July 19, 2024
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A Musician Makes Aliyah: Akiva Tolchin

On Shabbat Chanukah, Congregation Beth Abraham in Bergenfield bade farewell to one of its younger members with the traditional song Vishavu Banim (“And sons returned”) send-off. Akiva Tolchin, 22, made aliyah on Wednesday, December 16, on an individual flight from JFK, fulfilling the dream that he has planned for since returning from Yeshivat Hakotel four years ago. The decision to make aliyah was “clinched” while studying in Israel; ever since his return to the U.S., his life has been guided by this goal.

A talented musician who has been involved in singing, composition and production of Jewish music since high school, Akiva graduated from Yavneh Academy and the Torah Academy of Bergen County. After his year at Yeshivat Hakotel, he attended Yeshiva University for three semesters. Then, two major life events occurred. Akiva was diagnosed with a serious illness which needed top-notch medical care available in the U.S. It was also at this point that Akiva realized that he was postponing his pursuit of a career in music which had always been his passion, so he moved that back to the front burner by enrolling in the Berklee School of Music, based in Boston.

Currently, he is pursuing an online degree in Interdisciplinary Music Studies with a major in music production. In Israel, he plans to continue his online studies at Berklee and complete his degree. He will also be attending shiurim at Yeshivat Hakotel as his schedule permits. Akiva is looking forward to joining his “extended family” at the yeshiva. Rabbi Reuven Taragin, rosh yeshiva, and his family as well as the students, will no doubt envelop him with love and concern as he builds his new life.

Akiva is headed to the Rechavia section of Yerushalayim where he has a small studio apartment. From Yerushalayim he will be able to visit his many friends who remained in Israel after their gap year in Israel, served in the IDF and then enrolled in Bar Ilan University. Half of his Yeshivat Hakotel class has already made aliyah.

Akiva’s parents, Debra and Glenn, are fully on board with his decision. They have been supportive throughout the process as their priority is to see their son happy. Akiva’s sister is on board as well. His brother will be spending his gap year in Israel next year, which should prove to be a special experience for them both.

Asked for a message he wished to convey to the community as he was actualizing his dream of aliyah, Akiva offered the following:

“Young people are often discouraged from making aliyah as it may disrupt their schooling, dating and marriage. I believe that if aliyah is really your goal, plan for it. It may take you a few extra years to figure it out, but eventually things will line up. The end result is so worth it. Israel is a land of prophecy where things are clearer, more meaningful. You can feel this clarity upon landing.”

Listen to Tolchin’s CD, “Lift Your Eyes,” available online at https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/lift-your-eyes/id425841210.

By Pearl Markovitz

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