Aliyah of choice

"It has taken my family more than 70 years to fulfill the dream of living in the Land of Israel."

(photo credit: Courtesy)
In January 2009, I interviewed Aliyah Schneider for my column “St. Louis Then, Israel Now” in The St. Louis Jewish Light. She was finishing a program in Israel with WUJS (World Union of Jewish Students) and when I asked her what her next mission was, she responded, “My options are open.”
Fast-forward to 2019: A decade later, Schneider continues her story.
A job with the Jewish Agency
“The WUJS program was a fantastic experience for me, as it gave me a taste of what it would be like to live in Israel. When it ended, I knew that I wanted to stay, which meant that I needed to start looking for a job. I began my career in the Jewish professional world as a development associate at the Jewish Federation of St. Louis. My focus was on connecting the city’s community to Israel via trips and community-wide events. While in Israel, community members were able to see how their donations were making an impact. The work was deeply fulfilling.
“I am still grateful for the guidance I received from my friend and mentor, Barry Rosenberg, former CEO and president of the Jewish Federation of St. Louis. His recommendations helped to open some doors for me, and I was hired by the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) as a manager of Community and Donor Relations.”
On a mission to the United States
“Soon, JAFI offered me a promotion, but it meant a return to the United States. I knew that leaving Israel was not going to be easy, but I accepted the position knowing that I would still be connected to Israel on a daily basis. I was based in California, which enabled me to take advantage of the outdoor lifestyle when I wasn’t traveling to various communities on behalf of JAFI. 
“One of the communities that I was privileged to work with was Detroit. In 2013, the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit approached me with an offer to join their team as their associate director, Financial Resources Development Engagement.”
Making aliyah, 2018
“I wasn’t sure how it would happen, but I never gave up hope that I that I would make my way back to Israel. When the opportunity presented itself, I moved back and officially made aliyah.
“The experience was very emotional for me, since my grandfather was a Holocaust survivor. After the war, my grandfather registered to move to Palestine even though it was illegal (referred to as Aliyah Bet). My great-uncle applied for a visa to the United States. Realizing that they were the only two that survived, they made a pact that whichever visa arrived first, that’s where they would move together. In March 1947, their visas to the US arrived. It has taken my family more than 70 years to fulfill the dream of living in the Land of Israel.” 
Nonprofits, for purpose
“I spent the first decade of my professional career fund-raising. Two years ago, I realized that I had the potential to make an even greater impact on the nonprofit world, or what I prefer to call the for-purpose sector, by helping organizations help themselves – and I began working as a development consultant and strategist. It is incredibly rewarding to help strengthen organizations that are positively impacting Israeli society. 
“Because of my family history, I have a special connection to the Adopt-A-Safta program ( Modeled after the Big Brothers Big Sisters program, this initiative pairs volunteers with survivors of the Holocaust living in Israel.” 
Go-to cafe
“One of my favorite places to meet up with friends is Ofaimme Farm Café, located on the grounds of Jerusalem’s Hansen House (which had originally served as a hospital for Hansen’s disease in the late 19th century). It’s really a hidden gem.”
Favorite sports
“I love swimming and horseback riding. One of the wonderful things about living in Jerusalem is its proximity to the Dead Sea, where I go riding.” 
Looking back 
Before interviewing Aliyah in 2009, I wrote to her father, Marvin Schneider, and asked him what he was thinking when he named his daughter Aliyah. He told me that he had hopes for her to be “called up” to a higher calling, to make the world a better place, and that those hopes were being realized. 
Aliyah Schneider, 2019
“Israelis often joke that I had no choice but to move here because of my name, but in truth, mine was an aliyah of choice. I feel privileged to live here, doing what I love.”