Bringing new energy into Efrat

Even after 10 years, the strongest memories are of those ‘first firsts.’

Adena Mark (photo credit: Courtesy)
Adena Mark
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Adena Mark, 43
New York,
to Efrat, 2004
Of all her accomplishments, Adena Mark is most proud of how well her children have adapted to Israel. When the family arrived in August 2004 from the leafy suburb of Woodmere, New York, the kids were 10, nine, seven, three and one.
“There were a lot of difficulties, but the big picture was a lot of happiness and fulfilling a dream,” she says. “We knew we just had to get over the rough spots. And my children have never looked back.
They see America as a place where Grandpa and their cousins live, where it’s fun to go shopping. But they would never trade what they have here.”
A sixth child was born in Israel and is named after Mark’s mother, Sara Blaustein, who died in a terrorist shooting on the road from Efrat to Jerusalem in May 2001. Blaustein and her second husband had made aliya just nine months previously, before the youngest of Mark’s three siblings entered high school. “Everybody thought they were crazy, leaving a comfortable life and all their family and in the midst of the intifada, but they stuck with their goal.”
Mark explains that her childhood home was infused with Zionism and a love of Israel. Still, she says, “it was like a dream you wanted but didn’t really plan for it to happen.”
When it did happen, though tragedy followed so soon after, the dream was not abandoned; rather, it only became stronger for the family. Today, three of the four siblings live in Israel.
“My mother’s death was the real push for me,” she recalls. “I felt that I needed to be here to help raise my sister and continue my mother’s dream – not to let ‘them’ win, but to bring my family here. It took a couple of years till we were able to make it happen.”
And when a baby was born two years later, the new sabra was named for the grandmother she would never meet.
“Our response to terrorism is rebuild and flourish, and my little Sara is a symbol of our strength to persevere,” says Mark.
Sara is now a second-grader. The oldest Mark daughter is in her second year of national service, and the next daughter is an IDF soldier. The 10th-grader and seventh-grader are involved in the Efrat chapter of the Bnei Akiva youth movement, and a fifth-grader will soon follow in their footsteps.
IT’S ALL GOOD “I think it’s been a very successful klita [absorption],” says their mother. “The secret is our true love for Israel and our strong belief in what we did. With all the complaints we have about the government and politics here, in my home we don’t say, ‘Israelis are so this,’ or ‘Israel is so that.’ I don’t believe in those negative kinds of comments. This is our home.
We gave our children a lot of love and support in the hard times, with the attitude that we are all olim and we are all in this together.”
Although at first, “every outing, errand and task was a challenge that required concentration, training and instruction,” she quickly mastered the supermarket, road signs and metric system.
When the list of required school supplies arrived a month after their aliya, she recalls, “I wanted to relay feelings of excitement and positive energy for the kids, knowing they would be nervous and scared. I called them to sit with me while I opened the mail. I looked at the list of school supplies, and not only did I not understand most of it, but I had never even heard of some of them. And just like that, I simply lost it and burst into tears. Not exactly the mood I had planned.”
Today she can laugh at those early misadventures.
PARTY PLANNER Mark got divorced in 2010 and found a career to combine her passions for Israel, creativity and organizational skills. She has a degree in advertising from New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology, and in Woodmere had built a successful, upscale interior design business with her then-husband.
“I got into party planning because I had a lot of phone calls asking where to hold bar mitzvas and other events in Israel, and I was happy to provide ideas. Eventually I was getting calls also from people like my neighbor’s husband’s cousin’s trainer. I figured, if I was going beyond family and friends, there was a need for doing this professionally.”
Last July, she partnered with Zahava Englard, another Efrat mother in a similar stage of life. Their business, A to Z Events Israel, caters to American Jews from communities similar to the ones in which the two women used to reside.
“Zahava and I both lived in places of great comfort – Woodmere and Teaneck, New Jersey – and so when we came to Israel for Zionist reasons, we knew we were making sacrifices,” she says. “Because we lived that same level of lifestyle – housewives in suburbia with big houses and fancy cars – we understand what our clients want...
and we know how to find it for them at the best prices.”
Educated at the Yeshivah of Flatbush and Yeshiva University’s Central High School for Girls, Mark is able to negotiate with service providers in fluent Hebrew that she has honed over the past decade with great determination.
“My goal when I came was not to be an outsider. I had a Hebrew-English dictionary from Nefesh B’Nefesh with me at all times, because I wanted to understand the news on the radio and then to read and understand the newspaper. Now I have Israeli friends, and I socialize in Hebrew,” she says.
Still, she chose Efrat in part because of its large Anglo population and the school system’s helpfulness in accommodating the children’s education and absorption needs.
“I also like being so close to Jerusalem while having the feeling of being in suburbia. But it’s really about the people. When my mother was murdered, we sat shiva here in Efrat, and the community was overwhelmingly loving and enveloping. We felt this was the warm place we wanted to come to.”
Aside from Gush Etzion, she likes exploring Old Jaffa, Caesarea and the cosmopolitan Tel Aviv neighborhoods of Neveh Tzedek and Nahalat Binyamin.
She finds Israelis to be “amazing, loving, beautiful people.”
If she could change one thing about life in Israel, she says, it would be “that we would always have unlimited hot water for showers!” She does not gloss over the difficulties (“In addition to coming to a new place, I was still recovering from the terror attack, and then came the divorce”), but she focuses on the triumphs, comparing the pain of moving and acclimating to labor and childbirth.
“At the end, you’re blessed with this beautiful gift.”
She concludes: “I feel that I came out on top, that I’m independent, happy and healthy, and I found a business partner who also understands challenge, stepped up to it and came out the other side with flying colors.
We are two women who can handle everything professionally and with a smile, because we know about challenges.”