Sunday, July 31, 2011


I was asked to post a Dvar Torah online that I had given this past Shabbat. I have agreed to do so, and here it is:

This past Shabbat I was in Teaneck, NJ. I stayed with my good friends, Sheryl and David Blass.  It so happened that this particular Shabbat, the Sisterhood of Arzei Darom would be having their annual Sisterhood Potluck Seudat Shlishit.  I was thrilled that I would be there to participate in this event as I really missed all my women friends from Arzei Darom since I moved away in May 2010.  

Late Friday afternoon, I was settled in at the Blass home when I heard Sheryl talking on the phone. She was speaking with Adina Littwin who was coordinating the Sisterhood Potluck Seudat Shlishit.  The conversation was about the fact that they needed someone to speak and I believe that Adina was asking Sheryl to give a Dvar Torah at the event.  Sheryl saw me nearby and she said to Adina, “Rachel Stern is here. She will do it. She will give the D’var Torah!”.  And, before I had a chance to object she hung up.  She turned to me and grinned – “You are giving the D’var Torah at the Sisterhood event tomorrow!”.  

I was, of course, a bit dismayed, but ready to rise to the challenge.  In a panic though, I grabbed a Chumash and then logged onto the internet in the hopes of finding some scintillating tidbits having to do with that weeks parsha. I knew, of course that I would relate it to my making aliyah, that went without saying – but that seemed too easy! 

As I scanned the various articles I found online regarding Parshat Maasei, I did find something that I liked.  Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Weinreb had written something interesting about Maasei. 

Maasei, means “journeys” and Parshat Maasei starts off enumerating each of the “journeys” the Jews made while in the midbar, the desert.  It enumerated 42 “way stations”, stops the Jews made on their way to the Promised Land – Eretz Yisrael.  These journeys were far from the type of journeys we make nowadays – vacations, travel to exotic islands, trips to resorts and spas, enjoyment of theme parks – the journeys of the Jews in the midbar were fraught with many trials and tribulations.  

Yet, the leining of this portion of the parsha is done in a cheerful tune, a marching tune.  This then is the question Rabbi Weinreb poses – why, if the journeys were not happy ones, do we chant it in a happy tune?  He goes on to explain that these were not journeys without a destination, these were not journeys without a goal.  Endless journeys, filled with trials and tribulations would be unbearable.  Additionally, the destination is no mere destination. It is the destination that is a gift from Hashem, the gift of the Holy land, Eretz HaKodesh, Eretz Yisrael.  So, not only did the Jews HAVE a destination, but they had a destination that was wondrous!  Thus, the words of the parsha may convey the serious side, the trials and tibulations, but the tune of the leining conveys the happiness, the simcha of knowing we will eventually reach our destination and that destination will be wonderful! 

Now, there is no way that I can read this and not come away with a more personal meaning for myself.  To explain this I have to take you back many years – to the year I was 12 years old and Bat Mitzvah.  When I was Bat Mitzvah, I became responsible for my own mitzvot, and my own sins. No longer would my parents bear this burden.  It was now MY burden and my responsibility.  I like to think that MY journeys began at age 12, when I became Bat Mitzvah.  Now, I am going to give away my age here (although I have never been particularly shy about that anyway), but that was FORTY YEARS AGO.   Think about this – the Jews wandered in the desert for FORTY YEARS before they were able to enter into the promised land.  

Well, I spent forty years, on many journeys and many stops along the way.  I too, experienced many trials and tribulations.  And now, forty years after my Bat Mitzvah, I am making aliyah. I am leaving my own personal midbar and enteriing the Holy land, Eretz HaKodesh.   

So, this parsha is very close to me and very personal.   It is my fervent wish, dream, and prayer that we all will be zocheh to meet once again, like this, but in Eretz HaKodesh, Eretz Yisrael. 


Friday, July 29, 2011

Eighteen Days (Countdown...)

I am now safely ensconced in the home of my parents in Monsey, NY.  It is very smoky.  My mom is a smoker and the house absolutely reeks of cigarette smoke. It is the first thing one notices when one enters this house -- the smell and the smokiness.  I really dislike it intensely.  I know that by the time I leave for Israel ALL the clothes I have with me and my luggage are also going to reek of smoke.  Thank G-d for laundry detergent and shampoo!! 

I am leaving Monsey in a little while and heading out to Teaneck, NJ to spend a Shabbat there. I expect it to be nice to be with all my old friends and cohorts from Arzei Darom.  It is a bonus too, that there will be a Sisterhood Seudat Shlishit this Shabbat and I will be able to participate.  

I will be VERY busy over the next two weeks. This is my to-do list.  (Take a deep breath...) In no particular order:

Shabbat in Teaneck
Shabbat in Elizabeth
Shabbat in Monsey
Relatives party - tzetchem l'Shalom for me at my parents house
Friends party - tzetchem l'Shalom for me at my parents house
visit cemetery in Paramus (Barry and Uncle Jackie)
visit cemeteries in Long Island (grandparents)
meet with my financial advisor
turn my car in
inform banks and credit card companies that I will be in Israel
buy the cheese that Chloe wants and freeze it
visit with Judith, Hilda, and Rebecca in upstate NY
visit Mildred Blas
sell my silver

I am sure there is more but for now, this is it.  I will post as I check them off. 

Shabbat Shalom!!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Party Girl, yep, that's me!

So, last night my brother, Rabbi Yosef Furman and sister-in-law, Yehudis (Joel and Jessica to me!) made a "Tzetchem L'Shalom", a "farewell" party for me at their home.  They invited all my friends in Baltimore and a good time was had by all.  It really was very nice.  Everything was done in blue and white, with a cake shaped like Israel, and Israeli food.  My nieces, Chaya Sara and Devorah made the sweet stuff -- CS made the cake and Devo made the blue and white cookies. Of course, someone said it looked like a "Shalom Zachar" or a "bris" - well, gee, thanks!   

There were felafel, pita, Israeli salad, pickles, olives, hot peppers, eggplant salad, cole slaw, techina, hummous, babaganoush, kibbeh, burekas, crudites, charif, tons of food, sodas, Israeli malt soda, and of course, scotch, bourbon, vodka and wine.  

Lot's of conversation, lots of hugs, kisses, and shared emotions. And jokes, laughter and smiles. mother is ALSO making a party for me -- two in fact!!  One party will be for all the cousins and aunts and uncles and the other for all the friends in the NY/NJ area.   So, yeah, I am becoming a Party Girl.  I guess it's good for me to go off on a high note....

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Kletzky Murder

I am quite disturbed by all the comments I have read that call for the death of Levi Aron and the horrible words used to describe him. Yes, his crime was heinous and yes, he must be punished -- locked away.  But there are two things being overlooked here:  

1)  HIS Family:  how must THEY be feeling?  Imagine being told your son is an axe-murderer?  Or that he is pedophile? or both? 

2)  What made him the way he is?  What kind of childhood did he have?  Was he beaten?  Raped? Tortured? Sexually abused?  

No, a rotten childhood is not an excuse for immoral behavior, but it is an explanation.  I pity him and his family as much as I pity the Kletzky family. The difference is the Kletzky family will never have answers and never understand.  But he will and does. 

Miscellaneous thoughts

  1. Today is my parents 54th Anniversary. Happy Triple Chai Anniversary to my parents, Helen and Ed Furman.  You can wish them the same at
  2. A terrible terrible terrible crime was committed against a young Jewish boy and his family.  Leiby Kletzky had gone missing -- and was found, his body dismembered into many pieces.  The horror of this is that this crime was perpetrated by a Aron Levi, young man who seemed nice and normal, also a "frum" Jew.  My heart is breaking for both families, the family of Leiby AND the family of Aron.  
  3. Today I made a very nice connection with a relative of my son in law and we found convergence in more than just familial connection.  I love Facebook and LinkedIn.  The internet has permitted me connections with people that I otherwise would never have made a connection.  
  4. My faith in people was restored by the intervention of some lovely people in response to an email erroneously sent to them, and if that sounds too vague and mysterious, it was meant to! 

Meet Me At The Airport!

Registration to participate in the welcome olim ceremony at Ben Gurion Airport opened up today.  I am VERY excited now.  Family and friends in Israel are signing up and are going to meet me there.  I was watching the video of the most recent arrivals.  It looks really exciting, but I am sure I am going to be EXHAUSTED by the time I arrive.  I wonder if I will be ABLE to be as excited and happy as everyone in the video appeared to be.   I am going alone and that is the part that is the hardest for me.  Even though I will not be alone when I am there, this whole adventure is so bittersweet for me.  
This aliyah was a dream that Barry and I had shared.  My making aliyah now, though, is NOT about keeping that dream alive. That dream died a long time ago.  My making aliyah now, is about doing what is best for ME and for my children.  It is about the mitzvah of Aliyah.  It is also about a new start for me, a new life.  
I am scared, nervous, excited, happy, thrilled, and just emotional in general about this whole event.  I pray for a successful aliyah...

Thursday, July 7, 2011

I Put My Trust in Hashem

I put my trust in Hashem.  But DO I??? I recently had an experience that caused me much cause for concern and I was extremely worried.  

What happened was I had sent a cashier's check for a large sum of money to a vendor who was providing me a with a service, related to my aliyah. I sent it via FedEx so it could be tracked.  I am EXTREMELY organized and of course I have in my aliyah binder, the receipt from FedEx with the tracking number and the receipt for the cashier's check from my bank.  

Anyway, last night the vendor contacted me asking me if I had ever sent him the check.  I was rather nonplussed as I HAD sent it to him, a bit over a MONTH ago, I had even emailed him TWICE confirming it.  And NOW, one month later, he is telling me he never got it! 

So, of course, first I track it via FedEx.  DELIVERED.  So then I call my bank.  CASHED.  So, I get back in touch with the vendor. Are you SURE you never got the check?  After all, it was both delivered and cashed.  He tells me NOPE, never got it, never cashed (deposited) it.  He tells me that IF he had received the check, it would have been immediately deposited, and his bank account number would be on the back of the check. He gave me the account number.  

I was going to go first thing in the morning to my bank to get a copy of the cashed check, front and back.  IF his account number was NOT on the bank, then I would have to file a claim for a fraudulent check cashing, and get the police involved.  BUT -- this is NOT covered by the FDIC, nor by my renters insurance, nor by the shipping insurance.   I was "shit out of luck" as they say for a large sum of money -- WHICH I DO NOT HAVE!

So, of course it was with an extremely heavy heart and upset stomach and screaming nerves that I forced myself to bed last night. I was extremely WORRIED.  I woke up at just shy of 4AM, with but one thought in my head -- worry about this check. 

I decide to check my email.  Here is what I found, from the vendor who told me that he had not received the check: 

"Your check was received and deposited early last month.  I thought it was since I made the note on your invoice and I am careful on that matter.  It was deposited with another check and therefore was over the amount I did the "History Search" for.  I am extremely sorry for the confusion."

Now, he "made a note on my invoice and he is careful in the matter" -- and yet, he claimed not to have received the check???  Yes, he apologized, and Yes, I am extremely relieved.  
And a little annoyed.  But that will pass. 

But I was just now, also trying to understand what I was supposed to learn from this.  And, it hit me:  I was supposed to learn to TRUST IN HASHEM.  To not worry so much.  To relax a little bit (just a little) and to trust that Hashem will not let me down and that things will BE OKAY!!!  That I will be okay.   

So, I SAY I trust in Hashem. But when I worry needlessly about things like this, doesn't that negate what I say?  So, I know I have to learn this lesson.  It is not an easy one to learn.   That is what my next prayer to Hashem will include - a request for His assistance in learning this lesson.  

Monday, July 4, 2011


Life is complicated.  Things happen beyond our control.  All we can control is how we respond to those things.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Emotional and Practical Considerations

I have been asked by many people what is motivating my impending aliyah and have been privy to the sentiment that I am "brave" for doing this, especially as I am doing it "alone".  It it for those people that I am writing this post. 

In my first post I noted the circumstances of my life that brought me to the point at which I have currently arrived.  I noted that my need for familial closeness has been the strong pull for me to making aliyah. I want to be close to my daughter, my grandchild(ren), my sister, nieces, nephews, mechutanim, and friends in Israel.  And yes, this is true. 

But it in no way negates my love for Israel, my belief in HaShem and in his gift to the Jews of the land of Israel and in his commandment to us to return to the land as soon as we are able, to live and to die there.  If one takes a moment to read the quote by Yocheved Golani I have posted in the left hand sidebar of my blog, then one will understand that my aliyah is motivated also by an emotional, religious, and ideological need, desire,  and belief.  

In addition to the questions of my motivation, I am also inundated with questions relating to the more practical aspects of my aliyah.  How am I managing to do this?  Is Nefesh B'Nefesh assisting me?  Do I have a job? Do I have a place to live?  Where am I planning to live? 

I do have answers for all of these questions.  Not all the answers are ones that would satisfy those who are inclined to make all decisions based on the practical concerns.  

Before I begin there are two main things a person (or family) should have/do before making aliyah:

  1. have savings or a stable and secure income  -- enough to live on for the entire first year of aliyah.
  2. have a plan for how you are going to manage your aliyah and how you are going to live once you are in Israel.  

These are two prerequisites for making aliyah.  This does NOT mean you have to be RICH. But you do need to have those savings or income and you do need a plan.  If you plan to ask for financial assistance from NBN -- they will want you to have those two things in place.  If they do not think you will have a successful aliyah, then they will not be inclined to provide much assistance. 

So, the question is, how am I managing?  

  1. I have an income source that is stable and secure and enough to get by on for the first year of my aliyah
  2. I have savings to fall back on if, chas v'sholom, I need to. 
  3. I have also been extremely frugal and am socking as much money aside as I possibly can.  I buy only what I absolutely need and no more.   I want to have as much money as possible to  endure all the major expenses that making aliyah entails: shipping all my worldly possessions to Israel, security deposit on my new home, attorney fees for dealing with contracts (lease), purchase of a car, and purchase of some larger appliances.  
  4. I have also applied for financial assistance for my aliyah -- not only from Nefesh B'Nefesh but also from two other organizations that provide financial assistance to Jews making aliyah.  But before I name those two organizations, a word about NBN and financial assistance.  There is a misconception that NBN gives out a LOT of money to individuals, couples, and families making aliyah.  Once upon a time, NBN did give out large amounts of money.  Today, that is no longer the case. To be sure, they DO offer substantial grants -- but in low to mid four figures.  Do not base your ability to make aliyah totally upon receiving a grant from NBN.  
    1. Operation Exodus/Ebenezer - go to
    2. The Cyrus Foundation / Restoration Israel - go to:
I do not (yet) have a job in Israel.  Nefesh B'Nefesh strongly encourages potential olim to make a pilot trip to Israel and to do as much research and networking as they can BEFORE they go to Israel and try as best they can to secure a job before they even go to Israel. It sounds like a very difficult thing to do and I thank G-d that I do not NEED to do this.  However, if I did not have the stable income which I do have I WOULD need to do this and it would likely stress me out quite a bit.  I cannot offer much advice in this area, but I can say this:  while I was in Israel on my pilot trip, I sent out my CV cold to about 40 different non profit organizations in Israel (my work is in non-profit fundraising support). I received in response many positive emails, some wanting to interview me immediately, others asking me to be in touch with them when I am there in August.  So, this has given me a positive feeling for my ability to find work.  I feel confident that I will find a job when I am ready to do so.  

As for where I will live.  I made a pilot trip and the focus of that trip was to be to find a place to live.  I began my pilot trip with the intention of making aliyah to the North.  That would have allowed me to take advantage of  the NBN Go North program which offers many additional benefits to olim.  Those benefits would have included: a slightly larger personal grant, a $500 rebate on the cost of my pilot trip, and a $4000 subsidy toward the purchase of a car.  However, upon actually being there and checking out various communities in the North, I realized that living in the North would not work. The communities are too remote and isolated, the transpo infrastructure is not great, and even with a car would take too long to travel. I had spent 15 years commuting to NYC from NJ and Rockland County, NY -- and I will NEVER do that kind of commute again.   I also realized that I really want to be in an Anglo dominant community.  For me, at my age, that seemed best.  Thus it was that I changed my plans and began checking out the communities in the Modiin area. I wound up renting a house in Hashmonaim/Ramat Modiin.  Finding that house was an adventure in itself, one that I will discuss in another post. 

So, there you have it. My answers to some of the questions I am asked.  Dear reader, if you have ANY questions about aliyah, about the process of making aliyah, about dealing with NBN, or the Socnut (Jewish Agency) -- please do ask.  You can use the comments section of this post/blog or email me directly.   I will do my best to answer any and all questions that come my way.  

Friday, July 1, 2011

Doing the Math (Just a mini-thought)

Ok, so we wandered in the desert for 40 years before we were allowed to enter Eretz Yisrael.  Well, that got me thinking.  I am going to be 52 very soon.  Specifically, the 8th of Elul, which falls on September 7th of this year.  Or, we could use my Gregorian birthdate of September 11 -- yes 9/11 is my birthday, folks!  

But back to the numbers.  I had a Bat Mitzvah at age 12.  Accordingly, at age 12, I became responsible for my own actions.  I became responsible to perform the mitzvot and would be judged by HaShem.  No longer were my parents responsible.  FORTY YEARS later -- I am making aliyah!  I am finally leaving my Midbar and entering Eretz Yisrael! 

I find this to be extremely appropriate, meaningful, and well...timely! 

That's all...

The Lead Up to my Aliyah


I am making aliyah.  Finally.  But it has been a long and strange journey to get me to this point.  For more background on me and who I am and what my life has been like go to Lishmoah -- my earlier blog in which I detail much of my life from childhood.  But my more recent travails are not detailed there.  I have hesitated to publish the details of my recent life for a variety of reasons.  But most of those reasons are no longer viable.  So for the background the leads me to my current attempt at aliyah I am publishing here a synopsis of my life over the past two and one half years.  

In January 2009 my beloved husband, Rabbi Barry Stern, slipped and fell on an icy patch. He struck his head on the ice/pavement and suffered a major subdural hematoma. He was brain dead upon arrival to the ER.  We buried him six days later.  Since he died my entire life changed.

Barry was a wonderful husband and provider -- as long as he was alive. He was disorganized and a procrastinator --two traits of his which translated into neglectfulness and irresponsibility upon his death. He let two life insurance policies lapse, neglected to change beneficiary designations on his retirement accounts after his divorce, and never wrote a will.  There was only one life insurance policy in effect when he died, equal only to one year of his salary, naming me as the sole beneficiary. 

After Barry died, his ex-wife successfully turned his four daughters against me with lies, and they in turn repeated those lies to his parents and siblings.  Now, I not only lost my husband, but also the family I had come to love and care for, a family I had considered as my own.  In addition to this, she successfully convinced the girls to take me to court.  I was thus sued by all four of his daughters and by his ex wife for...EVERYTHING.  The girls sued me for the life insurance and the ex sued me for the retirement accounts.  They also petitioned for my removal as the administrator of the estate and a court appointed substitute administrator replaced me.  I lost the life insurance to the girls, the ex was awarded 50% of the retirement accounts but she so manipulated the numbers and the math that the court in reality gave her 75% of the retirement funds.  The substitute administrator proceeded to decimate the estate by selling the house for a pittance and to pocket the majority of the proceeds.

I could not even sue the establishment in front of which he fell, nor could I sue the town which owned the municipal property on which he was found.  There was a civilian first responder to his fall, who claimed he stopped to investigate something that did not look right, but who "lawyered up" when the police went the next day to ask him more questions!  I could not even bring him to court for questioning.  All the laws on the books put me in the losing position for ALL avenues of seeking remuneration for my loss! (Not that ANY amount of money would replace my beloved Barry!)

I was forced out of my house and home, forced out of my community because I could no longer afford to live there, a community in which I had lived for eleven years and in which my husband and I had been extremely active members.  I moved to a community where I knew not a soul.  (B"H, that community was WONDERFUL for me!). 

I have ONE daughter who is married and living in E"Y. I have a 2 1/2 year old grandson there, and now, IY"H, one on the way!  I am making Aliyah this August. My daughter and her family have been struggling terribly due to lack of finances.  You see, when they got married, in January 2008 (Barry died on their first anniversary!), we had agreed to help support them for as long as it took for them to finish their educations and get jobs.  Barry's death and the subsequent loss of sustenance I experienced put that to rest -- I could no longer provide that kind of support.  My daughter had been very close to Barry's girls and with what they have done to her mother (me) that closeness evaporated.  She still thinks of them as her sisters and is very pained by what they have done.  The loss of family which I sustained has, unfortunately, impacted her as well. 

Because of their difficulties and because I cannot support two households they are going to come live with me in Israel.  Is it an ideal situation? No.  But it is the only solution at this point.  For at least one year we will live in the same household and merge resources.  

It should be noted that making aliyah has been a dream of mine for a long time.  Many years ago, I went to Israel for a post high school adventure.  I stayed for two years.  I loved Israel and thought I would stay.  But after two years, I was suddenly hit hard by homesickness.  I had no family at all in Israel.  So, I returned to the States. Little did I know that it would be 23 years before I went back to Israel.  (My first trip back to Israel occurred in 2003 with Barry for a two week visit when his oldest daughter was there for her shana b'aretz.)

For reasons having to do with the theme of this blog being aliyah, I am not going to detail those 23 years of my life, nor even of the years prior to my meeting and marrying Barry.  What I can write is that throughout our entire marriage, making aliyah was a constant thought in our collective minds.  Both Barry and I wanted very much to go and live in Israel. Situational considerations, however, disallowed us from doing so.  He had four daughters from a previous marriage and an ex who would never have tolerated his making aliyah and taking the girls with him.  He would never have made aliyah without his children.  Thus it was that our discussions of aliyah were limited to planning for an aliyah AFTER the kids were grown and out of the house.  We had determined that we would make aliyah after his youngest had completed her "shana b'aretz".  For us that meant in late 2010.  Unfortunately that never happened. Barry died in 2009.  

I did not then let go of the aliyah dream. But there was no idealism now propelling me toward aliyah.  There was more a need to be with family who loved me.  I had sustained so many losses.  My ONLY daughter was married and living in Israel and I had a grandson there.  My sister and her family lives there.  I have nieces and nephews there and one niece is married and has a baby.  My mechutanim live in Israel.  I have a vast plethora of wonderful friends living in Israel.  Even though I have friends here in the States, and my parents are here and my brother and his family are here -- the pull to be with the others, to be in Israel was far stronger for me.  And so it was that in late 2010 I approached Nefesh B'Nefesh with my questions about the process of making aliyah.

I filled out the application.  I signed many forms. I investigated and researched and asked questions and talked to many people and signed up for many email lists so I could learn as much as possible about all the issues and considerations of making aliyah.  I acquired certified copies of all my documents, and apostilles for each one, I submitted my financial affidavit, my health affidavit, etc.  I procured a new passport, and a visa.  I have a huge binder FILLED with all these papers and lists and information I have acquired over the past year.  

I planned my pilot trip.  My next post will be about that.  (no, not the next one, a past one in a different blog. Go to: