For Danielle Gossman-Vitory, the hardest part of aliya was proving she was
Jewish enough to become an immigrant and, even more, Jewish enough to get
married in Israel.
With a Jewish mother and a gentile father, none of it
was smooth sailing, and toward the end, when she was waiting for permission to
marry her husband, Rafi, in a religious Jewish ceremony, there were some
cliff-hanging delays until the documentation she had to provide was finally
accepted by the rabbinate. Today she’s a happily married woman living in
Ra’anana, totally accepted into the bosom of her husband’s family who hail from
Tripoli, and working in her profession as a mechanical engineer.
in San Diego, where she was born 26 years ago.
Rafi had gone to work in
California for several months to gain experience in his field of electrical
Danielle had already been to Israel on a Taglit program
while in her first year of studies, and on her second visit studied at an
Orthodox seminary and began to be more observant.
Until then she had been
brought up a Reform Jew. Back in San Diego she was invited to a Shabbat dinner
by some friends and it was there that she met and fell in love with
She returned to Israel after completing her degree, and Rafi came
back and introduced her to his family.
“They are the best in-laws I could
have asked for,” she says.
“They accepted me right away and although they
didn’t speak English and I knew no Hebrew, I just felt so welcome
Although she wanted to learn the language and spent some time in
ulpan, finding a job was top priority for her.
While still in San Diego
she had looked on the Internet for companies in Israel that might need her
mechanical engineering skills, and once she got here she began making calls and
“I became a little nudnikit
,” she laughs now. After two
frustrating months she landed a job.
It was at a waste-water-to-energy
start-up in Caesarea and at first she liked it and found her fellow workers
congenial and pleasant. But she felt the work was not enough of a challenge and
her function within the company was not satisfactory.
decided after several months on a tourist visa that she would officially make
aliya and found that a letter from a Chabad rabbi she had known in college was
enough to convince the Jewish Agency that she was Jewish and entitled to become
Proving that she was Jewish so she could get married
through the rabbinate proved much more difficult. Her parents had married in a
Reform synagogue and had no valid ketuba
(marriage certificate). She was asked
to produce her grandparents’ marriage certificate instead but this had gone
missing and no one knew where it was. Someone suggested a photo of her
grandmother’s grave in a Jewish cemetery, but this proved to be not
Then she had the inspiration of presenting her uncle’s ketuba as
he had a valid one, having married in a Conservative synagogue. This was duly
e-mailed, together with his birth certificate and her mother’s birth certificate
to prove that they were brother and sister and both had the same (Jewish)
mother. Finally Danielle had to send her own birth certificate. All these
documents had to be translated from English to Hebrew as the rabbis said they
didn’t know any English and it cost about NIS 200 a page to have them certified
by a notary.
“I was going crazy,” says Danielle. “The wedding was
arranged and getting closer and each time we went to the rabbinate they said not
to worry, there was plenty of time.”
Finally, two weeks before the
wedding date, the documents were all approved and the wedding was able to go
ahead as planned.
“At the end they apologized to me for all the trouble
and worry,” says Danielle. “They said, ‘we’re sorry, we thought you were
Russian!’” It turns out that the rabbinate makes it even harder for Russians
than it does for Americans.
Today she works at a public company in Rosh
Ha’ayin, Environmental Energy Resources, a small start-up with an engineering
department consisting of herself and two others.
She commutes every day
from Ra’anana and finds the work much more satisfying than the first
She and Rafi live in a rented apartment and hope to buy one day. As
his job is in Ra’anana, she drives the car to Rosh Ha’ayin. Once the working day
is over she likes to swim in the municipal pool and manages to get there at
least twice a week. She’s also a keen knitter and enjoys playing the
She misses her parents and siblings but plans to go back and see
Having been through a really rough time trying to get accepted
here, she appreciates it all the more.
“It was worth it,” she says with a