The Lebanon war of 2006 played an important part in Sarah Groner’s decision to
She was living in New York at the time and working in summer
camp, as she did every year.
“There were always Israelis there, and
somehow I gravitated to them and felt a strong connection,” she recalls. “In
that year, there seemed to be more Israelis than ever, and they used to come
down to breakfast crying, having heard the latest news from Israel about the
bombing in the North. It really affected me, and I felt I wanted to do
In August of that year, she came to Israel looking for a
program in which she could somehow make a contribution.
A year later, she
officially made aliya and is now happily settled in Tel Aviv with a job, a
boyfriend and a circle of like-minded friends.BEFORE ALIYA
Poughkeepsie in 1982, she earned a degree in American history at the University
of Albany and fulfilled a youthful dream by moving to Manhattan in 2004. Jobs
were hard to come by, and she ended up becoming a production assistant to a film
company – which gave her plenty of experience, but no actual pay.
seemed a more attractive alternative; she had been here as a teenager, had a
large family of cousins here and, most of all, felt impelled by the sadness of
her fellow campers to want to do something more concrete for Israel.
scoured the Internet looking for a suitable program. There were many
possibilities, but I wanted something that gave a degree of independence. I
wanted to be able to travel around and not be stuck in a kibbutz,” she
She finally chose a five-month program with the Jewish Agency’s
Masa organization and ended up teaching English to new immigrant students in
Ramle. She also helped out in the community, including, on one memorable
occasion, painting park benches. After three months in the program, she decided
she wanted to make some Israeli friends.
“I knew if I stayed in the
American bubble, I wouldn’t learn Hebrew and wouldn’t integrate,” she
She devised a plan: “I went and sat in a bar every night with a
friend. And it worked! They might have thought I was a crazy American at first,
but I do have an outgoing personality and I made many friends that
After eight months, she decided to make aliya officially and
contacted the Jewish Agency.
“I kept calling them and leaving messages,
and they never answered,” she says, but adds that “in fairness, I have to
explain that there was another immigrant with exactly the same name, and
eventually it was all sorted out.”WORK AND ACTIVITIES
She got a job with
an American company selling promotional products, and stayed there for three
years before deciding that she needed a graduate degree.
studying for a master’s in management.
“After I’d been here three years
working in this job and getting into a routine, I woke up one day and told
myself I’d lost the passion of why I came to Israel in the first place,” she
recalls. “I decided I must get back to being an active Zionist – that living
here just wasn’t enough.”
She began volunteering at World Magshimei
Herut, an organization founded in 1999 for young adults dedicated to the ideals
of aliya, social justice and the territorial integrity of the Land of
“I’m not involved in the political side,” she emphasizes. But she
is active in both this organization and in Masa, and loves talking to potential
immigrants and explaining why she loves Israel and why they should be
She completed her master’s degree and taught herself to work in
She now has a job as a community manager for a gaming
company, which she enjoys – though she says it’s not yet her dream
That dream job, she says, would be to use her marketing skills to
promote the programs she was on, as she found them helpful, and to play her part
in encouraging more aliya.LIFE IN ISRAEL
Meanwhile, she rents an
apartment in Tel Aviv and lives there with her Israeli boyfriend, whom she is
hoping to marry eventually. She confesses to being obsessed with news and
follows every development anxiously. The language is proving to be something of
“I finally finished ulpan quite recently, but I’m a little
embarrassed to speak Hebrew and only do it when I absolutely have to,” she
“I want to raise my kids here,” she says. “I love living in Israel.
I love it that when I go to a kiosk to buy a drink, they wish me ‘Hag Sameah
[happy holiday].’” Groner feels that to be Jewish in America, you have to be
observant, and for a time she was; but once she moved to Israel, she didn’t feel
the need to be religious.
“Here, I feel Jewish enough,” she says.