Israeli-Americans feel economic crisis in both countries

Members of social group Dor Chadash share stories of hardship in TA, but note that life in NY isn’t easy either

August 11, 2011 21:55
4 minute read.

RINA LANKRY 311. (photo credit: Danielle Carrick)


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NEW YORK – Rina Lankry can easily sympathize with the protest movement demonstrating against the high cost of living in Israel. Born in Israel but raised in New York, last year she was temporarily living in Jerusalem and making plans to move there for good when the economic hardships of living in the Jewish State made her change her mind.

“I felt like if you want to live in Israel you have to be set,” she said. “I started [the process of] making aliya, everything was fine, when I just saw so many people from America who are struggling. At a certain point the ideological bubble bursts and you realize living in Israel is hard.”

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Lankry shared her story on Wednesday at a social gathering in a bar in Chelsea organized by Dor Chadash, an Israeli-American social group.

“We bridge the gap between Israeli and American Jews and create meaningful relations between both people,” said Yoni Frankel, Dor Chadash’s new executive director. “We have here tonight American Jews, Israelis and people in the middle like myself, whose parents are Israeli but they feel they are connected to both places.”

Like Lankry, many people at the event could identify with the protest movement in Israel which has shaken the nation of late.

Yael Beckerman, an American whose parents are Israeli, had just returned from Tel Aviv where she attended several of the rallies and visited Rothschild Boulevard, which has been transformed into a huge tent city. She offered a sympathetic view of the struggle but said she believed it was unlikely to affect change.

“I don’t think it’ll come to much,” said Beckerman. “They want everything to be fair and equal. I have a cousin in [the Tel Aviv neighborhood of] Florentin and he said that his rent had doubled in the past couple of years. There’s no fairness.”

Lenny Roth, one of founders of Dor Chadash and a columnist for the financial newspaper Globes, said the housing protests were paradoxically a manifestation of Israel’s economic success.

“You have a growing gap between the haves and have nots and there’s a realization that the people left out of the party are reading about the celebration and not participating in it,” he said.

Roth, who was born in Israel but has lived most his life in the US, said most Jews in America were unaware of the housing protest in Israel and were more concerned with their own economic woes.

“Jewish-Americans... read mostly about Israel’s economic success whether it’s [2009 book] Startup Nation, [its partnership with American electric car company] Better Place or the growing GDP. When you talk about the structural economic fundamentals, Israel today paradoxically is healthier than the US. You need to trickle down several levels to appreciate what’s agitating the protesters outside the prime minister’s office.”

He added that the economic situation in Israel when compared with that in the US at the moment was in many ways enviable.

“It’s a blip on the radar screen next to so much more obvious highlights of Israel’s economic success. Israel did not get stung by the mortgage crisis. Israel’s debt to GDI ratio is going down while America’s is going up. Israel’s unemployment rate is much lower than the US. We wish we could be like in Israel.”

Still, for many Israeli-Americans, finding a job in the US even during a time of economic uncertainty is still much easier than in Israel.

Zev Barnoy, an investment banker who was born in America but whose parents are Israeli, said he took a job at Chase Morgan Bank only after he couldn’t find a position in Israel. He said that during his search he even flew to Israel for an interview with a local bank but was turned down.

“What upset me was that a guy with lots of experience comes to Israel for an interview and the country rejects him,” he said in fluent Hebrew. “So I came here instead.”

Barnoy said that he hasn’t given up on his dream of living in Israel and that “unless something drastic happens” he intends to try moving there again in the future.

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