Aliya: Three Gen­er­a­tions of Amer­i­can-Jew­ish Immi­gra­tion to Israel

  • Review
By – October 18, 2011
Aliya: the immi­gra­tion of Jews into Israel. The author, a Jew who reversed” aliya by mov­ing from Israel to the U.S., ques­tions the moti­va­tion of Amer­i­can Jews who leave their mate­r­i­al com­forts, safe­ty and peace to make aliya” to unsta­ble Israel. Liel Lebovitz says there is no push fac­tor” for a Jew to leave home in Amer­i­ca where his wealth and social stature are high­er than the nation­al aver­age and reli­gious free­dom is not an issue. No tra­di­tion­al pull fac­tor” exists with ter­ror­ism, eco­nom­ic inse­cu­ri­ty and dif­fi­cult social adjust­ment await­ing the immi­grant. The author seeks an expla­na­tion for the immi­gra­tion of 100,000 Amer­i­can Jews to Israel since 1947 in con­cise yet com­pre­hen­sive biogra­phies of three dif­fer­ent fam­i­lies in con­sec­u­tive gen­er­a­tions of mod­ern day Israel, who have made aliya. 

Mar­lin and Bet­ty Levin made the jour­ney from Har­ris­burg, Penn­syl­va­nia in 1947 to help build the mod­ern Jew­ish State. We expe­ri­ence their amaz­ing con­tri­bu­tions, hard­ships, faith and cama­raderie while learn­ing about life in Jerusalem and about the Palestine/​Jerusalem Post. 

Next is Mike Gins­berg, born in 1950 Brook­lyn when the borough’s Jew­ish pop­u­la­tion was one mil­lion. After fam­i­ly mis­for­tune, Mike’s moth­er tem­porar­i­ly relo­cates to Israel and thus begins Mike’s iden­ti­fi­ca­tion as an Israeli. He makes aliya as a teen, becomes an Israeli sol­dier and mem­ber of Kib­butz Mis­gav Am, in the most remote, north­east­ern cor­ner of the Upper Galilee, bor­der­ing Lebanon. The kib­butz mis­sion is to cul­ti­vate the land and defend the bor­der. We see Mike’s chal­lenges in trans­form­ing him­self into an Israeli and learn much about Amer­i­can and Israeli life in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. 

Last­ly, the Kalk­er fam­i­ly is fea­tured. They long for some­thing inex­plic­a­bly miss­ing from their con­tent­ed lives in Queens that can be found only in Israel. They relo­cate in 2001, a time when ter­ror­ism strikes often. I iden­ti­fy with the Kalk­ers’ back­ground and yearn­ing. I have watched neigh­bors make aliya and have mourned the mur­der of a friend on the Tun­nel Road as described by Liel Lei­bovitz. Why aliya? The answer is heart­felt as Dan­ny Kalk­er explains that Israel as a state and idea is the past and future of the Jew­ish peo­ple, but for him it is also the present. 

Despite my famil­iar­i­ty with the idea of aliya, I found the book Aliya to be thor­ough­ly engag­ing, enlight­en­ing, inspir­ing. I only wish a map of Israel had been included. 

Miri­am Brad­man Abra­hams is a Cuban-born, Brook­lyn-raised, Long Island-resid­ing mom. She is Hadas­sah Nas­sau’s One Region One Book chair­la­dy, a free­lance essay­ist, and a cer­ti­fied yoga instruc­tor who has loved review­ing books for the JBC for the past ten years.

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