chana rachel mark 248.88.
(photo credit: Abigail Klein)
It was not in search of success that Chana (Anne) Rachel Mark dug up a burgeoning raw-foods business and transplanted it here. Had she remained in health-conscious California, she would likely be on firmer financial footing, she concedes.
Nevertheless, there are some forms of success that cannot be measured on a spreadsheet. And this is why the single grandmother packed her chef's coat and hat and came on aliya.
LIFE BEFORE ALIYA
Anne Goldfarb was born in 1951 and grew up in Yonkers, just north of the Bronx, New York. Living in a close-knit, family-oriented neighborhood of mostly Jews and Italians, she and her two brothers went to Sunday school at a Reform synagogue.
"It was instilled in us that we had to marry Jewish spouses," she recalls. And so she did, in 1973, after earning a bachelor's degree in music education at Ithaca College.
Just after the birth of David in 1978, Ed and Anne Mark lived briefly in Corvallis, Oregon, until returning to the area near Elmira in upstate New York.
"We chose a 'Conservadox' synagogue over Reform there, and I enjoyed it," Mark says. "I was always a synagogue-goer."
Mark taught string instruments part-time and served as orchestra director for schools in the nearby towns of Horseheads and Corning until landing a permanent position as a school orchestra director in Athens, Pennsylvania, for six years. She also taught in Newburgh, New York, for 13 years.
In Oregon, she had gotten involved in a group of mothers that hiked with their babies and explored vegetarian eating.
"When David was little, he had problems with ear infections," Mark recalls. "I kept reading and researching and I took him off dairy products. Within two weeks, he was a different child. I never put him back on milk or gave him cheese, so I knew there was a link between diet and health - and this was before many people were becoming interested in healing with foods."
Mark joined the North American Vegetarian Society in 1980 and eventually became a board member. For 24 years, she adhered to a vegan diet, which avoids foods derived from animal sources, including eggs and dairy.
FROM WEST COAST TO WEST BANK
When the family moved to California in 2001, their lives changed dramatically. Anne and Ed divorced, David took an interest in Jewish observance and Anne discovered the "living" or "raw" foods diet that she espouses and teaches to this day. She explains that unprocessed, uncooked plant foods are believed to offer maximum nutritional and digestive benefits.
David went to Israel for the first time during high school. After college, he enrolled at Ohr Somayach, a Jerusalem-based yeshiva offering introductory Judaism courses for adults. He now lives in Ma'aleh Hever in the South Hebron Hills.
Meanwhile, his mom was studying under Cherie Soria, founder and director of the Living Light Culinary Arts Institute and considered the "mother" of raw gourmet cuisine.
"California is one of the biggest places to do raw foods," Mark says. "It's big business there and in some large cities such as Honolulu, Atlanta, Chicago and New York."
Mark's circle of like-minded friends, including many nonpracticing Jews, was almost uniformly liberal in its political outlook. So it was somewhat world-shattering when Mark began listening to the more conservative talk shows Webcast by Israel National News. Programs such as Aliya Revolution made a huge impact and started Mark on a path toward religious Zionism. "My ideas really have changed," she reflects now.
She visited Israel when David married in 2002, and was present at the birth of her granddaughter two years later. Each time she visited in the following years, she felt more reluctant to return to California.
In 2004, Mark started taking classes at the Chabad House in Palo Alto. On Sunday mornings, a friend she made there tutored her in Hebrew and liturgy. In 2006, she suggested that Mark look into Nefesh B'Nefesh, the donor-driven organization that facilitates aliya.
At this point, Mark was transitioning not only from using her English name to her Hebrew name, Chana, but also from teaching string instruments to starting a raw-foods business.
She received certification as a raw foods chef from Soria's institute and also from the Ekaya Institute of Living Foods as a raw foods nutrition specialist and lifestyle coach.
"In California, people were very into health and they'd go to the same class 50 times at $50 a head just to get the vibes and the social experience," she says. "I think if my business were still there, it would be booming. But I decided I would do it here."
Her son suggested that she might like to live in Ma'aleh Adumim. During a stay there on a March 2007 pilot trip, she stopped at the local health-food store and discovered that its owner was seeking a tenant for a small apartment in her house. The deal was done.
Mark arrived with her two cats on a Nefesh B'Nefesh flight in July 2007. "I was floored about the receptions on both ends and the big deal they made out of it," she says of the fanfare accompanying the journey. "My aunt drove me to the airport and she was amazed."
Although building a niche business in a new country has been difficult, Mark says she finds Israel to be a spiritually and agriculturally vibrant place where people are eager to discover a healthy lifestyle. She teaches privately and offers group classes - in English - in Jerusalem, Ma'aleh Adumim and Herzliya. She caters raw-food events, including a wedding last winter in Hadera, and sells prepared dishes locally.
"The raw foods idea is just scratching the surface here, but it has very good potential," she says.
Mark maintains a Web site, Israelgoneraw.com, and recently started producing a newsletter, "Kitchen News from Israel." She wrote an e-book, Pasta - The Raw Way, and is in the process of writing Chock Full of (Raw) Chocolate and Jewish Foods - The Raw Way.
Mark starts her day with prayer, exercise and e-mails. She attends yoga classes every Tuesday and spends time in Ma'aleh Hever with her son's family, which now includes two boys born in 2006 and 2009.
Along with many English-speaking acquaintances she has made in her new neighborhood, she participates whenever possible in educational and recreational trips offered to recent immigrants by Ma'aleh Adumim's Community Aliya program.
"My weak point is the language," says Mark.
But even if eight months of ulpan didn't make her fluent in Hebrew, the experience did result in a business connection. Mark's raw-food snacks caught the attention of an ulpan classmate who hired her to help her lose weight.
"I started coaching her privately, and she bought all the appliances and came to my classes," says Mark. Within a year, the client lost nearly 23 kilos.
"It's not easy here, but I was meant to be here," Mark says. "God has put me here for a reason - I'm not sure what it is yet - and I am very much into the spiritual side of this."