Making Aliyah: Look Before You Leap!

The Kedushah and the Pitfalls

Gil Student

The December 2004 issue of Jewish Observer has a very courageous article that is sure to ruffle some feathers. The article discusses the difficulties involved in making aliyah and even encourages some people not to make aliyah.

What is at issue is the vast cultural divide between communities outside of Israel and that in Israel (note that the JO understandably focuses only on the Haredi communities). In Israel, affiliation with a group and belonging to it is much more important than in America. Furthermore, the groups in Israel expect strict compliance to their social norms and lack of conformity leads to a degree of ostracization. While many adults can deal with that, children frequently have great difficulty with that. Generally, they either need to adjust completely to Israel or be able to live in relative isolation. Especially those who make aliyah in their teen years, when social patterns and cliques have already developed, have difficulty fitting in. Many – too many, end up leaving the Orthodox community entirely.

Rabbi [Zev] Oratz estimates that between ten and twenty-percent of children who make aliya in their teenage years end up going off thederech, meaning that a family that moves with three children in their teens (not an uncommon scenario) has a forty percent chance of one of their children abandoning Yiddishkeit

[Rabbi Noach Orlowek] quotes Rabbi Nachman Bulman zt”l as having said that the time for families to come to Eretz Yisroel is either before the children are born or after they’re married. “I would certainly say,” he adds, “that parents who bring children here over the age of 6 or 7 are taking a big chance.”

R. Orlowek suggests that the children who have the least problems adjusting are those who are “confident, socially stable, and have no language problems.”

R. Avrohom Weinberg is quoted as saying “If a bachur follows professional sports in America, for example, he may not be looked at as doing anything wrong. Here, such a thing can get a boy kicked out of yeshiva.” That is, understandably, a very difficult adjustment for a child who was forced to leave his home and friends.

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From Hirhurim, here.

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