June 17, 2024
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June 17, 2024
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Ellen Gertler: ‘I Believe That Israel Is Where We Belong’

Ellen Gertler, 71, made aliyah from Teaneck with her husband Richard in September 2019. They live in Beit Shemesh near some of their children.

Aviva: Where did you daven in Teaneck?

Ellen: At Beth Aaron.

What schools did your kids go to?

They all went to Yavneh for elementary school. Rivka, Rachel and Nitzana went to Bruriah, David went to Torah Academy, and Shlomit went to Kushner.

Where did you grow up?

Ellen: I grew up in Weehawken, New Jersey, and went to public school.

Did you travel to Israel when you were younger?

I first traveled to Israel with Richard on a Rutgers University summer trip in 1972. Then, after I finished college, right after the Yom Kippur War, I went to work on a kibbutz. When the flowers came out in the spring, I saw the beauty of the country and wanted to come back when I went home.

Did you have a plan all these years to make aliyah?

When I finished college, I worked in publishing. My husband was thinking about what he wanted to do for a living, and we wrote to Carvel to ask if we could open a franchise in Israel. That didn’t pan out, so he decided to go to dental school because we were told that Israel needed dentists.

We joined a group of people who were interested in making aliyah together. But we started having kids and we were looking after our parents, so we put aliyah on the back burner.

What was your motivation to make aliyah three years ago?

Once our first two daughters made aliyah, that made it easier. We also got to retirement age, and our parents had all passed away.

When you got to Israel, where did you live?

We had bought an apartment six months before making aliyah, so we moved straight into our new home.

How is your Hebrew?

My Hebrew is somewhat lacking. I did go to an ulpan when we made aliyah, but it was mostly online because of COVID. I try to speak Hebrew sometimes and can usually manage a sentence or two.

What do you do for fun?

To be honest, I love being retired. A number of people our age have moved into our neighborhood recently, so we are making new friends. We go to every English theater production that we can find, and we also love hiking. We also host shiurim in our home every week.

What do you love about living in Israel?

I love living near some of my children and grandchildren. I have gone to several of their school performances and a grandson’s high school graduation at Machon Lev. Of course, the language is a bit of a problem, but it is outweighed by pride!

The holidays here are exceptionally beautiful. I don’t miss those “second days” one bit! On Erev Pesach, my husband and I will go to the Kotel with our daughter and her family. There are open kosher restaurants in the Old City of Jerusalem where we can grab lunch or a snack, which is awesome and something we couldn’t do in Teaneck!

There is much more emotion in connection with Israeli national holidays than we saw with American national holidays. The whole tone is different. In the U.S., most national holidays have become about visits to the mall. Here, people actually feel the meaning of the day.

Do you miss anything about living in New Jersey?

I miss my kids and grandkids. I also miss day-to-day life in a language that I’m comfortable with.

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

I believe that Israel is where we belong.

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