Here’s Why The Cleaning Lady Dreamed of Making Aliya

Here’s Why The Cleaning Lady Dreamed of Making Aliya

This past Shabbat we hosted Anna, a lovely 50-something single mother of 2 who just made aliya to Israel from Germany.

Over the course of the meal, Anna shared with us the story of her life. How 30 years ago she moved from Latvia to Germany, and raised her two children on her own there, working in a job she loved teaching German to new immigrants and refugees. She lived in a city with a Jewish community of around 5000 people, most of them born in the former Soviet Union.

“So, how are things going since you came to Israel?” I asked her.

In broken Hebrew she shared her tale of woe:

“It’s not easy. The Israeli government gives me around $400 a month, but my rent alone is $700!

“I have been cleaning houses to make a living. Before Passover I made a lot of money cleaning for different families, but I’ve realized that the strenuous work and the chemicals in the cleaning fluids are harming my health, so I’m trying to find a different way to make money.

“On top of that, I live in a city here which is a good place for families, but not for single people who are on their own like me. I have to travel a lot by bus to get to my cleaning jobs and to study Hebrew–tomorrow I will spend 5 hours on the bus.

“Oh, I miss my job in Germany, I loved it!”

At which point, I couldn’t help but ask Anna, “Why did you decide to make aliya?”

Anna responded with a blank look. I tried repeating the question in English. And again in slower Hebrew.

When Anna understood what I was asking, her eyes went wide: “Why did I make aliya? I don’t understand your question! Let me tell you a story…

“20 years ago, I was a single mother on my own with 2 small children. I wanted to raise them as Jews, but I understood that to do that I would have to start living as a Jew myself.

“I started learning about Judaism with a rebbetzin who lived in my city. And 14 years ago I started fully keeping Shabbat and keeping kosher. That wasn’t easy since there were only around 10 people in our whole city who observed Shabbat.

“And it wasn’t easy to keep kosher. Kosher slaughter of animals is illegal in Germany, so our rabbi had to import meat from other countries.

“Keeping Shabbat, keeping kosher were a battle in Germany.

“And here, it’s so easy!” Anna motioned with her hands all around my living room, her eyes full of wonder, “Shabbat is just part of a regular way of life, it fills the air of this entire land! A Jewish country! The land of my dreams!

“Instead of asking why I made aliya, you should ask me why it took me so long.”

2 comments

  1. Wow what a punchline!

  2. Hadassah

    Beautiful! I hope that you were able to give her some suggestions regarding work. Teaching German may not be so widely needed, but perhaps at the university level…

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