As a teenager, Jeff Green was a committed and observant Conservative Jew with plans of becoming a Conservative rabbi – until a friend showed him a brochure for Pardes.
The Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem refers to itself as “an open, inclusive, diverse and intellectually challenging Jewish learning community.” For Green, one year at Pardes turned into two. “I overestimated what I thought I knew. I knew nothing! I had to learn how to learn.”
During those years at Pardes and in Jerusalem, Green fell more deeply in love with Israel. “I had to be in Israel,” Green vowed before going back to the US to save up money for his ultimate return to Israel. He was determined not to date – even resisting his mother’s pushing. He then devised a plan. He would agree to date to please her – but there were enough caveats to assure he never actually dated.
“I said, ok, only Modern Orthodox, attractive, DC area and willing to make aliyah in a year!” Green and his wife of decades, Miriam Green, laugh as they recount this period in what seems like ancient history during our Zoom interview from their living room in Beersheba.
“Miriam was on my list,” he admits.
“We had friends in common.”
The two started to date.
“I wanted to date only someone willing to make aliyah within a year and not wait. We were married in September 1990 and made aliyah in July 1991.”
While the timing of their aliyah may not have been perfect (“We just missed the Gulf War”), the Greens came to Beersheba with a plan and with some support in place. Jeff’s sister and brother- in-law lived in Beersheba, where he was a professor, and Jeff had already been accepted to a Boston University/ Ben Gurion University master’s degree program in management.
“We knew we wanted to be here and raise kids here.”
Green was blessed with a great professional opportunity upon graduation.
“When I walked out with my master’s degree, my predecessor was looking for a protégée. I became a financial officer in charge of donations.”
As he reflects on his nearly 30 years at BGU, he is proud.
“We went from 6,000 to 20,000 students, we have three campuses and are about to double. It is interesting to be part of it.”
He balances his professional work with a large dose of Jewish learning and teaching, including daf yomi (daily page of Talmud learning). He and Miriam are also very involved in their local synagogue.
Jeff’s strong desire while in his early 20’s to live in Israel is rivaled only by Miriam’s commitment to the Holy Land.
“My journey to Israel started in 1949,” she offers playfully. “When my mother was 10, she and her family made aliyah from England. Her father became ill in the Krayot and they went back to England.” Their desire to live in Israel never waned.
“When I was 12, my family lived in Rehovot for a year,” Miriam report. “That year made me determined to return, which I did in 1982 with Habonim.” She spent 1982-83 on Kibbutz Gesher Haziv with Habonim (youth movement), then began her university studies at Oberlin College in Ohio. Israel was still very much on her mind. “I looked for all the people with Israeli sandals and became friends.” At that point, she made two promises to herself. “I would make Aliyah and continue to write.” Miriam hoped to always pursue her love of writing.
“My grandparents made aliyah in 1983,” she recounts, “and when we arrived in 1990, we had an opportunity to interact with them intimately until their deaths.”
She reports that she always “had an ingrained sense that this is my country.” She recalls that 1976-77 were significant years, referencing the heroic raid on Entebbe and Israel winning the 1977 FIBA European Champions Cup championship. Maccabi Tel Aviv defeated Mobilgirgi Varese by one point, 78–77, in the finals.
Miriam spent 1982-1983 on Kibbutz Gesher Haziv with Habonim (youth movement), then began her university studies at Oberlin College in Ohio.
Israel was still very much on her mind.
“I looked for all the people with Israeli sandals and became friends.”
At that point, she made two promises to herself.
“I would make aliyah and continue to write.” Miriam hoped to always pursue her love of writing.
Miriam gushes with pride when she reports, “We had five generations here at one time – this is just astounding!” Her grandparents lived in Netanya, and her parents made aliyah in 1994, the year her first son was born. Her father, a biochemist, had done a post-doc in Israel from 1964 to 1966.
While the Green’s aliyah was “storybook” in many ways, they faced challenges.
Miriam shared her experience in an article she wrote for “Guideposts” (guideposts.org), the publication of the spiritual non-profit organization that encourages wellness through inspirational content creation and also maintains an outreach ministry. The article, entitled “They Followed In Abraham’s Spiritual Footsteps: What compelled this couple to give up everything they knew to move to Israel when they couldn’t even speak the local language?” Miriam writes candidly about the struggles learning Hebrew.
“I struggled to conjugate verbs, memorize vocabulary and refine my accent. Who knew that the word for ‘interview’ (ra’ayon) sounded just like pregnancy (herayon)? These two words would define my biggest struggles in my new land: starting a family and defining a job.”
Miriam and Jeff had dreams of raising a large family.
“We wanted at least four children.
When a year passed without us conceiving, we went to the top fertility specialist in Beersheba.”
The Greens are proud of the support the country provides, including free IVF treatment for the first two children up until a woman turns 45.
“We were thrilled. We tried IUI and many rounds of drugs before we got the results we were hoping and praying for. Jeff and I eventually succeeded – with God’s help, and an amazing array of doctors – in birthing three healthy children. We were blessed with countless babysitters and playmates for them.”
The Greens appreciated the support of members of their adopted Beersheba community who shared similar stories of struggles conceiving.
Miriam, who had worked at the Federal Reserve Bank in the US, had difficulties finding comparable work due to her lack of fluency in Hebrew.
She then found a job with a good fit – working to help new immigrants, through AACI (the Association for Americans and Canadians in Israel).
This job, in turn, helped her improve her Hebrew as she was working with many government agencies in her advocacy work on behalf of clients.
Miriam worked with AACI for 18 years helping new arrivals to Israel.
“Find a community,” she advises all new olim. She further explains, “Aliyah is like a smorgasbord buffet – you need to know to go up to it – it won’t come to you.”
She speaks of the many services and supports available to olim – if they wish to take advantage of them.
Another challenge Miriam has written openly about on her impressive website, thelostkitchen.org, is her mother’s dementia. She has also written a book, The Lost Kitchen: Reflections and Recipes from an Alzheimer’s Caregiver. The book masterfully weaves poetry, recipes and anecdotes.
Her mom, Naomi, currently lives in the Orpaz memory care facility in Beersheba.
The Greens are great ambassadors for their Beersheba community.
“It is an open, friendly and warm community,” Miriam reports, stressing the many connections they have made in their synagogue and beyond.
They are pleased their 27-year-old son, 24-year-old daughter and 22-year-old son live in Israel (though their daughter and her boyfriend – also a Beersheba native – are currently in Los Angeles and plan to return soon). One small source of frustration the Greens report is property crime, which has included break-ins and stolen cars.
The Greens are also ambassadors for aliyah. Jeff speaks for the two of them when he reports, “I can’t imagine our life any place else. I firmly believe this is the place for me.”