June 14, 2024
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June 14, 2024
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Elia Weixelbaum: ‘I Feel Totally at Home’

Elia Weixelbaum, 67, made aliyah with his wife, Karen, just over a year ago from West Orange to Rehovot. Growing up on the Lower East Side, Elia did not have a strong Zionist education, but he does remember all the kids in his elementary school gathering around a crackling radio listening to the broadcast of the Six-Day War in 1967, worrying about what was happening in Israel.

Aviva: Where did your kids go to school in New Jersey?

Elia: Leah went to RPRY in Edison and then to Bruriah. My boys, Josh and Zach, went to Yeshiva Shaarei Tzion, and then JEC. Karen’s daughter and son, Adina and Joe, went to Kushner and her daughter Tamar went to Kushner and then Maayanot, so we supported Jewish education throughout Northern New Jersey.

What did you do for a living before you retired?

I worked for my entire career in technology—for Bell Labs for 12 years, in research, and then for 25 years for Morgan Stanley. It was very interesting, very technically challenging, and I enjoyed it a lot.

Why did you decide to move to Israel?

From the time that our oldest child went to Israel for the year to study, we began to visit regularly. With each visit, we felt more and more connected. We would visit with friends who had made aliyah and were inspired by their success. By 2020, we had more freedom to think about our future, and our plans began to solidify.

What was the motivation for your aliyah?

It’s something that had evolved over the years. Stephanie (my first wife, z”l) and I, and Karen and Jeff (Karen’s first husband, z”l) all spoke in very general terms about making aliyah, but it didn’t really develop. There’s more to it than this, but when you see a bus go by, and the sign reads, “Chag Sameach,” you know that this is the Jewish homeland. You know that this is where Jews belong.

Our kids motivated us because of their Zionist commitment. As each kid came to Israel, it made our process easier. We learned from our kids and they became our role models.

What are you doing to occupy your time?

It’s mixed. Sometimes it’s just walking through the neighborhood, hiking or bicycling. I have more of an opportunity to learn. I also have been looking at other opportunities. I got involved with somebody in my community, doing some technology work with him. If it develops, that’s great. If it doesn’t, I’ll move on to the next thing, but I find that very interesting.

What was your aliyah process like?

I ran into somebody who had made aliyah a number of years ago. I asked him what got him over the hump. He said that they were always on the two-year aliyah plan, but they realized they were never going to do it unless they just … did it. In early 2020, we opened a file with Nefesh B’Nefesh and the process evolved. We realized we did not need to get everything done in one day. Just do what we can. We got the birth certificates. We got some things notarized. Eventually, everything fell into place and when everything was ready, we came.

Do you still keep in touch with people from back in New Jersey?

It’s so much easier now than it was 30 years ago. We still read our shul newsletter from West Orange, and we keep in touch with our friends and family.

Is there anything that you miss about living in New Jersey?

Other than missing our friends, the language is a challenge. We’ve done Ulpan, and our Hebrew is definitely 1,000 times better now than it was when we made aliyah, but it is still a challenge. Healthcare is also a very different system. It’s socialized, which we are not used to. The price is great, but it’s a little challenging to navigate.

Do you have a message for anybody who’s thinking about making Aliyah in retirement age?

It’s doable, and you will be living your dream. If you’re doing it at retirement, certainly you don’t have to worry about what to do for a living. You can see your history and your land right at your fingertips. This is the place that Jews should be, and I feel totally at home.

By Aviva Zacks


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