Beatrice Feigel 370.
(photo credit: Gloria Deutsch)
Two years ago, Beatrice Feigel made a drastic change in her life, exchanging the very proper and serious Swiss environment in which she grew up for the easy-going, open Israeli society we all know. For her it was the fulfillment of a long-held dream.
“My mother was Italian,” she says, “and I was always very outgoing and natural.
Growing up in Switzerland I felt a certain narrowness in their outlook and I always felt the Israeli environment would suit me well.”
Making aliya was the culmination of a rich Zionist education. As a girl Feigel had been a member of Hagoshrim – a youth movement akin to Habonim in England – and grew up in Zurich knowing and singing popular Israeli songs. After the Yom Kippur War, many wounded soldiers arrived in Switzerland to be hosted by the Jewish community and she felt close to them, and said she always had a gut feeling she would one day settle in Israel.
But life has a way of imposing itself, and Feigel settled instead into a career in banking which she stayed with even after she married and became a mother. Her husband is a surgeon and the nephew of Sigi Feigel, who was president of the Zurich Jewish community and the person who was responsible for introducing anti-racist legislation into the Swiss parliament.
After the birth of two more children Feigel worked as a medical secretary in the city’s children’s hospital. But the dream of coming to Israel would not go away. She became friendly with Israelis spending a few years in Zurich and met many more through the Chabad connection there.
When she was divorced three years ago, she was finally ready to seriously consider moving to Israel. She was aware of the good education which would be freely available to her two younger children, which was a deciding factor. But what would she do in her new life? Without any clear plans, she made aliya in January 2010 with the two younger children, a boy of 15 and a girl of 11. Her older daughter, now 27, was married with a baby and stayed behind in Zurich.
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For the first few months they lived in the Ra’anana Absorption Center, from where she managed to emerge with above-average Hebrew. The children quickly settled into local schools, joining the English speakers stream, and both have settled well.
Getting to know other Swiss families in the area took no time at all and the family quickly made new friends, as well as connecting to people through school and synagogue.
After the ulpan, Feigel rented an apartment and became very close to the owner who lives in the same building.
“They are German-speakers, as we are, and we’ve become like family,” she says.
A YEAR ago, she finally settled on what she was going to do with her new life in Israel. She decided she would open a shop for high-quality children’s furniture on the main drag in Ra’anana, and called her business, appropriately, “Little Dreams.”
Surrounded by delicious pink, white and blue baby cots, cribs and chests of drawers, with mouthwatering accessories like handembroidered quilts and cushions, and an array of nursery rugs, she is thoroughly enjoying this new phase of her life.
Although Feigel has no background in design, she does have a natural Swiss flair and she finds that helping customers design their dream nursery by choosing from the variety of colored wood and fabric, all of which can be ordered and available within a few weeks, is a very satisfying part of the job.
She acknowledges that there is plenty of competition, with no shortage of children’s furniture available, but said she feels her competitors cannot compare in quality to what she is importing.
“They look nice, but anyone who appreciates quality will immediately see the difference,” Feigel says. “Unfortunately, there is a price difference too, and this might put potential customers off but I think there’s a level of consumers here where people understand what they are getting for their money.”
The last job she held in Zurich before leaving was helping a friend who ran a kosher restaurant, so becoming a businesswoman was a real challenge. It involved getting a license and finding an agent who would be responsible for bringing in her merchandise.
She took it all in her stride, although there have been some ups and downs.
“I’ve made some mistakes,” Feigel confesses.
One was to agree to have fellow immigrants from the absorption center who were about to set up a printing business, to make advertising posters for the store.
They are still on display, with some very noticeable mistakes in the Hebrew.
The sign above the shop was put up for her by another less-than-professional worker – and fell down soon after. And Feigel’s been trying for some time now to get the alarm system repaired – but so far three calls to the company have yet to elicit a response.
“That’s Israel I suppose,” she says. “I take it with a smile.”
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