When Dana Wruble made aliyah and joined Ulpan Etzion, she never expected to meet the love of her life within the first two weeks. It was just the cherry on top of her amazing aliyah experience. Wruble, 32, grew up in West Orange and is a graduate of Touro College and Yeshiva University, where she received her MSW. After that she spent several years working in crisis intervention in the Bronx. This inspired Wruble as it “inculcates in you a sense of the tenuousness of life, and how life can change in an instant. It made me aware, I think, that we need to act now to live our dreams, and not wait for an unknown date in the future when it seems ‘right’ to move to Israel.”
Before making aliyah, she reached out to potential employers to let them know about her availability. She made sure to first save money to serve as a cushion while she was in ulpan as she did not want to be a burden to her new home country. She also prepared by going to Costco and Target for the few things she wouldn’t be able to find in Israel.
Wruble had wanted to make aliyah since her gap year at Machon Gold. Seminary gave her a concrete love for and connection to Israel that came from learning and living in the land. Last December she finally realized her dream.
Wruble said, “I decided to make aliyah because I truly believe that Israel is the only home for the Jewish people and it has always just felt right for me to live in Israel. I feel a huge sense of belonging when I am here.” In her opinion, the best part of living in Israel is that “I feel safe here; there are no pretensions or need to think about how you are presenting yourself as a religious Jewish woman. I am accepted for who I am, even with the language barrier. I don’t have to worry about taking off for chagim or leaving early for Shabbat because it is a given here. Being Jewish and living in Israel just goes together and that’s what makes life so happy for me here.”
Upon arriving in Israel, Wruble immediately joined Ulpan Etzion, a residential ulpan program run by the Jewish Agency. The program was started in 1949 to teach new immigrants modern Hebrew. It has 250 students between the ages of 22 and 35, from 45 different countries, including Russia, China and England. New students take a placement exam to be placed in one of 12 language classes. Wruble took intensive Hebrew classes in the morning and then did cultural activities in the afternoon, such as tours of different Jerusalem neighborhoods. She also learned practical things, like how to open a bank account and how to find an apartment. The ulpan helps with job placement and licensing for professionals, as well as apartment hunting. It made her transition to Israel much easier.
Wruble also made lifelong friends, and family. She explained, “We came to Israel initially for different reasons, but becoming a unit, with a shared love of Israel and a commitment to spending the rest of our lives there, bonded us together almost immediately… we became each other’s supports, study partners, life-long friends and most of all we became family.” Dana also met her fiance, Ethan Amzallag, a French lawyer, at Ulpan Etzion.
The couple met at a communal Shabbat meal held by the ulpan. They dated for several months and then Amzallag proposed during a Pesach visit to his family in Paris, after a romantic visit to the Eiffel Tower and dinner. They plan to settle in Jerusalem after the wedding in October. “It has always been my dream to live in Jerusalem, the holiest city in the world,” Wruble explained. It is also where many of their friends from the ulpan live, in addition to Tel Aviv, so they’ll have a support system in place. She hopes to continue working in a helping profession as a way of giving back to Israel, and thanks Ulpan Etzion for the truly life-changing experience.
For more information about Ulpan Etzion, visit www.jewishagency.org/ulpanetzion.
By Dassie Okin
Dassie Okin is from West Orange. She is a rising junior at Stern College and a summer intern at The Jewish Link.