Arrivals: Andrea Weissfeld

"I am only American to Israelis because of my accent and where I come from," says Weissfeld. "But I always felt like a foreigner in the United States."

'My story really begins after I came to Israel," says Andrea Weissfeld softly. "If you had met me 10 years ago, you would not have seen the same person." Weissfeld says she used to be shy and never went anywhere alone. Today, she describes herself as outgoing and independent. "If I want to do something now, even if there is no one to go with me, I do it." And perhaps this determined spirit was forged by having to overcome endless trials and tribulations to make a permanent home here. BEFORE ARRIVAL Born in Cleveland, she moved to Phoenix with her family for nine years before returning to Akron for junior high and high school. "I was active in a lot of clubs and sports, but I never really felt that I fit in at school," says Weissfeld, who was the only Jewish kid in her class. "It's not that there was a lot of anti-Semitism, the other kids just treated me like I wasn't human." For her 18th birthday, she was given the choice between a car, a big party or a trip. She chose to go on a Mediterranean cruise through Egypt, Turkey, Greece and Israel with her mother and maternal grandfather. "We only spent a total of two days in Jerusalem and the Dead Sea, but I fell in love with Israel." After the trip, she found herself in tears at the New York airport. "I had no idea why I was crying, but my mom knew. She came over to give me a hug and told me, 'You're crying because you want to return to Israel.'" After high school, Weissfeld was accepted into a one-year program in conflict resolution at Ben-Gurion University in Beersheba. The next year, her parents persuaded her to try a Jewish university closer to home, so she spent one semester at the University of Judaism in Los Angeles, but hated every minute of it. "I wanted to come back to Israel, so I enrolled in a program with a satellite campus in Jerusalem." In the fall of 2000, just in time for the second intifada, she arrived in Jerusalem for her studies. Bustled to Turkey with her fellow students and colleagues for a few weeks until the conflict was resolved, the university ended up closing its Jerusalem branch and she was forced to return to the US yet again. In the fall of 2001, she headed for Germany to write her senior thesis, but after September 11, her parents once again persuaded her to return home. In 2002, she finished her BA in conflict resolution, Middle East and Israeli studies and enrolled in an MA program at Tel Aviv University. "During those studies, the second Gulf war started and we were sent to the desert with our gas masks and my paperwork was lost, but I eventually received my diploma in 2006." UPON ARRIVAL Although she actually arrived in 2002 for her master's degree, it took until 2004 for her paperwork to be completed as the Interior Ministry went on a long strike. The process was long, confusing and time-consuming. "It was such a mess making aliya. I was ready to give up." FAMILY HISTORY Weissfeld's parents live in Akron. Her father, Mark, is a podiatrist and her mother, Nikki, works as an obstetrics nurse. She has two brothers, Joseph, 24, who lobbies for women's rights in Washington, and Nathan, 16, who is in high school. Her maternal grandfather lives in Florida and her paternal grandmother is a "snowbird," wintering in Florida and summering in Ohio. "I am a third-generation American," she says. "My father's family is from Hungary and my mom's origins are uncertain because of border changes. We think it's originally Romania." WORK Currently an English teacher at Berlitz, Weissfeld says that while she enjoys teaching, she is really hoping to find a job that will put her studies to good use. "I have a background in conflict resolution and I like to write. I enjoyed working in a Judaica museum in college too," she says. "It's hard to find work, and if you want to stay here, you have to roll with the punches, but I'm looking for new opportunities." LIVING ENVIRONMENT She shares a small, one-bedroom apartment in the center of Tel Aviv with her Persian cat, Bubba, who likes to sit on her bag to prevent her from leaving for work. "I adopted her at the same time I made aliya, at my lowest point, and when things get hard, I just look at her and I remember why I'm here." She says that although Tel Aviv is the place to be for work in English, she isn't thrilled with the city and would like to move. "It just doesn't feel like Israel to me." ROUTINE Every day is different because the teaching hours with Berlitz range from 14 in one day to one in an entire week. "I generally get up and go to work, but my schedule changes constantly. I never know what the next week will bring," she says. Working many hours, sometimes from 7:30 a.m. until 10 p.m., she goes to the gym in her spare time and sometimes has afternoon breaks to run errands. HOBBIES "I love singing and dancing, although I haven't done it in a while," she says. "I also like to write and of course, to play with Bubba." CIRCLE Many of her friends she met during her studies at Tel Aviv University. "Most of my friends were not in my program, but I got to know them while I was there." She also has friends who work with her at Berlitz and from synagogue, but says all of her friends live here. She doesn't keep in touch with anyone from her home town. LANGUAGE Weissfeld speaks Hebrew well. "I did go to ulpan, but I don't credit it with teaching me Hebrew. I mainly learned from speaking and being corrected and watching television. The first thing I bought here was a television." She can also read and write literary Arabic, but she says it's too difficult to speak. "I have a little bit of French and Spanish that I sometimes use with foreign students." RELIGION Raised in a Conservative home, she says her family attends a Reform synagogue in Akron because that's where the cousins go. "My parents also identify themselves as Conservative, and I used to go to synagogue every Shabbat. Here, it has waned a little because it's lonely to do all those things by myself. I have an open invitation to a friend's house in Petah Tikva for Rosh Hashana and Passover, but I don't have any family here. I'm the only one." IDENTIFICATION "I am only American to Israelis because of my accent and where I come from," says Weissfeld. "But I always felt like a foreigner in the United States. In Israel I am 'one of us' because I am Jewish. This is my home now." PLANS/DREAMS Aside from finding a job that relates more closely to her personal passion and field of studies, such as something with mediation and arbitration or in a Jewish-related organization, she says she wants to find a partner to share her life with and have children. "I am still single, but I'm looking for a traditional Jewish guy. I want to get married, take out a mortgage and have lots of children." 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