#Meet_the_Oleh Judah Powers
Aliyah Date: February 2019
Made Aliyah from: The Bronx, NY
Currently living in Jerusalem
Judah Powers highlights why "there's no place like Israel" in his Aliyah story. Keep reading to find out what he loves about being in Israel!
Initially, Judah Powers came to Israel as a student - to study at IDC Herzliya. His original plan was to study, have fun, finish his degree, and then make Aliyah after -- but he realized quickly that it made way more sense to make Aliyah first and reap all the benefits!
Why did you make Aliyah?
"First of all, there is the obvious reason I am a Jew that I wanted to live in the Jewish state. Beyond that, in today's day and age, there is no place we are more safe or free. It's the only place we can be ourselves without worrying at all. So, I'm here, and I get to live as a Jew.
Let me tell you a story.
There is a great story about the Admor (Rebbe) of Sanz, which is a big Hasidic dynasty that was in Israel from the beginning of Israel's establishment. The Head Rabbi was a Holocaust survivor living in America, and he had told his followers to move to Israel, before ultimately moving there himself.
David Ben Gurion had said to the Admor, "I have to ask, what's your view of Israel?" What do you see when you see this state we're building? The Admor replied, At the minimum, I see a place where I can go out on Shabbos morning with my shtreimel (a fur hat was worn by many married Haredi Jewish men), high socks, and talit, and not a single person will want to harm me for being Jewish.
Ben Gurion asks, "And what do you see at maximum?"
The Admor replied, "At maximum? I see you in a shtreimel!"
You see, the Admor was here to create a community for his followers – thriving Hasidic communities. He saw so much potential in Israel, so at the minimum, I, as a religious Zionist Jew can live without threat. At maximum, I see the potential for a Jewish state that’s more than just a state for Jews. Where we are safe, free, and Jewish!"
What are you doing now in Israel?
"Now, I am studying government at IDC Herzilya. I am an intern for an MK with the political party, Shas in the Knesset. I'm able to do good work and help out.
In terms of my interest in political work, I believe there's lots of good I can do there. If I was the prime minister of Israel I would wake up each day and ask how can I make this day better? I want to make the world a better place and I see my involvement in government as the way to do it.”
What has been the best part of your Aliyah?
"Here's the story...I was out of energy drinks. I have insomnia and I don’t sleep well in the morning and I usually have an energy drink. I was on my way to work at the Knesset and I was coming on the bus from Herzliya to Jerusalem, When I arrived at the central bus station in Jerusalem I stopped at a small kiosk and bought an XL energy drink to wake up a bit. As a young religious Jew with a kippa and tzitzit, I of course said a blessing before drinking.
When I finished the blessing – without exaggeration, 17 random people with hats, with kippot, without kippot, with jeans, with mini skirts, secular, religious -- 17 people echoed "amen." A Jew had said a braha, and they knew to say amen.
The best part of Aliyah is the permeation of not just Judaism as a culture, but as a way of life in this country. We have that unity."
What has been challenging in your Aliyah?
"During my first year in Israel it was very hard to break out of the mindset, I need to do everything now.
It took me until Purim of last year to say, wait, I don’t need to kill myself to have all the experiences this second, because next year I will still be here and able to have that experience!
As Americans, we come on vacation or on an organized trip to Israel, and every day is a jam-packed adventure, and you have to because you're not here all the time.
When I got to Israel and was first living here, I was studying in yeshiva. I noticed Israel had lost its specialness. As a kid, my brother and I would be driving to the next activity, and the entire drive my brother and I had our faces pressed to the window,
'That tree is in Israel so it's special!'
'That rock is in Israel so it's special!'
In yeshiva, I would get on a bus to go wherever, and I was on my phone, talking to friends, checking the map, listening to music. It initially turned me off of Aliyah. I didn’t want Israel to be mundane. It had to be special because it's Israel!
But then I realized the fact that I can get on a bus in Israel, instead of pushing my face to the window, I could be on my phone because that rock will be there tomorrow- it will all be there tomorrow!
That’s special and that’s a lesson I needed to learn."
What advice would you give to new Olim?
In one of the Olim Facebook groups, someone posted 'throw yourself into Israel' and throw yourself into being Israeli. This is the advice I'd give.
When I knew I was staying, I stopped translating temperatures. It doesn’t help me or anyone else When it's 30 degrees out, and I translate it to the measurement I know, it doesn't help me assimilate. To translate kilometers to miles - it's not helpful. The only way to integrate is by making it happen; forcing it to happen. That means not walking into a store and trying to speak English. Try Hebrew. Hebrew is such an integral part of what makes us a country, so it's really important to learn it!