A Nefesh B'Nefesh olah, at summer's end

Karen Brunwasser arrived on the first of Nefesh B'Nefesh's flights this summer. Cafe Oleh catches up with her.

See Readers' Comments at end of article New olah Karen Brunwasser arrived from North America on Nefesh B'Nefesh's first flight of this summer. Rather amusigly, she has already made a name for herself after being quoted in an Israeli tabloid as saying that she came to Israel because of her love of aggressive Sephardic men. One woman who read the article actually called Brunwasser to offer her a match with her aggressive Sephardic. What Brunwasser had actually said was that she had found Israeli men attractive when she visited Israel as a teenager. Brunwasser, who currently works as Director of Communications at The Shalem Center in jerusalem, began her love affair with Israel began when she was 16 years old and came here on a family vacation. "My destiny is linked to this place in a concrete sense now, which is empowering," says Brunwasser, referring to her job at the Shalem Center which she defines as "a Jerusalem research institute that specializes in Jewish and Zionist thought," and where she feels offers her a vehicle in which to express her love for her new country. At 16, Brunwasser was drawn to the idea that Judaism could be expressed in a secular way in Israel. The following year, Brunwasser returned with a multicultural group that was critical of Israel. After this trip, she began to research the controversies surround the country, and in the process became more invested and attached. Brunwasser returned to Israel during her college years and later pursued a Masters degree in Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at the Hebrew University. During this time, she says, she was able to absorb Israel's culture, nuances, and intricacies. After this extended stay her attachment to Israel grew, but she returned to her family and friends and a job at AIPAC in Washington, DC. Brunwasser spent the next three years pondering the question of where she belonged. Finally she made up her mind, realizing that she was already 29 years old and if she was going to make the move it had to be now. On July 13 Karen Brunswasser arrived in Israel to begin a new chapter in her life as an Israeli with the help of Nefesh B'Nefesh on what she calls "red carpet aliya," They take care of all the bureaucracy and make olim feel special according to Brunwasser. Nefesh B'Nefesh not only paid for plane tickets and offered financial aid, they took care of all the buricracy and made sure the olim "felt special," says Brunwasser. to olim. As an added comfort, they regularly check in her and the others. On the whole, Brunwasser says she feels incredibly welcome as an olah, but she has also experienced many Israelis who think she is insane for making aliya. "One guy was almost angry with me," she says. "I had his dream in the US and I threw it away." She suggests that anyone considering aliya should research what it means to live in Israel. "Talk to as many people as you can. You will learn things that are counterintuitive for North Americans," she says. Brunwasser had a professional and personal network already set up in Israel, so she had five quality job offers before she even landed. One surprise for Brunwasser has been the difference in the atmosphere since she was last in Jerusalem during August of 2002. "When I left, Jerusalem was a ghost town. I worked at The Jerusalem Post and I was always reporting on bombings. Places that were features of Jerusalem life were closed down. Now Jerusalem is exploding in other ways. It is back to life, which is amazing." Now, if she could only find an aggressive Israeli man... Send your comments >> Mara Karlin, Washington DC, USA: This article was a succint illustration of the dilemmas American Jews make in immigrating to Israel. Thank you for including such a well-written piece in The Jerusalem Post. Todd Allen, USA: Great article, kudos. Very personal and warm.
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