Israel's new citizens for the New Year

‘Being an oleh hadash, and starting the new year as a new immigrant, I feel young again,’ said Marc Kornblatt.

KENNY AND Ilana Pollack and family. (photo credit: Courtesy)
KENNY AND Ilana Pollack and family.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
As the summer aliyah season comes to a close, the hundreds of Nefesh B’Nefesh olim who have arrived in recent weeks are not only unpacking boxes, beginning jobs, and taking their children to new schools, but pausing to take stock of how it feels to be a new immigrant to Israel at the beginning of the New Year of 5780.
For Rachel Margolin of Jerusalem, who moved from New York’s Upper West Side, arriving in Israel on August 29, making aliyah to Israel before Rosh Hashanah means a more public appreciation of being Jewish. “The other day,” says Margolin, “I saw a screen shot of the Shufersal website, which has a special tab for shopping for Tishrei and Rosh Hashanah. It was a cool moment. That is what is unique and special about being in Israel for the High Holidays.” But beyond the public acknowledgement of the holiday season, Margolin senses something different in the air. “There is something about the mentality here that feels different. Everyone is mindful about the upcoming holidays and is thinking about how to best enter Tishrei with that perspective. It just feels more expansive here than it does in New York. Everyone is bracing themselves in a positive sense for the holidays.”
Margolin, who recently turned 28, says, “There are so many things happening at once. My birthday is 25 Elul, my aliyah, Rosh Hashanah – it’s all happening at once. It is easy to view this entire experience as a new beginning in every sense.” Margolin notes that when she thinks about Israel, she thinks about hospitality in the truest sense of the word. “When I made aliyah, everyone kept asking me if was returning to the States for the High Holidays. I told them that I was confident that I would be taken care of.” She cheerfully reports that she has been invited out for all of her holiday meals.
Margolin, who taught Tanach at SAR High School in New York for six years, is looking for employment in the educational non-profit sector, and in the days leading up to the holiday, has been studying at the Pardes Institute Elul program in Jerusalem. “It’s incredible to have so many different opportunities to live and re-focus my mind, and form resolutions before the New Year, so I have really enjoyed being in that space.”
MARC AND Judith Kornblatt embarking on their aliyah journey (Credit: Courtesy)MARC AND Judith Kornblatt embarking on their aliyah journey (Credit: Courtesy)
For Kenny and Ilana Pollack, who arrived in Israel with their five children on August 21, moving to Israel in time for the High Holidays was the fulfillment of a dream. “Every year, around Rosh Hashanah,” say Pollack, who was a Judaic studies teacher at the Fuchs Mizrachi School in Cleveland for 11 years, “I would always ask myself, would next year be the year that I would be spending Rosh Hashanah as a new oleh? This is the fulfillment of many years of wondering if next year we would finally be celebrating in Israel.” Pollack, who is now teaching at Yeshivat Lev HaTorah in Ramat Beit Shemesh, says that among his friends, moving to Israel was everyone’s dream. “We had talked about aliyah when we were dating, but putting down roots in Cleveland made it hard. Thank God, we could push the boat away.” For his family, says Pollack, this year is a new beginning. “This is the year where I won’t have to wonder where I will be next year on Rosh Hashanah.” Pollack feels a great deal of relief at accomplishing one of his life’s goals in time for Rosh Hashanah 5780.
MARC KORNBLATT, who landed in Israel on August 14 with his wife Judith, celebrated his 65th birthday soon after arriving. Kornblatt, a native of New Jersey, lived in Bloomington, Indiana, and Madison, Wisconsin, where his wife was a professor of Russian and Slavic literature. In recent years, his wife went back to school and became a nurse, while he taught music. “We are into encore careers,” he jokes. “My wife did part-time nursing and I did part-time teaching, and when we both finished, we came to Israel, where we are both hoping to do some kind of part-time work, and also volunteer.”
The Kornblatts live in Tel Aviv, and, says Marc, “In Israel, I hear the shofar in the street, and I am aware of it.” Compared to Madison, which has a limited choice of synagogues, he says, “Here where we have a plethora of choices to go, it is the default that everyone knows, even if one is not religious. It will be quiet on Yom Kippur, even in the secular world of Tel Aviv. For once, we are in the place where the whole environment is the majority being the Jewish experience. It feels like such a sea change,” he exults. Kornblatt, whose enthusiasm for teaching served him well in his previous career, now produces a web series about life as a new Israeli immigrant. The Kornblatts came on a Nefesh B’Nefesh Aliyah Charter Flight facilitated in partnership with Immigration and Absorption Ministry, the Jewish Agency for Israel, Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund and JNF-USA, and he says, “I did it because I thought it would be an interesting episode for the series, but in fact, I was touched by the ceremony.” He is clearly enjoying his cinematic avocation, and says happily, “Being an oleh chadash [a new oleh], and starting the new year as a new immigrant, I feel young again. Even at my advanced age, I feel rejuvenated in many ways.”
Rachel Margolin, Kenny and Ilana Pollack and Marc and Judith Kornblatt – all at different stages in their lives – made the decision to leave their lives in America. Perhaps Rachel put it best, saying, “I did what I needed to do in America, and the time had come for me to build my life here.”
This article was written in cooperation with Nefesh B’Nefesh.