The part that we have been privileged to play will hopefully serve as an inspiration for many others to follow in our footsteps and come home to Eretz Yisrael, and hopefully do so in a way that will make an impact for others.
Below the following letter that I wrote to Rabbinical colleagues, appear the two media pieces that were written about us: one in the Queens Jewish Link (with pictures of Lonni) and one in Mishpacha (without).
If anyone is interested in hearing more about this or joining Ayelet HaShachar, please contact me at email@example.com.
I want to let you know about something that I have been doing for the past few months since I had the great zechus to come on Aliya, that hopefully will interest more than a few of you.
I have been wanting to come live in Eretz Yisrael again during my many years of absence. I told myself that I was accomplishing more by serving Kehillos in Chutz LaAretz than I could in Eretz Yisrael. After all, as it is well known, unless you are a superstar Rabbi or have “protektzia”, it is very hard for American Rabbonim to find a position in Eretz Yisrael that will provide not only income but some degree of sipuk Hanefesh. This is due to at least two reasons:
- · The Supply/Demand ratio of Rabbonim to positions is very skewed to the supply side; there are too many candidates for any available position
- · Although I believe it is very much needed, Israelis do not see the value in an American style kehilla Rav. They look at shul as a place to daven, period, and often go to multiple shuls for various tefillos, and learn and socialize elsewhere.
- · It is rare to find a position that provides a full-time income, and additional income is not easy to come by.
As a result, there are many American Rabbonim who came to retire in Israel who end up feeling “useless”, underutilized and unappreciated, knowing that they still have much to give but not finding an outlet for their talents. Given this, I stayed in my shtellers for twenty plus years in America.
However, as I approached age 60, my feelings of אם לא עכשיו אימתי grew progressively stronger. I wanted to come to Israel when I felt I still בע"ה have enough years to still make a significant contribution. Additionally, I knew that with the movement in American Rabbonus to hiring young Rabbonim who can draw in younger families, my options in America were very limited once I decided to leave Forest Hills.
To make a long story short, after doing much research in Israel, I was introduced to a wonderful organization called Ayelet HaShachar, run by Rav Shlomo Ra’anan. They do many wonderful things — including the Israeli version of Partners in Torah, building shuls in outlying communities, establishing kiruv type Kollels in outlying areas and other work — but there was something of special interest for me, and I hope, for some of you.
Ayelet HaShachar pioneered the idea of moving frum families into completely secular communities, with no overt agenda other than to be a good neighbor, foster relationships, and model how frum Jews are different than the negative stereotypes that they have from the mostly anti-religious Israeli media. Over time, couples who have done this have often been successful in doing wonderful outreach work, not by lecturing at and trying to persuade people through preaching, but by giving love, openness, non-judgmental acceptance, and modeling a Torah lifestyle.
My move to Lavon, however, represents a new phase for Ayelet HaShachar. As an American, there are fewer barriers that are needed to overcome; everyone likes welcoming an idealistic Oleh Chadash who wants to come and live with them. Furthermore, as an “older couple” who are basically empty-nesters, we do not have chinuch issues to contend with, and thus are able to make a longer-term commitment to living in a secular community than a young Avreich who may have to leave after a few years. Baruch Hashem, it has been going quite well, as the recent article in Mishpacha magazine (attached) describes. Ayelet HaShachar has helped me move here in many ways, including help with paying the rent, logistical support, programming and general chizuk.
I write here today to let you know about this opportunity. If there is someone who wants to explore this option for themselves or someone they know, or if they know of generous individuals who might be interested in helping to sponsor this wonderful organization, please be in touch with me.
Hatzlacha to all,
Yehuda L. Oppenheimer
original Queens Jewish Link Article viewable here
Excerpt of Mishpacha article viewable here.