An American Jewish rabbi is making Aliyah (immigrating to Israel), inviting not only his congregation, but all of American Jewry, to follow suit.
Rabbi Shalom Rosner, rabbi of Congregation Bais Ephraim Yitzchak in Woodmere NY (known as “The Island Shul”) announced his decision last month. He will help establish a new community in the Beit Shemesh region called Nofei HaShemesh.
"This is not a sudden decision," Rabbi Rosner explained. "My wife and I and our six children have been dreaming and planning for this day for years. It is a highly personal decision yet part of a much larger mission… Nearly 20,000 North American Jews have moved to Israel in recent years. This is a dynamic, growing trend. We have much to add to Israeli society, and the community we are embarking to develop will, with G-d's help, be a model environment reflecting our ideals and our vision for centuries to come."
Nofei HaShemesh will take some of the hallmarks of American Jewish life – community rabbis and synagogue-centric communal life – and bring it to a region already populated by a large number of olim (immigrants to Israel). Located between the existing Anglo-rich neighborhoods of Scheinfeld and Nofei Aviv, 30 families have already purchased homes in the 400-unit neighborhood now being built.
Rabbi Rosner gave classes at Yeshiva University in Talmud, Jewish Law and Bible over the past seven years since being ordained and studying at the school’s RIETS Seminary’s Kollel Elyon Talmudic fellowship.
Calling on Others to Join
“Aliya is an ideal that we as Jews can all recognize as our common destiny,” Rabbi Rosner wrote to his congregants. “We hope to forge a path that will encourage other inspired Jews from around the world to become our neighbors, along with veteran Israelis who share our commitment to building a community based on a deeply rooted love of our people, our Torah values and service to our nation.”
He is not leaving due to any lack of success, having built a synagogue community of 15 families into 125 in just six years.
A Long Struggle Homeward
“On a personal level, [Aliyah] has always been a paramount - yet elusive - quest for our family,” Rabbi Rosner said. “Before we were married, my wife and I had decided in principle that Israel would be our home. Decisions in principle are often mightily slowed down by developments on the ground. Before we knew it, my wife’s medical school was upon us, along with my rabbinic training at Yeshiva University. Starting a family and many other considerations naturally followed, all creating a situation where Aliyah remained more a beckoning dream than an immediate step.
“Despite these ‘distractions,’ rarely did even one day pass in which we both didn’t express to each other our desire to make this move. Our hearts were heavy that we were not in Israel. Whether it was the chafing distance of witnessing miraculous developments in the land or yearning to raise our children in the environment of holiness that is only available in Israel, the gravitational pull of Aliyah was a constant presence in our hearts and minds.”
Rabbi Rosner knows that the struggle is not over.
“Even while I know the period ahead will not be without its fair share of challenges and the occasional difficult days, we relish the chance to play our very own part in our people’s historic renewal,” he said. “Most exciting of all, we welcome others both from our own community and from other communities across North America and around the world who will make the decision to join us as we create a truly ideal environment in Israel…Hashem has given us the remarkable historic chance to make this land ours…and so many wonderful people who went before us have done the ‘heavy lifting’ to get us newcomers to where we are today.”
Dr. Tamar Rosner, the rabbi’s wife, is taking part in the Nefesh b’Nefesh Aliyah organization’s special promotion seeking to bring doctors on Aliyah. The pediatrician told the Five Towns Jewish News last year that the Nefesh b’Nefesh grant played a role in making their consideration of Aliyah a reality. “Doctors don’t move [to Israel] because of a lucrative salary,” Rosner said. “We’re going because it’s the Jewish homeland, and this fellowship is making the move more do-able. We know we are going to live a less lavish life than in the US, but we are not going to starve.”
Dr. Rosner is one of a number of doctors to apply for the special grant, which will be granted to ten docters a year by the Legacy Heritage Foundation through Nefesh B’Nefesh. The grant, in the form of an initial fellowship upon arrival in Israel and monthly supplemental income for the first two years, totals about $60,000. It is available to doctors under the age of 45 willing to practice at least nine months a year in Israel.
Move Spurs Rabbinic Support for Mass Aliyah
Following Rabbi Rosner’s announcement, an ad was taken out in Jewish papers and magazines both in Israel and the US by leading rabbis of his various communities. “As his long-time teachers, friends and supporters, we take great pride in this momentous milestone for both the American Jewish community and Israel,” the ad reads, ending with a partially-committal: “Many of us look forward to joining him.”
Signing the ad were: YU Dean Emeritus Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm, YU President Richard Joel, Former RCA President Rabbi Kenneth Hain, Young Israel President Rabbi Pesach Lerner, Orthodox Union President Stephen Savitsky, Former RCA President Rabbi Hershel Billet, YU Rosh Yeshiva Mordechai Willig, Rabbi Dr. Eddie Reichman, Rabbi Jay Marcus (a Staten Island rabbi who has already left his congregation and made Aliyah), YU Spiritual Adviser Rabbi Yosef Blau, Rabbi Jacob J. Schachter and YU Roshei Yeshiva Rabbi Hershel Reichman, Rabbi Zvi Sobolofsky, Rabbi Yaakov Neuberger, Rabbi Michael Rosensweig and Rabbi Meir Goldvicht.
Click here to view the ad in .pdf format
The last pro-Aliyah statement issued by American Jewish rabbis also originated at Yeshiva University. Put forth by the Kumah Aliyah movement, it read: “The following Roshei Yeshiva strongly urge every Jew to seriously consider making Aliyah. We believe that a massive return to our eternal homeland will contribute greatly to an alleviation of all demographic, economic and religious problems in Israel today. We urge the entire Jewish Diaspora, particularly the younger generation, to begin viewing Aliyah as a goal rather than an option.”
Signing that declaration were many of the rabbis from the current one. In addition, it was signed by Rabbi Aaron Soloveichik, of blessed memory, and YU Roshei Yeshiva Rabbi Dr. Moshe Dovid Tendler and Rabbi Hershel Schachter.
The declaration can be viewed by clicking here