May 20, 2024
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Shira Allen: There’s Nowhere Else I’m Supposed to Be

Shira Allen, 23, made aliyah at age 19, in 2017, right before Pesach of her gap year at Migdal Oz. In high school, when she was following the news in Israel, she knew she had to be part of it and not just watch history unfold from the sidelines.

Aviva: What was your early Zionist education like?

Shira: My elementary school, RPRY, is very Zionistic. I also went to camp Moshava and was involved in Bnei Akiva. My family always had a close connection to our family in Israel, and we visited often. We also would never miss the Israeli Day Parade, no matter what. The next year’s parade was on the calendar a few hours after we would get home.

Did anything in your high school years steer you towards aliyah?

I continued being involved in Bnei Akiva, running the Edison “snif” (chapter). At Bruriah High School, I took on the identity of the token extreme Zionist who was “the girl in Bnei Akiva.” I was thinking about where to apply for colleges—Israel or America. These decisions continued to lead me towards aliyah.

What was your first motivation for making aliyah?

When my older sister Talia went to seminary and then decided to stay in Israel and do Sheirut Leumi, I was so proud to tell everyone that my older sister was working in a school for kids with special needs.

How did your parents take the news?

They knew it was coming for a long time, so it wasn’t really news. They were proud and happy and very supportive, even though they knew they would miss me.

Did you have a support system in place in Israel?

Baruch Hashem, I have a lot of family in Israel—my aunt, uncle, cousins—who I am very close to. My older sister Talia and brother-in-law Reuven and my older brother Daniel were in Israel at the time, as was my then future sister-in-law, Lauren.

What was the aliyah process like for you?

I made aliyah from within Israel, which was really exciting. I was trying to figure out the best time to do it in order to get the Sheirut Leumi job that I wanted. The training was starting in the summer, so I had to get my documents in as fast as possible, and in the end, I was able to get it all done on time. My friends from seminary and my sister came to my aliyah, which was really special.

What do you love about living in Israel?

The best thing about living here is feeling so at home. I recently took a four-day trip back to America with my sisters, and I told them I couldn’t even remember having lived there for 18 years. Obviously, there are certain things in New Jersey that still feel like home—my house, my community, being able to speak the language fluently—but in Israel, I feel like I belong. There’s nowhere else I’m supposed to be. There’s no other future I’m supposed to be planning for myself, and I wouldn’t give it up for the world.

Is there anything you miss about living in New Jersey?

I miss my grandparents and cousins. I would say my parents, too, but I’m very fortunate that they come and visit very often.

Where do you live now and what are you doing?

I live in Givat Shmuel and go to Bar Ilan University, studying psychology and educational counseling. I complain sometimes about having to read articles in Hebrew, which is not my strong suit, but it makes me happy and proud to be learning and studying in Hebrew.

Do you have a message for any young person who is thinking about making aliyah alone?

If you want to do it, it’s totally possible. There are challenges when you make aliyah at any stage. If you’re looking for the easiest time, you won’t find it. If you’re thinking of making aliyah after high school or college as a single person, the most important thing to consider is where you see the rest of your life unfolding. Whenever I’m having a hard time, I think to myself, “B’ezrat Hashem I will have the zechut to raise my future children in Israel, and one day they’ll thank me for making aliyah.”

By Aviva Zacks


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