Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Natural Progression

I have no actual data to support this, but I do have a long-standing gut feeling that ba'alei teshuva and converts are overrepresented among olim.  In plain English, I have observed that those who chose Jewish observance as adults, either Jews who were born into assimilated families and became religiously observant later in life, or those who were born into non-Jewish families and chose to become observant Jews, make aliyah in greater proportion than they exist in the general Jewish population.

My own experience certainly echoes this.  I was raised in a nominally Jewish household, one that had been tossing off vestiges of traditional Judaism for a few generations.  I always knew I was a Jew, but it meant very little to me. Until it started to mean the world to me.

In a very real sense, my relationship with Israel grew in exactly the same way.  At first, it meant very little to me. Until it started to mean the world to me.

There are many parallels between the processes of becoming religiously observant and making aliyah. When I became religiously observant decades ago, I had to integrate a whole new worldview.  There was a new idiom to master. New customs to learn. A new social circle within which to interact. New ideas to study.  New foods to eat. So many things I had to relearn. And, accompanying the process, the inevitable discomfort of being a newbie. There was so much I didn't know about being a Jew that others seem to understand intuitively.

Making aliyah requires the exact same adjustments. Just last night, my husband and I were taking a walk not far from our house. We ran into a neighbor who was so happy to see us because her car had just died and she wasn't sure what to do. In the Old Country, in the former lifestyle, we knew what to do. As newly observant Jews, and again as olim, we have to figure everything out all over.

In many ways, making aliyah is a natural progression on our Jewish journeys. We have already overturned so much of our lives in the process of  clinging to Torah, to God and to the Jewish people. When we became observant Jews, we reclaimed our connection to the God of Israel, Torat Yisrael and Am Yisrael.  So too, by making aliyah, we have reclaimed our connection to Eretz Yisrael.

Like any deep growth, it ain't easy. But it surely is worth it.

3 comments:

Batya said...

We're much more open to change. We can't say that "our family including big rabbis is perfectly religious and never needed to move to Israel."
We can see a bigger picture and main idea of Judaism more clearly, because we're not burdened with a "family history."

Bracha said...

A brilliant observation! I often envy the ability of chozrim b'teshuva and gerei tzedek to have such a strong focus on the spiritual significance of aliyah.

Shprintz said...

Your observation is surely accurate and your explanation (an openness to "journeys") an important factor. Another factor is the baal teshuvah's or convert's connection to family (though NOT imho as per Batya's quote below!). To a great degree, they've already made an emotional break from those relationships. Aliyah just adds the physical distance. While that might make their Aliyah easier, it also makes their newly observant lives more difficult. Closeness to extended family does not mean less appreciation of "the spiritual significance of Aliyah" (Bracha, below)but it is an additional hurdle in making the Aliyah decision. It might indeed keep some "FFBs" from making Aliyah (and often for good reason) but it should also earn a greater respect for those "FFBs" who make the Move!