Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Omaha or Akko?

I just met for coffee with Emily.  Emily goes to Beth Israel - at least she used to go to Beth Israel.  Now Emily is a student at the University of Haifa.  She is back in Omaha on break, but when she returns to Israel she will officially make aliya and make Israel her permanent home.

At our meeting Emily reminded me that it was less than one year ago that I met with her for coffee and tried to convince her to go on a birthright trip to Israel.  Now, a year later she is a passionate Zionist and will start her new life in the Jewish State!

Nothing could make a Rabbi prouder than hearing something like that.

At the same time, I have to admit that I am a bit jealous of Emily.  When I was her age I also wanted to move to Israel.  I had all sorts of plans to make it possible but in the end the uncertainty of learning a new language, a new culture, making a living, and being far from family were too much for me.

I took a different path with my life.  When I look back, I have no regrets.  I have a beautiful family and a meaningful job that I wake up every morning excited to do.

When I was first introduced to Akko a few years ago, I must admit that I dreamed every day of leaving the wonderful community in Omaha and helping to build the wonderful community in Akko.  I still dream of that periodically, but the reality is that the older I get the more impractical that dream becomes.

I love what I am doing here and in many ways I feel that I am contributing to the Jewish people more than I would if I lived in Israel.  Emily is not the first student that I have encouraged to visit Israel and she will not be the last.  Most will probably not stay in Israel, but many will grow to love and support the Jewish State.

And more important than the land of Israel is the Torah, and believe it or not, there are still a few Jews left in Nebraska that have become estranged from the Torah and I hope to reintroduce it to as many of them as possible and inspire them to rekindle the love that their ancestors had with our heritage.

All in all I am happy and fulfilled here.

But I suffer from a bug that is common to most Rabbis and Jewish educators in the Diaspora.  We want to be in Israel but we feel we have work to do here.  There is no cure.  i will continue to send students to encounter Israel and I will continue to partner with our friends in Akko who are building a Jewish community in a Jewish city in the Jewish State, and maybe one day I will myself merit to live in Akko, or Hebron, or Shilo.

But today I have to get back to work.  Judah Halevi wrote, "My heart is in the East while I am in the West."  That does not apply to me.  I love Israel and will continue to work to support it any way that I can.  But my heart is right here in Omaha with the Jewish community.