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June 13, 2003 - Image 5

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-06-13

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Just Can't
Say No


Romancing Israel

n 1999, U.S. journalist Alan Abbey and his wife took
their two young children to Israel to attend a
nephew's bar mitzvah. He secured a sabbatical from
his newspaper job so they could stay for up to six
months and absorb all the Jewish state has to offer.
Four years later, they still live there.
"Something sucked us in," said Abbey, vice president for
electronic publishing at the Jerusalem Post, during a visit to
the Detroit Jewish News in Southfield last week. "It was like
a great romance: As a family, we fell in love with Israel."
Abbey, a journalist for 25 years, had just flown in from
Boston. We met over lunch as he began a
two-day business trip. He's also promoting
his new book, Journey of Hope (available
through vvvvw.jewish.com). It's the story of
Ilan Ramon, Israel's first astronaut and an
Israeli Air Force hero who died aboard the
space shuttle Columbia as it broke apart re-
entering the Earth's atmosphere on Feb. 1.
As he relaxed over a salad, Abbey, a
ROBERT A. Brooklyn native, told of Israel's magnetism.
I was impressed by his unswerving alle-
giance to the ancestral homeland of the
Jewish people despite the current waves of
Sheryl and Alan Abbey, who now have three chil-
dren, didn't intend to make aliyah even though they
had honeymooned in Israel. When they arrived
there in 1999, Abbey expected to return to Albany.
and his role as executive business editor of the
Times Union, a daily newspaper in the state capital.
He hoped the six-month sabbatical would let his
family truly enjoy their sojourn.
Their roots were in Albany and so was their
future — or so it seemed.
"I thought we absolutely were coming back,"
Abbey said. "The day I walked into the office of
Jeff Cohen, the editor in chief, to say goodbye, I said, 'I
absolutely am coming back. We've been here a long time.
We've got a lot of connections in the community; in fact, I
met my wife at a synagogue here. So we're very tied in.'"
Cohen's response floored Abbey: "Alan, you are not corn-
ing back."


A Matter Of Time

Time proved Cohen right.
A few months into the sabbatical, the Abbeys decided
they would stay in Israel at least a year. So Abbey went job
hunting. "We started to believe that things are meant to
be," he said.
A lead helped land him the senior business editorship at
Virtual Jerusalem, then a Jerusalem-based Web site high-
lighting Israel and Judaism.
' It was then he knew his tenure at the Times Union was
over. "I made that call to Jeff Cohen and he said, 'I knew
it," said Abbey, who once toyed with buying one or more
Jewish newspapers in upstate New York.
As Israel's high-tech boon faded, Abbey lost his job with
Luck then intervened.
Carving a niche for himself online, Abbey joined inter-
net.com, a U.S.-based company that operates Web sites,
conferences and seminars focusing on high-tech media
industries. He was hired to head the new Israel office.

"I was very excited, particularly because I was going to be
paid in American dollars, which is a luxury," he said.
It was now October 2000, on the heels of Palestinian mil-
itants unleashing a terrorist strategy that has taken more
than 800 Israeli and foreign lives.
Seven months later, in the midst of Israel's terror-stricken,
free-falling economy, Abbey again lost his job.
"I got fired by e-mail," he said. "I walked in on a Sunday
to read a Friday afternoon e-mail: 'Alan, fire everybody and
close the office down. You have a week to basically tie up
things.' They ran into a lot of problems; I'm not blaming
When the merger and acquisition dust settled in the wake
of the dot.com bust, internet.com was a division of

Jim Zack has an addiction. He got
hooked on something 15 -years ago
that changed his life forever and
changes the lives of many every day. -
That addiction is JARC. Shortly after
joining the board in . 1988, Zack was
touched so profoundly by • the work
JARC does and by the quality of that
work, he realized he could never leave.
So, after serving as an officer. chairing
the fundraiser, and being JARC's
president for the past three °years, he
still needs-his fix.

Divinely Inspired

Meanwhile, Abbey was at wits' end.
"We were on the bubble over whether to stay in Israel
because of economic reasons," he said. We decided we
loved the place, The intifada — the security situation ---
was a concern but not an issue in terms of staying or going.
We were starting to build a community and really starting
to sense this was a place for us and a place for our children
to grow up.
But they lacked that one essential: income.
He had freelanced one story for the Jerusalem Post
so inquired there about opportunities. He leaped at
the offer of a night-desk senior editorship. The
offer, as if God's will, came the same day he was
considering giving up the grand experiment.
"You start to take signs in Israel that the right
thing happens at the right time and hopefully for
the right reasons," Abbey said.
He was working the night of Sept. 11, 2001, dis-
covering with the rest of the world that America .
was not immune from widespread terror.
In March 2002, Abbey took the reins at vvvvvv.jpost.com .
Meanwhile, he formalized Israel as his family's new home.
"We can always come back to America," Abbey said. "I did-
n't burn my U.S. passport."
Upbeat as he is about making a go of it against the
undertow of terrorism, Abbey is also deeply wary, even as
U.S.-brokered peace talks resumed.
"Many of the people I worked with at VJ — younger, -
more adaptable people, Young Judaea graduates, Bnei Akiva
types, who came to Israel and rode the high-tech wave as
project managers, who went into the army, who have better
Hebrew than I do — have left because it has been so diffi-
cult to find economic certainty."
Alan Abbey's determination gives me hope the Israeli spirit
will somehow prove to be the upper hand against radical fac-
tions bent on destroying Jewish control of Israel, not only
the peace process.
"I didn't go to Israel to work at the Jerusalem Post," Abbey
said. "I didn't necessarily go planning to work. But work
found me. I take that as a good sign. We'll see where things
Let's hope they point to Israel expanding its peace initia-
tives with willing neighbors. Trust me: You can count the
Palestinians out until they unequivocally demonstrate a
desire, let alone the ability, to fight terror, discourage incite-
ment, renounce hate and embrace the ways of the civilized

) 5


H. James Zack, immediate past president
and chair of JARC's Capital Campaign

As Dan Gilbert took the presidential
helm at JARC last week; Zack
embarked- on a voyage to continue
feeding his habit. As chairperson of
.IARC's first Capital Campaign, . he's
captain of an 18-month °project
forecast to raise S4 million to purchase
the Paul and Lois Katzman
Adrninistraticur Building inTarmingtoti
Hills. After helping JARC navigate
through the rough waters following
recent drastic, cuts in public funding.
lie's fit to weather any storm at sea.
Plus, there's that addiction thing.

lIe'd like you to get hooked, too. Come
volunteer at the beautiful office or one
of_JAK's 20 remarkable homes. Come
to a JARC fundraiser. _You'll be
impressed; you'll be touched; you may
even get hooked. JARC is a magical
place that some can never leave.
Won't you be part of the magic?

On September 23. Zack will
formerly launch the Capital
Campaign at the celebration of
Joyce Keller's 25 years with JARC.



For 34 years, helping
people with disabilities
be fully included in
community life

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Suite 100
Farmington Hills, Ml 48334
248.538.6611 • Fax 248.538.6615

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