Avraham Shusteris, Ramat Beit Shemesh
As a Jew, I always felt that Eretz Yisroel is where I belong. It is where I would want to raise my children, and it is where I feel that I can live even a simple and mundane life with a purpose. It’s a place where a Jew can reach his full potential.
I got married in my wife’s hometown of Montreal, and started off after in Monsey, NY. We had been considering immigrating to Eretz Yisroel for several years and always had an excuse to push the idea off, with each push-off amounting to another delay. Eventually we concluded that unless we just took the leap, we would always find a reason to procrastinate.
I remember that before I became a baal teshuva, I always knew that I wanted to keep Shabbos and live an authentic Jewish life, but I wasn’t ready just yet. It was a goal and an ideal that I didn’t think was practical for the immediate future, though it was something that I knew was the right thing to do and something that I hoped to achieve at some point in the future. Once I eventually became observant, moving to Eretz Yisroel took on the same characteristics. I knew that was where I was meant to be as a Jew, but I didn’t think it was a practical target for the immediate future and was more of a long term goal that I kept kicking down the road.
The same inner voice that told me that Torah was emes, also told me that Eretz Yisroel is where I am meant to live. I didn’t have much support from my immediate circle of friends and family when I became frum, so I wasn’t discouraged when I did not receive any support from my friends and mentors in my community when I told them that I wanted to move to Eretz Yisroel.
When I approached people for advice about moving to Eretz Yisroel, each one gave his own reason why it wasn’t practical. One person told me that it would be hard to find parnassah and that giving up a great job in NY would be irresponsible. Another said that moving would be hard on the kids and I would be risking having them go off the derech. Yet another suggested that the language barrier would be too difficult to maneuver—would my wife be able to find a job—and would I find a community and rav that would be suitable for my unique needs? Although with everyone pointing to a specific issue without concern for the others, it seemed that there was no one universally accepted reason not to move.
I didn’t take these concerns lightly. I decided that I would do the proper hishtadlus and try to tackle each one of these issue on its own. It took many phone calls, pilot trips, and research, but ultimately, I did enough research to feel comfortable that we were making the right decision.
As part of our research, we contacted several families who had recently moved from Monsey to Ramat Beit Shemesh to get their advice and learn from their experiences. This was an extremely helpful experience, which led me to initiate the Naava Kodesh volunteer network, connecting Americans who dream of living in Eretz Yisroel with those who originate from their hometowns and have established themselves in the various Torah communities here in Eretz Yisroel. The Naava Kodesh volunteers offer advice, support, and guidance. Besides for Monsey, there are volunteers from a host of other cities including Lakewood, Baltimore, Passaic, and Queens. Getting advice from people who share a common language, lifestyle and profession is essential to properly understand the different options available here for community, education, and parnassah.
We worked with various governmental agencies to allow my wife to transfer her American nursing degree. We made two pilot trips, in which we met with several different schools that we thought might be suitable for our children, and lined up several job interviews for ourselves to see what the job market was like. We had many meetings with real estate agents to find apartment rentals. We met with rabbonim from the relevant communities and got valuable advice about schools, the specific areas in Ramat Beit Shemesh we were interested in hearing about, and more.
Even after all of these efforts, I still faced significant nisyonos. A few months before we were to move, I was given significant financial incentive to stay, while simultaneously having to deal with the threat of losing a significant portion of my life savings if I were to make the move. This would have left me almost completely broke. I came to the realization that if I really wanted to move here, I would have to take a leap of faith that things would work out. Baruch HaShem, they did. With HaShem's help, the heavy investment we made in research paid off, and our move was very smooth.
Though from late afternoon until midnight I work as an accountant for a US company, my day here in Ramat Beit Shemesh starts with learning at Yeshivas HaGra. They have learning programs that cater to varied levels of experience in a warm and welcoming, friendly yet structured environment. The time I spend at this yeshiva has really become the highlight of my personal aliyahexperience. The combination of a fantastic, brilliant, and encouraging rebbi, a great chavrusa, and a friendly chabura,make it the perfect place for me.
I was surprised by the amount of local job opportunities in accounting for myself and in nursing for my wife. I was surprised at how helpful many of the locals were to new immigrants, specifically via the local online groups. I was surprised at how quickly my children adapted to both the language and the culture in their schools. I was surprised at how smooth the transition was in comparison to the horror stories I heard from people back in the States who urged me to reconsider our move.