Shaul Klein, Yerushalayim
I grew up in L.A., studied in Waterbury after high school, and then came to learn in the Mir in Eretz Yisroel. I returned to America and learnt by Rav Asher Weiss in Monsey, NY. I met my wife that year and we settled there. She was finishing her college degree and I was happy learning in kollel. My wife had told me how she always imagined raising a family in Eretz Yisroel and it was something really important to her. In 2013, after our first son was born, we finally made the move.
I started out learning in kollel and was fortunate to have my parents and in-laws supporting us. However, after about two years of living here, I needed to start thinking about a job.
As it's generally easier to find a job in America, most people in my neighborhood that reach this stage of life move back to the States, but we wanted to try to make it work here. With a bachelor's degree in accounting from America, I found an amazing job in Tel Aviv that had friendly people and a warm environment. At this job, I really had the opportunity to learn a lot about the international tax arena. The starting salaries here are usually in-between half to a third of what people are getting paid in the U.S., but after sitting down with my wife and going through it, while debating whether that was a reason to go back to America, we found that half of the salary was very much worth it.
First of all, there is nothing we can compare to this environment in which we are able to raise our kids. I love watching my kids start their lives at a higher level. They literally feel Shabbos and the Yomim Tovim here. Already a month before Yom Tov, the stores change over to the seasonal items, and the whole country is getting ready for Yom Tov. Instead of billboards they see pictures of gedolim. The streets are flowing with clean Jewish things instead of the things I wouldn't wish my kids to be exposed to.
Their primary language is Hebrew, and they are able to learn with no language barrier. As where I struggled with limudei kodesh, they fly. Also, I was amazed at the curriculum. The kids are taught on a higher level. Even if they don't fully grasp everything now, the seeds are planted for the future, though I was very surprised to actually see just how much my six-year-old does pick up and how he explains difficult parsha topics with a clear understanding.
Secondly, as the expenses and standards of living are astronomically higher in the U.S., even with a higher salary it would still be difficult to make ends meet there. Tuition, health insurance, and expected gifts and vacations add up to much more than anything else here. I love that my kids love life and the simplicity of it—without all the latest gadgets and without comparing with their friends about which one of them got a more expensive gift for Chanuka or birthdays. We don’t have iPads for all the kids like we know some families in America do (and no we’re not blaming or shaming anyone here). I just find it so nice that the mentality of life here isn’t to be hooked on these things. It is just to be responsible, help out, play outside, ride bikes, and be creative. It’s nice to see how many games the boys can create with a pile of sticks that they find behind the buildings.
So, we decided that we need to get adjusted to living a somewhat simpler life and we are determined to make it a happier one. It's not just the kids that live more simply; we don’t want to be hypocrites! Though—yes—it was an adjustment!
We sometimes joke that very wealthy people are willing to spend tens of thousands of dollars to come here just for one holiday when we are able to do it for every holiday. We get to live in the center of the world where HaShem Himself is the One Who watches over us, which I think is another reason why I love living here.
We recently had a miracle where we were expecting a child. The doctors told us there was no hope and that an abortion was our best option. We went to Rav Chaim who told us that everything was going to be fine. We grabbed onto his words and davened and cried out to HaShem, and we really saw one miracle after another. B”H we have a beautiful healthy boy. (The details and struggle about it are in the Mishpacha magazine, Shavuos edition.) There is a connection that I feel towards HaShem here—He is the One watching over Klal Yisroel here and He feels so close to us. I know that there are many gedolim in America, but there's just something so special about being able to talk to Rav Chaim, go to the Kosel and pour my heart out, go to Kever Rochel, or walk the streets that I know our Avos walked on.
We try to go visit the United States every summer so our children can spend time with their cousins and so that we can reconnect with our siblings. We love going and enjoying a little bit of the American things that we reminisce about, even though the truth is that slowly but surely, increasingly, American products are showing up over here. But after a few weeks in America we’re always so grateful that we get to leave that all behind us and come back to our real home—here in Eretz Yisroel.
Grounded to Yiddishkeit
As someone who works, I sometimes feel myself slipping into the working life. I love my job. I love the conferences, fancy work environment, and the expensive lunch or dinner meetings—the executive world. But instead of drowning in it, I get to walk outside after work and see Yerushalayim’s streets with Jews all over and my own beautiful apartment. I feel so much more connected and grounded to my Yiddishkeit and my life because of it. I recently joined a Friday kollel where we learn all the halachos one should know about in the working field, and again I find that it's not two separate worlds as one of working and one of Torah. Here I find that it's easier for me to stay connected to my growth in Yiddishkeit through my job, while I believe I would have a harder time staying as connected had we been living in America.