Four Generations, One Aliyah
Four Generations, One Aliyah
Three generations of the Wurtzel-Entel family were on board for the move of a lifetime.
Chana Wurtzel and her husband Yitzi, who live in Far Rockaway, Queens, were acting on years’ worth of dreams to finally make aliyah to Israel. They would be accompanied, of course, by their four children, ranging in age from 10 to 18 months. But Chana’s parents, Joan and Eliezer Entel, it turned out, were just as enthusiastic about the move as she and her husband were.
Then there was grandma — generation No. 4.
“I had no intention of ever going to Israel or living there or ever anything like it,” Mimi Glaser, 94, told The Jewish Week. In fact, Glaser, who also lives in Far Rockaway, had never even left the country.
But the weight of family ties ultimately wore Glaser down, and after a pilot trip to Israel last month — Glaser thought the country was “awesome” — the fourth generation had her plane ticket. Next month, the Wurtzel-Entel family will mark a rarity in the annals of aliyah when its four generations, from 18-month-old Yakirah to her 94-year-old great-grandmother will uproot their collective lives and start over in Israel.
Asked about her decision to reconsider the move, Glaser spoke of the pull of family. “I’ve become attached to my great-grandchildren,” she said. “Where they go, I want to go.”
“Four generations [making aliyah at one time] — this is something very rare,” said the Shai Melamed, the family’s emissary from the Jewish Agency, the group helping to facilitate its aliyah process. “But we see more and more young families with three to five kids making aliyah.” Many hail from the New York area’s large Orthodox population.
This summer, Melamed expects to see a dramatic increase in American olim from last year, which had already risen 20 percent from the year before. While he feels that the sluggish American economy is certainly playing a role in the increase, he says most of these families have had a long-term desire to come to Israel. But he warns families that their transition will by no means be easy.
“When we speak with families we try to get beyond the tears of joy in the movies,” Melamed said, referring to often emotional orientation films of others making aliyah shown by the Jewish Agency. “Sometimes we find families don’t know what to expect. Although it’s our interest to have people make aliyah, we think it’s our job to prepare them.”
Chana and Yitzi Wurtzel seem to be clear-eyed about the challenges of moving to Israel, and perhaps a bit anxious.
“We’re really starting our whole life all over again,” Chana, 33, said. “You have to get a new identity. You get there, and you’re like, ‘I’m still me even though I can’t speak the language and I’m not part of the culture.’ That’s what I’m most nervous about — lost of individuality and loss of capability.” Continue reading…