Dr. Gabriel Joel, Rechovot
We moved to Eretz Yisroel in 2014. It wasn't because of the finances; we were b”H doing fine in Cleveland. It wasn't because of the chinuch; our kids were learning in Mosdos Ohr HaTorah, a very Chareidi place with about 75% of the student body coming from kollel homes or whose parents were involved in chinuch. Socially as well as in ruchniyus, we felt that we and our children would be just fine if we stayed. There was no “real” reason for us to pick ourselves up and leave everything behind, aside for one: we felt that the future for us Yidden is only in Eretz Yisroel.
I believe that today Eretz Yisroel is the real “land of opportunity”; you just have to find it and put in your effort. I am happy to share some of the opportunities we have found.
We made a few pilot trips before our move, and looked into the different communities. To minimize the pressures involved in moving to and living in a different country, we looked for a community where we would be able to “copy & paste” our life in America as much as possible. I came to understand that the communities in Eretz Yisroel can be grossly categorized into “in-town” and “out-of-town,” just like back in America. Being originally from Atlanta, I’ve found that out-of-towners like us might specifically prefer the unique taste of Rechovot.
We were looking for an out-of-town kind of place that is solid “Anglo” Orthodox, “Black Hat” but more accepting, where it would be fine to wear colored shirts or walk around in a T-shirt. We were also looking for a central location, in Israel's “Mercaz” (center), where the job market is stronger. Rechovot, and specifically the Chatam kehillah of English speakers, perfectly fit the bill. We found it to be a place where Yeshivish out-of-towners like us could really feel at home.
The kehillah was founded in the 1980s by a group of families for the Torah advancement of the growing English-speaking community in Rechovot. Our rav is Rav Dovid Stein shlita, one of the kehillah's founders. The recent increase in young people who have joined and become active in the kehillah led to the recruitment of assistant Rav Yosef Ashenberg shlita, a talmid of Ner Yisrael of Baltimore and of Yeshivas Mir. The kehillah is now ready to absorb a new generation of newcomers. The challenge is to have the trickle of frum American immigrants who have recently become part of our growing kehillah, turn into the beginning of a wave.
One advantage of out-of-town communities is that there is less polarization. Rechovot is home to many different kinds of people, and there is no critical mass of any specific group. Due to this fact, there is a wider range of people who comfortably self-identify as Chareidi, more than what one may find in the in-town communities. The relaxed, non-judgmental atmosphere is very relevant for the integration of frum immigrants from the U.S. I personally feel completely integrated and identify with the Israeli Chareidim here.
The local Chareidi school here in Rechovot is part of the relatively-new Mamlachti-Chareidi (Government Chareidi) school system, where, in addition to the high level of limudei kodesh, there is a good level of limudei chol as well as an emphasis on derech eretz – similar to what you would find in frum schools in the U.S. This is something that was important to us and other American families here. So far, for the coming school year, there are already eight kids from immigrant Anglo families enrolled for the first grade. The cheider has wonderful rabbeim, and includes all grades from first through eighth. There is a similar girls' school with an incredible American-Israeli principal, that has classes up until third grade so far, adding a new grade each year.
We came when our oldest was in first grade. Integration for new immigrants beyond first grade may be difficult, and might limit schooling options to those available in Ramat Beit Shemesh. (It is possible to commute from Rechovot to Ramat Beit Shemesh, albeit not a particularly short commute.) Even that is not to be taken for granted; Ramat Beit Shemesh has come a long way in the past several years, becoming much more “user-friendly” for English speakers, and thus serving as a viable option for many.
Rechovot is not the countryside, but it is a bit less dense compared to Ramat Beit Shemesh and it is a central city as well. So although the pricing for homes is similar to Ramat Beit Shemesh, it is actually quite a bargain. Most members of the kehillah live in apartments—including garden apartments, though there are some who live in private houses.
All in all, Rechovot and the Chatam kehillah have delivered on my expectations. They may live up to yours, too!
Easing the Move
In my line of work – dentistry – as well as for other freelance trades and occupations, it may be difficult to find a 9-5 job, and I had to build my own practice from scratch. Building up my own private practice and reaching financial stability was no small task, but we persevered and didn't give up, putting our heads down, barreling forward, and overcoming one obstacle after the next. Thankfully, today, my clinic is popular and successful. I firmly believe that Eretz Yisroel is the real land of opportunity if you have the gumption and will to succeed.
I have also seen time and again that newcomers who are employed immediately in an already established framework or company have a much easier aliyah. For anyone planning to move here, I would strongly suggest trying to set up a job that will be ready for you right when you come. In particular, those with professions such as accounting, law, programming or engineering who have done so, have great chances of success.