April 9, 2024
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April 9, 2024
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Karen Kedmi: Aliyah During Wartime? ‘I Feel Much Safer Here’

Karen (fourth from left) and David (second from right) and family

Karen Kedmi made aliyah with her husband, David, on November 7 from Spring Valley, New York, to Jerusalem. Karen recently retired from Yavneh Academy in Paramus after having taught Tanach and Hebrew there for the past 30 years.

Where did you grow up and go to school?

I grew up in the Bronx and went to public school through high school. I also attended Herzliya as a supplementary school. After high school, I went to Machon L’Madrichei Chutz La’Aretz in Israel, which was an intense year-long program. I met youth there from every Zionist organization all over the world. When I came back, I went to Queens College and Teachers Institute for Women at Stern College, got my master’s at Ferkauf (Azrieli), and then joined the Ph.D. program.

Had you ever been to Israel before that?

In those days, people didn’t travel like they do now. I went to Camp Moshava at age 12, and after that, I joined Bnei Akiva in my neighborhood. My love for Israel evolved from there.

How did you meet your husband?

While I was in my master’s program, friends set us up. He was a tourist from Israel at the time and wanted to meet people. We got married and settled in New York.

Do you have any family here in Israel?

My brother and his family live here. And my husband’s sister lives here, too, with her extended family.

What motivated you to make aliyah when you did?

David has not been well for the past three years, and it has been really difficult to manage everything on my own. I also wanted to make his life more meaningful and more fulfilling, and being with family is a big part of that. He has been away from Israel for 50 years, which is a long time, so it was time to bring him home. I also wanted to enjoy my retirement near my family. We have missed so much being away, and it is time to celebrate everything together.

You came during a difficult time in Israel. Was the war a factor for you? Did you think about pushing it off?

I started the whole process two years ago. I had an aliyah date and then came the war. I found out about it from my husband’s aide, and then I went to shul and heard more news. I came home with very mixed feelings, not sure what to do. After the chag I called my brother and told him if he thought I should, I would postpone the flight. He told me the war would take a long time and that we might as well come.

How has it been for you since you arrived?

People are nicer, and they are smiling. Everywhere I go people welcome me with a big smile. I keep meeting more and more American olim who tell me they would have come now too because the situation in the States is untenable. I feel much safer here.

What do you love about being in Israel?

I feel like I was never gone. It’s actually like riding a bike!

Do you miss anything about living in New York or working in New Jersey?

I really only miss driving. I’m a very independent person, and I like doing things for myself. I like getting places on my own terms and relying on buses or rides is challenging. I’m also getting used to the bureaucracy of being an immigrant.

Do you have any message for your former Yavneh students?

Come and visit me. Better still, come and join me. On my first Shabbat here, I went for a walk and bumped into a former student who was speechless and amazed to see me 20 years after I taught her at Yavneh.

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

Don’t think twice. Just come if you can. You need to be in the warmth of your extended family, Am Yisrael.

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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