Sunday, September 25, 2022

As the oldest immigrant to make aliyah in the last five years, Stella Rockoff has returned to her birthplace: “My family left at a time when ‘the Jewish State’ was just an idea; today I am proud to call it home.”

(Courtesy of NBN) Last week, an El Al plane landed at Ben Gurion Airport, carrying a group of nearly 60 new olim from North America. Among them was Stella Rockoff, who made aliyah from New Jersey at the age of 101. together with her daughter Elaine and son-in-law Michael Reinheimer. Their aliyah was made possible with the assistance of Nefesh B’Nefesh and in coordination with the Ministry of Aliyah and Integration, the Jewish Agency for Israel, Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael, and JNF-USA.

Stella was born in 1921 in Jerusalem during the British Mandate of Palestine. Her birth certificate is written in three languages: Hebrew, Arabic and English. At the age of five, Stella’s family decided to immigrate to the United States, settling in Brooklyn, New York. In 1940, she married Rabbi Herman Rockoff. The young couple moved to Pennsylvania, where they were distinguished leaders in the local Jewish community and created a family of their own with four children: the late Seymour, Elaine, Jonah and Sharon.

Later, the family moved to Manhattan, where Rockoff was appointed executive secretary of the Rabbinical Council of America. As part of her role, she worked closely with the leading rabbis and was very active in managing annual conferences throughout the United States and with Israeli institutions, including Yeshivat Hadarom in Rehovot and the Eretz Haim cemetery in Beit Shemesh. Prior to her aliyah, Stella resided in Fair Lawn, where she was the oldest member of Congregation Shomrei Torah in Fair Lawn.

Stella is a known music lover who has written numerous songs about American Jewry and her love for the land of Israel. Her late son, Seymour, was a well-known and sought-after cantor, who even performed an entire concert of his mother’s compositions.

Now, 96 years later, she was finally able to make aliyah along with her daughter and son-in law. “All my life I dreamed of returning to my native country,” said Rockoff. “This is a day of celebration for me—my family left at a time when ‘the Jewish State’ was just an idea, an idea that has since become the ‘State of Israel,’ now a strong nation and a leader in innovation, and I am proud to finally call it home. I can’t wait to be reunited with my many grandchildren, 22 great-grandchildren, and two more great-great-grandchildren in my old-new home.”

Michael and Elaine Reinheimer, Rockoff’s daughter and son-in-law who accompanied her, remarked that, “The idea that she will be reunited with the family in Israel makes mom very happy. The grandchildren and great-grandchildren can’t wait for her to arrive. America has been very good to us, but now it’s time to go home,” said Elaine and Michael.

“I congratulate Stella and her family for making aliyah, proving that it is never too late to return home,” said Rabbi Yehoshua Fass, co-founder and executive director of Nefesh B’Nefesh. “Stella was born at a time when we were fighting to establish a home for the Jewish people, and now she is returning to a country that welcomes thousands of Jews every year who are continuing to build it in every facet of life. This is the essence of what Nefesh B’Nefesh has been striving for these past 20 years.”

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