The family is moving with the assistance of Nefesh B'Nefesh, a privately run organization that works with The Jewish Agency for Israel and helps North American Jews move to Israel. It offers new olim (immigrants to Israel) assistance in job placement, housing, and navigation of the Israeli bureaucratic maze.
"This year we are assisting upwards of 3,500 North Americans moving to Israel,” says Nefesh B'Nefesh director Charley Levine. "This summer alone, 2,200 olim are going. Not one family has cancelled plans based on the current conflict (with Hezbollah and Hamas). If anything, this has made their determination to make aliyah stronger.”
Although the Macks have a good lead on an apartment in Jerusalem, they are relying on the assistance of Nefesh B'Nefesh to help patriarch Eric, 50, an accountant and currently executive director of Sinai Synagogue, find a job. It helps that all the members of the family have visited Israel before and can speak Hebrew fluently.
Despite the current military crisis in Israel, the Macks have not altered their plans. "I am anxious about our safety,” admits Birkner Mack. "But you can't live your life in fear. We have a leap of faith that everything will be okay for us in Israel, and the rewards of living in a Jewish society, where the country is on our timeline, far outweigh anything else.”
Since April the family has been deciding what to take with them and what to leave behind. "We weighed the cost of shipping versus buying new and decided we were better off getting what we needed in Israel based on the size of our apartment and shipping costs,” says Birkner Mack. "This will be an opportunity to start fresh in so many meaningful ways.”
Although her daughters are still young teens, eventually they will have to join the IDF, and Birkner Mack says, "I'm partially in denial about that now. But I'm sure when the time comes, we will be like any other Israeli family - facing our children's military service with a mixture of fear and pride.”
As eager as the family is to begin their journey, Birkner Mack says there are many things she will miss about Cleveland. "Along with the changing of seasons, my spacious home, and Cleveland Indians baseball, I'll miss the opportunity to share life's simchahs and sorrows with the people who have become so near and dear to us. I'm hoping many of our friends and family will visit us in Israel, because once we are settled, I'm not sure we will be coming back to Cleveland any time soon.”
Copyright 2006 Cleveland Jewish News