A man on the move

DAVID ALLICK (photo credit: Courtesy)
(photo credit: Courtesy)
 Arriving a few minutes early for my meeting with David Allick, I scan the room, but no one’s face seems to match the picture that I had seen on the Internet. Finally, my eyes settle on a man wearing a black hat, black suit and white shirt, who is studying with great enthusiasm, swaying back and forth. David Allick, 38, former high school sports star, US Air Force captain, teacher, and now, clinical social worker, is a man on the move.
Born in Athens, Greece, to career Air Force parents – his father worked in administration and his mother was a chief master sergeant – Allick grew up as a “military brat,” living in different locations. The family eventually settled in San Antonio, Texas, where he spent most of his childhood. He grew up with little Jewish identity, and as a child devoted most of his time and energy to sports, both as an athlete and as a devoted fan of the Houston Oilers football team. 
“I can still remember the theme song today,” he says. Smiling, he adds, “I could sing it, but I’m not going to.”
Allick, who walks with the easy grace of an athlete, starred in football and basketball in high school. After finishing high school, he wasn’t interested in going to college. 
“I liked sports, and sports only”, he says. 
Nevertheless, he continued his education at St. Angelo State University, where he majored in psychology. He distinguished himself in the ROTC (Reserve Officers Training Course), a college-based officer training program for the US Armed Forces. After graduation, Allick began his military career, first serving as an Air Force recruiter for a year, and then working in industrial organization psychology in San Antonio for the Air Force for three years.
His interest in Judaism was first piqued in Montgomery, Alabama, at Maxwell Air Force Base. It was there that Allick, who was teaching an education course for new officers, met Rabbi Raphael Berdugo, an Orthodox rabbi and Air Force chaplain, who was taking courses there. Allick began speaking with him, and, he says, “he was the one who lit the light,” and sparked his interest in Jewish life. He finished his assignment with the Air Force, and then decided to become a teacher.
He left the military and went into teaching, because “the idea of loving people and giving them the strength to be what they are supposed to be, was a main part in my home, and became a main part of me.” To fulfill this dream, he became a teacher in the Dallas public school system, teaching reading, math, social studies and history from 2007 through 2009.
It was while he was living in Dallas that he experienced his second “awakening” to Judaism, when he met Rabbi Hanan Schlesinger, from Alon Shvut, who was based in Dallas, serving as the head of the community kollel. Allick attended numerous classes given by Schlesinger, and utilized him as a resource to increase his Jewish knowledge.
Allick’s life took a fateful turn northward when a social worker who was working with one of his students sat in on his class. Impressed with his caring and empathetic personality, she said that he had missed his true calling, and that he should return to school, study for a master’s degree, and become a social worker. 
Allick had friends living in Minnesota, and they encouraged him to continue his studies there. He moved to the Twin Cities and attended St. Thomas University, where he received his master’s in 2012. It was in Minnesota that he met his future wife, Chana, a “military brat” herself, whose father had been a mechanic with the Air Force. David and Chana attended classes at Chabad’s Jewish Learning Institute together and were married in 2010. 
One of the highlights of his graduate work was his internship at the maximum-security prison in Stillwater, Minnesota. There, he encountered all types of criminals – rapists, murderers, serial killers, some of whom were suffering from bipolar behavior, schizophrenia and depression. Allick says, “Jail taught me that everybody has a story. Sometimes your kind word or gentle word is the very thing that is stopping them from breaking… I’ve seen people’s lives change when they just feel true, genuine care, from another person.”
Shortly after graduation, David and Chana were on the move yet again. A friend told him of the welcoming Orthodox community in Milwaukee, and its rabbi, Michel Twerski. The Allicks visited Milwaukee, and in 2012 found a home in the Jewish community there. They continued their religious growth, and became close with Twerski. Allick first worked in Milwaukee’s Bureau of Child Welfare, but soon a position became available in the Milwaukee County Jail. With his previous experience at the maximum-security prison, Allick was well-suited for the task, and in a short time became the supervisor of psychiatric social workers. 
Working in the jail provided him with a unique perspective on human behavior. 
“I really got to see that you can’t judge people by their station in life, and you really have to get to know people before you can make a judgment. You can’t make a judgment until you’ve chosen to take a few steps in their shoes.”
After a few years in Milwaukee, his wife began to talk about aliya. Smiling, Allick recalls the conversation. 
“I said to her, ‘Why’? I had just gotten another promotion, and we had just gotten out of debt.” She persisted, and said, “We should be in our home where we belong.” 
Arriving in July 2015, the Allicks moved to Jerusalem’s Ramat Eshkol neighborhood, and David studied at the Ohr Somayach yeshiva. After a year of study, David, Chana and their two daughters moved to Ramat Beit Shemesh.
Today, Allick works as a licensed clinical social worker, with offices in Ramat Eshkol and Beit Shemesh. He still likes sports, but he confesses that he no longer has much time for it, because he is too busy, learning, working, and as he puts it, “trying to be a good husband.”
David Allick has been on the move for a quite a while, from Athens to San Antonio, from Dallas to Minnesota, from Milwaukee to Ramat Beit Shemesh. Throughout his journeys, he has learned that there is one constant thread that runs through human behavior. 
“Everybody,” he says, “is looking for the same thing… deep, long-lasting relationships. Ultimately, a person wants a relationship with God – to connect with God in a real and personal way. From there a person has a better chance to connect with individuals, and even to connect to themselves – who they really are, not just who they think they are…”