July 21, 2024
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July 21, 2024
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Ken Katter: ‘This Is Where We Belong’

Ken and Batsheva Katter

Ken Katter, 55, officially made aliyah with his wife, Batsheva, and daughters Rebekah, Sarah and Leah in 2012 but went back to New Jersey quickly after realizing it wasn’t the right time for them. The family came back in 2021 and are here to stay!

Where did you live in New Jersey and where do you live now?

We moved from Fair Lawn to Modiin.

Where did you daven and where did your kids go to school?

We davened in Ahavat Achim and the kids went to Solomon Schechter, then Yeshivat Noam and Frisch.

Did you grow up in Fair Lawn? Where did you go to school?

I grew up not religious in Fair Lawn and went to public school. Most of my friends were Italian and I used to go to bars and nightclubs with them. That’s how I met my wife.

How did you become religious?

My mother mentioned that she would like Jewish grandchildren, although we weren’t raised on that path. When I married my wife, she wasn’t Jewish yet, but she started to be interested in Judaism when she did research about the Romans versus the Jews. She wanted to be part of the Jews instead of the Romans who persecuted them.

In 2000, we started listening to Arutz Sheva on our computer every night during the Second Intifada. On 9/11, we received our tickets for our first trip to Israel, and I told my wife, “Maybe we shouldn’t go.” “We’re going,” she said.

What did you do professionally in New Jersey?

I was the health officer in Teaneck.

What was your aliyah in 2012 like?

I left my job. We sold our house, we left the shul, we left our families, and we came here on pure faith. We realized that we weren’t ready soon after we got here and went back to New Jersey after only two months. We were devastated.

Why was your second attempt in 2021 more successful?

We had more conviction to stay here forever no matter what. We are not leaving. We bought a property on paper in Ashkelon, which is being built right now. I have my pension from my job in America to keep us going for a while. We didn’t go on vacations over the years, and we didn’t buy fancy cars. We didn’t have parties for our daughters’ bat mitzvahs, only a kiddush at shul. Our biggest expenses were day school, housing and taxes. We spent all those years preparing to make aliyah.

What was your motivation to make aliyah?

We had to come here. We had no choice. This is where we belong, and we knew if we stayed in America, it wouldn’t end well. I’m a product of survivors, and I saw years ago that antisemitism was on the rise.

What are your kids up to now?

My older daughter was about to start college in America, but when we moved here, she did Sherut Leumi and now studies at Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem. My twins are graduating this year from high school and they’re going to the army.

How has your life changed since you made aliyah?

I am not afraid to wear my kippah in public here. I am a proud Jew and Zionist and am Jewish with everyone around me.

What have you been doing for the war effort?

My wife and I have done some volunteering—farming and making sandwiches.

What do you love about living in Israel?

I can get kosher food anywhere. I love the weather here because I don’t have to shovel snow. I like going outside on Erev Shabbat. I love the smell of everyone getting ready for their meals. Even the non-religious neighbors are getting ready. On Shabbat, it’s quieter here, too. Even though some people drive, it still slows down. I love that the beach is 25 minutes away and that when we live in Ashkelon, it will be right across the street.

I feel safer here, too. My daughters use public transportation and we walk around the neighborhood all the time.

I also love that there is no Christmas here. I don’t have to hear “Feliz Navidad”on the radio ever again.

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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