Stand down, soldier

One of the US's oldest army recruits becomes one of Israel's newest immigrants

By
January 18, 2018 10:51
Stephen November with wife Nancy at his US army graduation – after joining at age 53

Stephen November with wife Nancy at his US army graduation – after joining at age 53. (photo credit: NOVEMBER FAMILY)

 
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Retired United States Army Colonel Stephen November has arrived in Israel for an extended, open-ended tour of duty. But unlike his previous deployments, this one is unofficial. November, who recently celebrated his 66th birthday, and his wife, Chana, have made aliya and are now fully committed, enthusiastic olim hadashim. Coming to Israel as a new immigrant after retirement is not particularly unusual. But coming to Israel as an Orthodox Jew who entered the US Army, went through basic training and was sent overseas at the age of 53 is a bit out of the ordinary.

As for his surname. November explains that this was not a result of the often-told story of Eastern European grandparents coming to America through Ellis Island in New York and getting tagged with an amusing surname by a harried immigration official who could not spell the actual family name. Rather, he says, the name – or rather, its Hungarian version – was assumed by his ancestors in the early 19th century, after Austrian Empress Maria Theresa decreed that all Jews in her realm had to have surnames. “For some reason they took the name ‘November’ in Hungarian,” he says. “I don’t know why they picked that.”

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