Arrivals: From Boston to Jerusalem

Ironically, if Boston-born Dan Brotman hadn't spent a year in Cape Town, South Africa, he doubts he would be living here today.

dan brotman 88 224 (photo credit: Netanya Hoffman)
dan brotman 88 224
(photo credit: Netanya Hoffman)
Birthplace: Boston Aliya Date: July 13, 2005 Occupation: Student Family Status: Single Ironically, if Boston-born Dan Brotman hadn't spent a year in Cape Town, South Africa, he doubts he would be living here today. Despite a difficult start, he has learned from his negative experiences and is ready to share them with new immigrants and provide the warm welcome lacking in his own aliya. FAMILY HISTORY Brotman is the eldest of three children in a family of academics. Growing up in a small town outside Boston without a big Jewish community, Brotman was bullied and never really fit in. He didn't identify with his religion and felt it was pushed down his throat. At 14, he decided to go out and see the world and enrolled in a Jewish school in Cape Town. For the first time in his life, he felt the sense of belonging that comes with being part of a community. Cape Town was paired with Beit Shemesh through Partnership 2000, and Brotman took part in an exchange program that brought him here for two weeks. Unlike past visits when he felt dragged along, this trip was his own choice and after the positive experience he decided to make aliya. BEFORE ARRIVAL When he returned to America, Brotman began working on his Hebrew and listening to Israeli radio. He also joined a Hebrew school program called Prozdor. While his mother supported his decision to move to Israel, Brotman's father preferred he complete his university studies in the States. His friends didn't think he would make it here, and warned him that he'd never survive the army. Despite these obstacles, Brotman joined a group of about 30 olim through Garin Tzabar and made aliya one month after his high-school graduation. UPON ARRIVAL Garin Tzabar sent the group to Kibbutz Ramat Hashofet near Yokne'am. They would live on the kibbutz for 10 months, beginning their three years of army service after the first two months. The kibbutz turned out to be a big disappointment due to its insufficient ulpan, dining facilities and social scene. Brotman did not feel prepared for the army after two months in the country. He also found it difficult to begin serving a country he'd never lived in and hadn't received anything positive from yet. After two months of training in the Education Corps, he arrived at his base in Eilat to find no position waiting for him, and his commanding officers were unwilling to send him where he could be useful. Having come here to contribute, he felt his talent was wasted. He spent 14 hours a week traveling to and from a nonexistent job. He had come for a sense of belonging, thinking Israelis would embrace him as a lone soldier, but he was not invited to anyone's Shabbat table. No one tried to make him feel at home. Despite the bad experience, after a visit to the US he was determined to return to his service. He received a "welcome back" call from his commanding officer threatening that if he did not return to his base the next morning he would be thrown into jail. Brotman decided he did not have to suffer any longer. He went directly to an army psychologist to begin the monthlong process of quitting the service. Three days later, the Second Lebanon War began. Brotman couldn't handle the stress and decided to leave, deeming his aliya a failure. Two months he spent in Australia gave him the perspective to remember the things he liked about Israel and he decided to give it one more chance. He registered for Hebrew University's Mechina program where he took classes he enjoyed, worked on his Hebrew and developed friendships, restoring his self-esteem. Some might call him a quitter for leaving the army, but he considers himself a survivor and a winner because he stayed in the country. Others in his garin served full terms in combat units, but then left. LIVING ENVIRONMENT Brotman lives in a two-bedroom apartment in Jerusalem's French Hill neighborhood, with a Dead Sea view from the balcony, which his parents own and his mother decorated. He greatly appreciates feeling at home after the kibbutz and army experience. WORK Brotman is studying anthropology and sociology at the Hebrew University. His parents are supporting him financially. He is concerned about making a living but refuses to compromise his standards, even if it means leaving the country. However, he warns that when people complain about not making enough money here, they're not being entrepreneurial enough - there are many ways to make a living and one has to be "more creative than just opening another café." CIRCLE AND HOBBIES Brotman's circle comprises mostly immigrants, but he plans to make Israeli friends in university. He enjoys exercising, reading and attending cultural events. He loves that people here enjoy simple things like chatting over coffee rather than revolving their pastimes around consumerism. LANGUAGE After the university ulpan and the army, Brotman is comfortable reading, writing and conversing in Hebrew. He feels that the culture is more of a barrier in connecting with Israelis than the language, but that it's mostly a matter of finding the right people. RELIGION Brotman considers himself "still experimenting religiously" and says there is no reason to fit into a particular stereotype. He enjoys the fact that the country revolves around the Jewish holidays and finds it easier to observe them here because people are more supportive. He fasted for the first time this past Yom Kippur. IDENTIFICATION He considers himself a citizen of the world. "I don't limit myself geographically, but I am proud to say I live in Israel." He doesn't identify himself as completely Israeli or American. "Isn't it more interesting to have a more colorful, mixed identity?" Brotman asks. "I wouldn't want to be a 'typical' anyone." PLANS He doesn't know what he will ultimately do for a living, but believes that "you've got to stick with what you're good at and enjoy, you don't have to reinvent yourself." He is fond of learning and may follow his parents into academia. He is also interested in Africa and would love to split his time between the two places that helped form his identity. At one point he wanted to be an aliya emissary, but he feels he is fulfilling that dream, albeit not in the way he had imagined. "There's nothing I can do about what happened to me," he says. "All I can do is be there for others so it doesn't happen to them." He invites guests to Shabbat dinner regularly to do for others what wasn't done for him. To Brotman, the most rewarding part of being here is the opportunity to help others. 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