This was not easy for me. I’m a born supervisor and taskmaster.
I met Avi a little more than ten years ago when I was a madricha (counselor) on a JCC association youth program to Israel. Avi was technically my boss; he coordinated the programs and was in charge of hiring the counselors. I think he’d agree that the summer of 2000, when we were both on this program, was the last time he told me what to do.
Since then, I’ve typically been the leader in our little family unit. This is not to say I’m bossy necessarily, though I do have a tendency to nudge. But thanks to an inherited and proprietary blend of obsessiveness, impatience, and a touch of arrogance, I tend to be the person who researches and makes decisions for our family. My husband agrees (I swear he does! Ask him!) that a lot of my proverbial, but not literal pushing and shoving has generally benefited both him and our kids over the last ten years.
But I wasn’t 100 percent on board with the idea of making Aliyah. Excited about this prospect, yes. But terrified at the potential implications — for me both personally, and professionally. So, I contemplated letting go of the decision entirely. Not because I wasn’t strong enough to make a definitive yes or no decision for myself and the kids. But because I was tired of being the decision maker. I had no practice in “just going along” with a plan of someone else’s design. All of my spiritual gurus and trusted friends advised me that “letting go” was something I might actually embrace, if and when I got better at doing it.
Avi took on the application process through Nefesh B’Nefesh. He was the one who sent requests for all of our needed paperwork to local and national government offices– copies of our birth certificates, our social security cards. He was the one who organized the “Aliyah” file, keeping careful track of which documents had been completed and mailed, and which ones still needed to be acquired. He looked into communities in the North that might be a good fit for our family.
I remained a little bit aloof and even more so in denial that this Israel thing was really happening.
When it was time to actually make a real decision, the kind that leads to a plane ticket and a contract with a shipping company, I couldn’t quite bring myself to say yes or no. Yes, would mean leaving my parents, my good friends, my community, and even parts of my business. All relationships I had spent time and energy cultivating over the past few years. No, would mean landing in a new country, learning a new language, and adjusting to new cultural norms and expectations.
It was all too big. Suddenly, the born leader understood why some people choose to follow.
And it’s not to take the easy way out. It’s to allow someone who loves you to lead. To fall under the spell of your leader’s vision. To be able to see what he sees for you through his eyes.
During my time of indecision, it was difficult for me to see anything but fear and anxiety. But Avi could see hope. He could see freedom. He could see dreams coming true.
Who wouldn’t want to follow that?
And so yadda yadda yadda … we made Aliyah.
Jen Maidenberg is a writer, editor, activist and former assistant editor at the Arizona Jewish Post. Visit her website at http://jenmaidenberg.com/.