June 23, 2024
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Dina Baron: ‘Israel Is Our Homeland’

Dina Baron, 18, made aliyah from Teaneck while studying for the year at MMY. She believes that the shock of not being allowed into Israel at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic sealed her decision to make aliyah.

Aviva: What schools and shuls did you go to in New Jersey?

Dina: I graduated eighth grade from RYNJ, and then I went to Ma’ayanot for high school. We davened at Beth Abraham.

Did you have a significant trip to Israel before this year?

I came to Israel a lot as a kid because I have a lot of family here, but I always looked forward to going back at the end. The summer I was going into 11th grade, I went on Michlelet NCSY. That summer, I was older and more mature, and I had more of a sense of where I was. I remember crying at the end because I was sad about leaving Israel. I think that was the first moment I ever felt that way. Leaving was really hard because I had experienced so much. Then corona started the March after I got back.

How did that affect your decision to make aliyah?

When my parents talked about making aliyah when I was growing up, I would say, “I’m not coming.” But when corona started, I started thinking about it more seriously. The fact that we weren’t allowed to go to Israel was very hard for me. I thought about all the people who wanted to move to Israel before we had the State and they weren’t allowed in, and now we weren’t allowed in. For some reason, it really struck me. It made me start realizing how much I want to be here.

Did you have a strong Zionist background in your family and education?

RYNJ and Ma’ayanot are very Zionistic schools, so Israel was a conversation. We marched in the Celebrate Israel Parade every year, and in Hebrew class, we would talk about Israeli politics. In my family, my parents always talked about Israel and making aliyah.

When you went to MMY, were you planning on making aliyah?

I came into MMY knowing I was going to make aliyah during my seminary year. I made aliyah with one of my best friends, Hannah Greenberg.

What are you giving up by making aliyah now?

There’s a lot that I’m leaving behind—my family, my friends, my shul and my community—but I’d barely even opened a bank account in America. I really don’t feel like I’m missing anything there because my adult life hadn’t even started yet.

How did your parents react to your decision?

My parents are the most supportive parents ever, but they were shocked that I wanted to make aliyah because I was the one who didn’t want to. I knew when I made the decision that I didn’t have to worry about my parents, and I know I’m lucky because I have so many friends who want to make aliyah but their parents are on a very different page.

What do you love about living in Israel?

There are so many things. First of all, the fact that I can walk to the Kotel whenever I want is really insane. Secondly, Israel is our homeland, and it’s where we’re supposed to be. Amazing things happen here that wouldn’t happen anywhere else. There was one time when I was walking on Rechov Yafo and a table with merchandise outside a store fell. In two seconds, 20 people were picking everything up—people with payos, people with ripped jeans, and girls with tattoos. All of them were helping this store owner together.

What do you miss about living in Teaneck?

Mostly I miss my friends and my family. I also miss the comfort of being able to walk into a store and simply ask for something, but I’m working on that.

Do you have a message for any young person who is considering making aliyah?

Support is really important, so don’t go against your parents. If a person has the support and the passion for it, then go for it. Moving to Israel is going to be hard no matter what age you do it, but the younger the better, because you can adapt to the culture much quicker. You’re going to have a community, you’re going to have support and love, and it’s not going to be as hard as you think.

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