June 24, 2024
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Eric Distenfeld: ‘Every Part of Life Seems More Meaningful’

Eric and family.

Eric Distenfeld, 43, made aliyah from Teaneck to Modiin in 2021 with his wife, Dr. Pnina Herskovits, and his children, Noah, Avigail and Eliana.

Aviva: Where did you go to school and shul growing up in Teaneck?

Eric: I went to YNJ (now RYNJ) and MTA, and we davened at Bnai Yeshurun.

Aviva: Did you go to Israel for the year after high school?

Eric: I went to Reishit for the year after high school. Two of my roommates were severely injured in a triple suicide bombing on my first day here. I spent my first day going from hospital to hospital looking for my roommates. The rest of the year went a bit more smoothly.

Aviva: What was the impetus to start thinking about making aliyah?

Eric: I visited annually for the next 10 years, and I had more and more friends living here every year. I saw their lives and realized that life in Israel can be a great, meaningful and “normal” life.

Aviva: What was your motivation to make aliyah?

Eric: I read “Six Days of War” and felt that the state of Israel was a miracle. It didn’t make sense to pay day school tuition to educate our children about how great the state of Israel is if it’s staring us right in the face. I have always felt Israel was the place to be. My wife and I lived in four different cities in six years, and we met a lot of really great people. Now we live amongst the best of those in Modiin.

Aviva: What do you do professionally?

Eric: We both are with our employers from our time in Teaneck. I consult remotely for Teaneck-based Treetop Companies and my wife consults remotely as a radiologist for a large New Jersey practice. We both work from home in offices next to each other and we spend more time together than we ever have.

Aviva: What are your hobbies?

Eric: I started mountain biking, Pnina does yoga and we play tennis and hike together. And after 30 years of floor hockey, I finally started to play ice hockey.

Aviva: What have you been doing for the war effort?

Eric: We and our children try to do something different every week. We have grilled for the IDF, returned cars to wives that their husbands drove to Gaza on October 7, cooked for miluim wives, run carnivals and visited the wounded in hospitals. Our standing weekly activity is to go to a base nearby every Friday and bring whatever they need—cold drinks, challahs, music, beef jerky or even cigarettes.

Aviva: How are your kids managing the concept of living through a war?

Eric: I think that overall, they’re doing well. My 6-year-old knows that life is different because there are rockets and that she’s cool because her bedroom is our bomb shelter. My 11-year-old twins are old enough to know that it’s a very, very bad situation, but they don’t know the details.

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

Eric: Yeshivat He’Atid and Yeshivat Noam.

Aviva: What do you love about living in Israel?

Eric: I enjoy being a part of a bigger thing. We’re part of Israel and not just talking about it and sending money to it. Every part of life seems more meaningful.

Aviva: Do you miss anything about living in New Jersey?

Eric: I miss seeing my family as much as I used to. I also miss watching my son’s ice and floor hockey games (and congrats to the NJ Avalanche Peewee team on their recent tournament championship). We miss the convenience of ordering something from Amazon and having it arrive right away. But I sincerely think that the positives of living in Israel outweigh the minor conveniences of living in America.

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

Eric: Please reach out to me if you need any advice, and I will tell you what aliyah is really like. There are difficult aspects, but the good parts certainly outweigh them.


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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