April 8, 2024
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April 8, 2024
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Alec Kremins: ‘It’s Time to Come Home’

Alec Kremins

Alec Kremins, 24, made aliyah from New Rochelle via Long Beach, New York on November 16. His new home is in Tel Aviv, where he is hoping to find a job in a high-tech company.

Did you ever take trips to Israel as a child?

Yes, all the time. Before I made aliyah, I had probably been to Israel 25 or 30 times. My grandparents live here, so I used to come every year and then as a teen, I came for Birthright and then yeshiva.

Where did you go to college?

University of Michigan.

What got you motivated to make aliyah?

Even when I wasn’t religious, I always felt prouder of my Jewish identity than my American identity. I also remember hearing the U.S. national anthem and feeling like it was a nice song, but when I heard “Hatikva,” I felt emotional. I think a lot of American Jews have had that experience. On American Memorial Day, everyone is out barbecuing and having a good time, but Yom Hazikaron is very different.

I remember a specific moment on Birthright when we were in the military cemetery on Har Herzl. It was a very emotional experience for me. I realized that I wanted to be a part of the place where people gave their lives so Jews could live freely. Once I started becoming more observant, it was a no-brainer. I wondered how Orthodox Jews could live outside of Israel.

What was your aliyah experience like? You came six weeks after the war started.

My original aliyah date was October 15. I had my suitcases packed before Simchat Torah and was doing a last Shabbat with a lot of my friends. Over the day, I understood that I probably wouldn’t be making aliyah that week.

What did people think about you making aliyah?

No one makes aliyah from North America from a rational, intellectual perspective. When the judicial reform protests were happening, I told people I was making aliyah, and everyone thought I was crazy. Coming when I did proves that there is always something happening in Israel and it doesn’t matter when you come.

I wanted to be in Israel to volunteer. I’ve done a lot I’m proud of—I have picked olives, barbecued in the south, and played music for soldiers in the hospital. I feel less helpless here because there is always a way you can help.

Do you feel safe in Israel right now?

With all the antisemitism in the world, I feel much safer walking around here in tzitzit and a kippah than I do in New York.

What do you love about being here?

Last week, my cousin gave me a guitar that needed repair, so I took it to a guitar shop in Tel Aviv. I told the shop owner that I needed a new strap and other things done to be able to use it. He asked me what I use the guitar for, and I told him that I’ve been going to the hospital every Friday to play for wounded soldiers. When he was done working on it, he refused to take any money, even after working on it for 30 minutes! He said, “You volunteer, and now I’m volunteering.” That would never happen anywhere else.

Another thing that happened was that after I finished barbecuing in the south, I was in a car coming back to Tel Aviv, when I noticed a bunch of teenage girls dancing with Israeli flags at traffic circles at 11:30 p.m., helping to raise morale.

Here, people are always looking out for each other. I was walking on the street and a siren went off, and a lot of people told me and pointed to where the shelter was.

Do you miss anything about living in New York?

My family. I would say Michigan football, but in Israel, I can watch the Saturday noon games live on Saturday night.

Do you have a message for anyone who’s considering making aliyah?

A lot of people think that Yerushalayim and Tel Aviv are war zones. They’re reading the news, and it sounds scary, but on Friday I was walking through Machane Yehuda and it was packed with people and lots of music. Israel is safe. I feel safer here than in America and definitely in Europe.

The second message is that moving to Israel helps fulfill our national and religious destiny. You should be very proud to be Jewish, and it’s time to come home.

Aviva Zacks is a writer living in Israel who loves speaking to Olim and hearing their stories. If you know of an Oleh/Olah who is interested in being interviewed for The Jewish Link, please email [email protected].

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