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October 16, 1987 - Image 14

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1987-10-16

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Israeli PhD In U.Sa
Dissects The Yordim



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FRIDAY, OCT. 16, 1987

oti Peleg may be the
only psychotherapist
to base his doctoral
research on how many other
Israeli immigrants in the U.S.
share his feeling that
material success has not
prevented guilt and depres-
sion about leaving Israel.
Peleg, born in Poland, was
brought to Israel in 1950
when he was three years old.
Arriving in the United States
in 1970 to study at Queens
College, Peleg earned a
bachelor's degree in
psychology, then enrolled at
Yeshiva University's Wurz-
weiler School of Social Work,
receiving a doctorate in social
welfare in June 1986.
Peleg's research was moti-
vated in part by the hope of
finding information to help
Israeli officials slow Israel's
brain drain. As estimated
500,000 Israeli Jews live in
the United States.
Peleg contacted 135 Israeli
Jews living in New York, New
Jersey and Connecticut. He
speculated that Israeli set-
tlers encounter a discrepancy
between what they expect to
gain from material success
and what they actually
achieve. They feel a separa-
tion, loss and broken
ideological commitment
which at the subconscious
level haunts and disappoints
The economic success — and
the sample Peleg collected in-
dicated a fairly high economic
status among the respondents
— neither alleviated the emo-
tional void nor met a more
deeply-felt need for
He found that Israelis here
live in a kind of limbo, strug-
gling for years with feelings
of guilt and reactive depres-
sion. Typically, many Israelis
tell themselves that they real-
ly intend to return to Israel.
Peleg said his study traces a
timeless message of return
which begins in the early in-
doctrination of the Jewish
people and continues
throughout a Jew's life.
He found that the commit-
ment to return to Israel was
not as strong, however, as the
attachment to things,
families and places in Israel.
In their minds and hearts,
they are returning, but in
their behavior they stay here.
The result is deeply torn peo-
ple, an outcome he readily ad-
mitted also afflicted him
He sent a summary of his
dissertation last year to Ab-

sorption Minister Yaacov
Thur and Education Minister
Yitzhak Navon. He received
no acknowledgement from
Tzur's office. An underling in
Navon's office described
Peleg's material as "in-
Peleg is bitter about the
response from Israel's
bureaucracy. Israeli officials
talk constantly about the
need for research about
"yerida," he said, "but it's
just talk."
He was heartened by the
formation in Israel this sum-

mer of a Citizens Union to
Prevent Yerida, which in-
cludes former Knesset

members and professionals.
And though Peleg failed to
evoke any response from
government officials, his
research findings were wide-
ly publicized in Israel. An ar-
ticle in the newspaper Maariv
brought an outpouring of
When Peleg longs for Israel,
he picks up his guitar. "When
I sing the songs of Israel, I
feel I return home temporari-
ly," he said. Eight years ago,
he recorded the album "Songs
from Israel."
He speaks to his children
only in Hebrew "because I
want them to know they are
Jewish. I want them to
understand the language of
Judaism, the language of
Israel," he explained.
He sees himself remaining
in the U.S. for several years,
declaring that "I, too, hope to
return some day!' In America,
he misses the sense of pur-
pose and "something deep
down" is "compelling me to
return to my people, to my
roots and to where I belong."
But Peleg is as torn as the
respondents in his disserta-
tion. He said "the ideology of
return does not get shaken"
in the U.S. as the years pass,
but that it is also true that
"the ideology of comfort and
success gets stronger."

Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Summer Youth
Tour Offered

New York — Applications
are now being accepted for
Lehava III, a three-week sum-
mer program designed to
enhance and strengthen rela-
, tions between Israeli and
Diaspora youth, sponsored by
the American Jewish Forum.
For information, call the
UJA, (212) 818-9100.

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