• August 1989, a month before Lena immigrated to Israel. The truck is packed with her belongings, ready to be sent to Israel.

    , Lena Bregman ©
  • Lena Bregman with her family at her daughter's bat mitzvah,

    Lena Bregman

Aliyah – My Turning Point

For Lena Bregman, immigrating to Israel from the Former Soviet Union was the most important decision she made.

I grew up in a small family of women, with my mother, my grandmother, and my sister who was six years older than I. My father died when I was five years old. He was a proud Jew. He was a lecturer and a doctor of advanced mathematics at university. Although he died young, he managed to instill in us pride in who we are, in our nationality, in our people and, of course, in Israel. In our family, Israel was a constant presence, albeit as something inaccessible at the time, but we had the clear understanding that, one day, we would get to the state which is our true homeland.

My uncle immigrated to Israel in the 1970s. My father was in the final stages of his disease, so Aliyah (immigration to Israel) was not possible then. I always knew we had relatives in Israel. Occasionally we would get letters and gifts through the Red Cross. But, as a child, I also knew that if I talked about that outside, I’d be endangering the family and my mother’s place of work. Then I related to that as an adventure. Today, when I look at my own children, I am not sure I’d wish them to cope with the double consciousness with which I grew up.

Gorbachev’s rise to power in the mid-1980s was a sign for us. It was clear that this was an opportunity to make Aliyah, and we were afraid the border would close and we wouldn’t manage to get out. The months we waited for an exit permit, and the subsequent bureaucracy, were a time of great tension for us. At the time we started getting advice and recommendations about what we should do before Aliyah. But one thing that always came up in all our conversations was that we should not postpone our Aliyah, by even a single day.

As we had been over the years, we arrived in Israel as a small family of women – four of us: my grandmother, mother, sister, and me. My mother was then a few years older than I am now. Today I understand what a heroic act it was for her. She left everything behind – work she loved, friends, memories. At the age of 47 she began her life from scratch. I think that what helped all of us to cope with all the difficulties of those first years was the fact that the decision to come to Israel was a free choice, we were fully aware of what we were doing, and it was a decision made from love and great commitment to the country we didn’t yet know.

I have now been living here for 28 years – 10 years longer than I lived in the USSR. I grew up and developed here in Israel, as an active citizen and a professional. I met the love of my life here, and together we made a wonderful family. We are bringing up our two beautiful children. This year, we celebrated our daughter’s bat mitzvah and she was called to the Torah at a Reform synagogue. Our son is in the army now, and this year he received the President’s Award for Outstanding Soldier.

I grew up here, became more aware, and my blind love toward Israel has developed into a mature and conscious love. I believe, with all my heart, that together we can succeed in building a just society which offers every citizen an equal opportunity for self-realization, which empowers and cares for the powerless.

Looking back, I think that my Aliyah was the most important turning point in my life, and if I could go back 28 years, through a time tunnel, I wouldn’t change a thing.


Lena Bregman is Senior Assistant to Roman Polonsky, Director of The Russian Speaking Jewry Unit at The Jewish Agency for Israel.

25 Apr 2017 / 29 Nisan 5777 0
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