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(photo credit: RENA ROSSNER)
Rabbi Bob Carrol, 47, Ruthie Levi, 47, and Mona: The Lion of Zion
When Ruthie Levi received an e-mail response to her JDate profile from Rabbi Bob Carrol, she knew he was not the man for her.
"He had written in his profile that he wanted to make aliya. I had broken up relationships with other men because of the issue of aliya," she says.
But Bob persisted.
"We only lived one mile away from one another. Why not just meet and see?"
Now, Bob looks at Ruthie across the table of their temporary Baka rental, surrounded by unpacked boxes and quips, "I elicited your inner Zionist."
Both Bob and Ruthie grew up in New Jersey but came from very different backgrounds. Ruthie grew up in a German-Jewish modern Orthodox home, "I was a thoroughbred yekke," and went to Hunter, a New York public school for gifted kids. At 15, she graduated and went to City College, later working at New York City's famed Dean and Deluca Market, where she ran their gourmet food importing division. She currently runs a gourmet food company that sells upscale food products to supermarkets all over the US.
Bob was raised in a Reform household and had his bar mitzva in the local Methodist Church, where the Reform congregation met. In high school he got involved with the Conservative movement's USY (United Synagogue Youth).
"When I went to my first USY convention, I was blown away. I have never seen Jews doing the stuff talked about in the Bible. It was explosive! I was hooked," he recalls.
But it wasn't until he went to Brandeis University that he was able to fully practice Judaism the way he wanted to. There, he studied Jewish studies and philosophy, and then went on to Rabbinical School and got a Masters in Jewish philosophy. He later studied at Yeshivat Hamivtar in Gush Etzion and at Yeshivat Darche Noam, also known as Shapell's, in Jerusalem.
After working for a few years as a Hillel director and as a computer project manager and network administrator, Bob landed his dream job as program director for EDAH, a Modern Orthodox web portal that explores all aspects of Modern Orthodoxy and runs seminars, events and lectures in New York and Jerusalem.
Ruthie was very involved in her Teaneck community. She ran a Yahoo Group with over 7,000 members called "Teaneck Shuls" and was comfortable and happy.
"Aliya was never on my radar screen," she admits.
Bob was captivated by Israel from the age of 13.
"I felt that Israel was just such a captivating story to be a part of," he says. When he started working for EDAH six years ago, he came back to Israel for the first time in 15 years. "I realized that I didn't want to look back when I was 70 and say, why didn't I make aliya?"
When Bob and Ruthie met and dated, in the end it all came down to aliya.
"I didn't want to risk losing Bob," says Ruthie. "I did my community work in Teaneck and I realized it was time to move on to a new chapter in my life."
Bob and Ruthie came on the December 27, 2005 Nefesh B'Nefesh flight and were married 10 days later on January 6, 2006 at the Kehillat Yedidya shul in Baka.
They went back to the US immediately afterwards and stayed there until March 29.
"We had a lot of loose ends to tie up and it took Bob longer than we expected to sell his house," Ruthie explains. They returned on March 29 with Mona, their cat. "We bought one business class seat and one regular seat so that Mona would be more comfortable," Ruthie explains.
"On the flight the stewardesses kept coming over to me and asking me if everything was okay," says Bob. "I was sitting on the floor taking care of Mona."
"I don't really have a routine yet," explains Ruthie, "there are still so many loose ends to tie up. We generally spend our days sorting out all the bureaucratic stuff and work at night."
Both Bob and Ruthie are able to do all of their work virtually.
"It's a little strange going out with friends, coming home at 8:30 p.m., getting on the computer and starting to work," says Ruthie, "but we're getting used to it. A day without Internet here is not a good day."
Bob catches up on the news for about an hour in the morning and then usually sets out for a few meetings.
"The phone starts ringing off the hook here at about 6 p.m. There is no such thing as a restful evening in this house," Bob says.
For now, Bob and Ruthie are renting an apartment near the Talpiot industrial area.
"We started looking for something to buy right after our wedding. When we saw our apartment, we made an offer immediately. We fell in love with it," she says of the 3-bedroom apartment they just purchased in Baka.
"It was very important to us that we be located near Kehillat Yedidya, our shul of choice," explains Bob. "We are just about to begin renovations and we hope all will go well."
"I consider myself a talmid of Rav Kook," explains Bob. "Not in the ideological sense, but in the logical, mystical sense."
Ruthie concurs: "I'm on the same page. We have the same sense of tradition and Halacha."
"I consider myself a davener," Ruthie says with a smile. "But we have so much going on that I don't have the time for ulpan. So for now I hired a private tutor who comes to our house 3 times per week for an hour. But I really speak mainly to Anglos."
Bob had a much stronger Hebrew background, but after 15 years of not being in the country he needs a bit of time to get his Hebrew back.
"I go to many meetings that are conducted in Hebrew, but I couldn't quite read a whole Hebrew newspaper," he says. "I try to read a few articles a day. I suspect that I'll be up to speed in a few months."
"I'd like to do some volunteer work once I have more of a set schedule. I'd also like to expand my business here," Ruthie says. "It's not essential for the survival of the business, but I was the one who developed kosher balsamic vinegar in the US, and I'd like to do something similar here. But I need to get to know the market a little better."
Bob intends to continue what he is doing, too.
"I am committed to building a Judaism that has integrity, that is relevant and meaningful to a greater society. The potential for a truly productive and creative society that combines religion and state exists here. I want to do whatever I can do to be a part of that."
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