recording. The internet connection broke up 50 times. As somebody with long payots and a beard, you would not expect this. This is not the typical person of someone deeply immersed in the Chassidic community, but why he’s connected to the Torah of Rav Kook. I found so deeply moving. I wanted to share with you.

Ahron Levi:
I like the complexity of it. In terms of talking to the generation today, I work with teenagers, I work with bochurim. So in terms of teenagers today, Davka, I find in Rav Kook the ability to hold two worlds in the same time.

David Bashevkin: 
Mamesh.

Ahron Levi:
Holding the same worlds does not mean that I let go of one of them or I-

David Bashevkin: 
-Not for a second.

Ahron Levi:
-It means that I am fully understanding of your point. And that’s why I can argue with you. Because I listen to you I can even better argue with you or maybe agree with you. But what I’m saying is that the listening, the ability to listen to the other side, which of Rav Kook is listening to the other side very much in his books, he’s listening to the Kibbutz world, he’s listening to the Mapai, he’s listening to Zionist. He’s there to listen to them and to try and see, “What am I saying about it? What did the Torah say about it?” Now, I’m not saying—that he said, “The most of the big talmidim of the Rav Kook went to the Haredi world.

Why they went to the Chareidi world. Because to hold the complexity of Rav Kook without of the Rav Kook was too difficult.

Ahron Levi:
Wow. That’s a nice Torah. I never heard that line. To hold the complexity of Rev Kook without Rav Kook was too difficult. There’s a beautiful letter where he talks about the need to understand your adversaries and all of the opinions. And he tells people, don’t be so small-minded. You have to see the kedusha. And it’s exactly what you told us Ahron. I’m just curious, sociologically, are you able to quote Rav Kook or it’s more quiet behind the scenes, it inspires you?

I’ll tell you, I am a Ram. I’m a teacher in hesder yeshiva.

David Bashevkin: 
Nah, ah.

Ahron Levi:
Yeah.

It’s for boys who can’t find their way in the Haredi system. And they go out to find somewhere else. They opened the program that is allowing them to have a system of yeshiva, but they learn technology and then they go to the army. So they do a bachelor’s in computer science, and then after four years, they go to the army in technology and they serve

David Bashevkin: 
In the Nahal Haredi?

Ahron Levi:
No, no, no. They serve in technology in the intelligence, in eight, 200.

David Bashevkin: 
Beautiful.

When I’m there, as I developed myself there, as I found myself walking there, I saw more and more how much you need different skills than I had before. The Rav Kook, I found in these books some of the skills that were allowing me to come with a certain curiosity to a different world, to a world of people who are standing between the day and the night or between the secular world and the Haredi world while holding two legs, one here and one there. So that’s something that I find in the Rav Kook, the ability to be curious and complex about the reality. And the reality is complex.

Very complex.

Ahron Levi:
Very complex. When a child teenager goes out today and he knows a little bit about the world, and it’s enough if he has access to internet and access to things, the ability to hold on to the religious ideas, to value them, not just to live them because my father does it-

David Bashevkin: 
-No, to hold on fully.

Ahron Levi:
Give it a value, to give it a meaning it should be meaningful for his life. It’s really complex. And in order to bring it to them, you have to use unconventional things.

David Bashevkin: 
I never would’ve guessed that he is teaching in a yeshiva for Chassidish, Haredi boys who maybe don’t fit quite into the system, but they are working in intelligence for the state of Israel and the person who’s able to hold those two worlds together, is Rav Kook, and that’s who able to have the complexity and the depth that’s able to inspire them in the two worlds that they’re trying to hold together. And I think for our listeners, that notion of holding multiple worlds of containing multitudes, whether it’s in relationship to the topic of Zionism or more broadly to the core mission of 18Forty, the holding onto different worlds within your Yiddishkeit, within the way that you look at the Jewish people and being able to see the good and the Holiness within different movements, different streams, different ideas, and to always be committed to think positively even when you disagree quite deeply.

But to be able to hold two worlds together and uplift and think positively about Yiddishkeit, about Zionism, about Amcha Yisroel and Eretz Yisroel is everything that we try to achieve here. And I was so moved in that final interview and really caught off guard that this Chassidish Sanzer Chasid sitting in Israel, it’s Rav Kook who taught him how to kind of not let go of these multiple worlds that feel like they’re pulling us in different directions and we feel like we’re going to snap in the middle, but instead of snapping, we stretch and we find that ourselves and our own interiority and our own lives are able to include so much more, so many more perspectives, so many more ideas, so many more people. So we remain more tethered and more connected to our Yiddishkeit and to Amcha Yisroel and Eretz Yisroel. So thank you so much for listening.

This episode deserves a special extra thank you to our dearest friend Dina Emerson, who heroically edited so many different conversations. She just expected an easy schmeezy intro and outro from me, and it seems like so often these topics can make her job so much more difficult, but she does it so valiantly and I’m so appreciative.

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Again, they’re starting track tape, get in this week. You want to check it out available on the All Daf app. And of course, you can also leave us a voicemail with feedback or questions that we may play on a future episode. That number is 9 1 7 7 2 0 5 6 2 9. Once again, that number is 9 1 7 7 2 0 5 6 2 9. If you’d like to learn more about this topic or some of the other great ones we’ve covered in the past, be sure to check out 18Forty.org. That’s the number 18, followed by the word forty, F O R T Y.org, where you can also find videos, articles, recommended readings and weekly emails. Thank you so much for listening and stay curious to my friends.