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December 16, 1983 - Image 23

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1983-12-16

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

View of Israel for Potential Elderly Olim

Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be,
The last of life,
for which the first was made.
—Robert Browning
from "Rabbi Ben Ezra"

By HERB KEINON

In antiseptic smelling
corridors of "old age homes,"
in jail-like rooms of fearful
inner-city aged, in well
groomed yet sterile "re-
tirement manors" of
California and Florida, the
above words by Browning
must often be the subject of
bitter derision.
Few of America's elderly
with whom I have met
would readily proclaim: "Oh
yes, now I'm in the best of
life, for which the first was
made."
One could expect that my
next paragraph would read:
"Ah, but growing old in Is-
rael is great fun." Obviously
this is not the case. Retire-
ment often breeds bitter-
ness and discontent regard-
less of where it takes place.
Israel is clearly unable
to provide a magical cure
for all the problems and
traumas of elderly life.
What she has been able to
provide, however, is a
feeling of contribution
and purpose for a
number of American re-
tirees who have opted to
make Israel their new
home.
For Mr. and Mrs. Harold
Leibowitz of Detroit, their
children were the main rea-
son for their aliya. Not fer-
vently involved in Zionist
activities in the States, Mr.
and Mrs. Leibowitz came
because their three children
made aliya before them.
According to David Bres-
lau of the Association of
Americans and Canadians
in Israel (AACI) this re-
flects a growing trend
among older olim: "One
should not underestimate
the importance of grand-
children to a grandparent.
The joy grandchildren bring
their grandparents is im-
mense, often what it takes
to convince the grandparent
that all the comfort in the
world does not compensate
for the love of their grand-
children."
Now that the Leibowitzes
have made aliya, how do
they like it? "We're content
. . . The quality of our life
here is good. We aren't
shoved into a corner. Be-
sides, living on my social se-
curity and pension, I do well
by Israeli standards and am
probably doing much better
than I would have had I
stayed in Detroit."

Between frequent vis-
its to their three children,
two on kibutzim and one
in Beersheva, the
Leibowitzes, like so many
other American retirees,
are active volunteers.
Both of them work part
time at Hadassah Hospi-
tal: Mrs. Leibowitz in the
archives and Mr.
Leibowitz at the front
desk admitting patients.
Mr. Leibowitz claims to
have helped smooth out the
admissions process by in-
troducing a service-by-



VI& in,

• V

number system as well as
demanding that when he is
in the office nobody yells. In
many areas the introduc-
tion of certain simple, polite
modes of American be-
havior can cause quite a
pleasant change.
All those with whom I
spoke, however, readily
maintained that life here,
despite the compensations,
can be very difficult. For the
majority of American
seniors, the most difficult
aspect of their aliya is the
fact that they are so far from
immediate family. In the
words of David Breslau:
"New friends they make
here, and much more
readily than they do -in the
States. However, the fact
that so many are so far from
children and grandchildren
causes a great deal of lonel-
iness.
"No matter how close
friends are, they can never
take the place of family."
This physical es-
trangement from family
is only partially obviated
by the fact that most
periodically visit the U.S.
or receive relatives in
their Jerusalem homes.
As one retiree confided:
"Such visits are terribly
unsatisfying. They are
too short and too intense.
So worried about catch-
ing up, you can't just sit
down with them and
enjoy a natural moment.
Besides, how fulfilling
can it be to hear a check-
list account of what had
been going on in the life
of someone you love de-
arly."
If this indeed is the case,
why stay? "Why stay? Be-
cause just as you can't live
your children's lives, you
can't live your life thinking
only about the children.
This is where the Jew
should be. If my children
don't come, should Lleave
unfulfilled what I consider
my obligation?"
Language is the other
most frequently cited prob-
lem of the older oleh. Al-
though ulpanim are readily
available, Hebrew seems to
be much more difficult to
learn as one's years pro-
gress. The existence of a
strong English-speaking
support group, furthermore,
makes it possible to be
around sympathetic
English speakers most of
the day. Although the bene-
fits accruing from such a
support group are obvious,
it does preclude forcing one-
self into a position where
one must learn the lan-
guage.
The direct result of an in-
ability to master the lan-
guage is obvious: the in-
capability of ever com-
pletely integrating into Is-
raeli society. For those who
come to Israel hoping that
they will feel at home
among all Jews, but actu-
ally feeling more out of
place here than when sur-
rounded by Gentiles, such a
lack of integration can be
quite disheartening.
"Often times," claims
one oleh, "people come
here with romantic

visions of what it's like to
live among all Jews. First
of all, it's not that easy.
Secondly the culture here
is completely different. If
a retiree thinks he's corn-
ing to a Miami-across-
the-sea than he is sorely
mistaken."
"It's a different culture,'_"
adds Sam Ducker. "Little
things we're not used to:
like dirty streets, an incred-
ibly inefficient work force,
aggressive and rude people
and a completely different
work ethic can get on the
nerves of a person accus-
tomed to smoothly leading
his daily life .. .

"The intangible rewards
awaiting those who do come
to live here," concludes
Ducker, "are great. The
sense of pride and personal
achievement which comes
with the realization that
even at this late stage of our
lives we are doing some-
thing noteworthy is well
worth the problems and
hassles which inevitably
face one when coming to live
in this unique little land."

Friday, December 16, 1983 23

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"I know what
cashmere topcoats
sell for around
here. How does
Kent do it for
just $159?"

"For the oleh nothing is
easy: from looking up a
telephone number, to depos-
iting a check in the bank, to
dragging groceries home
from the supermarket.
Things which we take for
granted in the United
States become a real strug-
gle in Israel.

A John Kent Man
dresses better for less.

"A pilot trip is therefore
necessary for the elderly
oleh more than anyone else,
because the retiree is more
accustomed than anyone to
having things done in a cer-
tain, polite and efficient
manner. It's extremely im-
portant, for the senior oleh,
to come and live here first
for a while before they make
aliya and see if they can put
up with all of Israel's
societal and cultural dif-
ferences."

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