Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Progress & eLationships

A-minus: 10 months, 3 days

I’ve got 10 months to my Aliyah target date, so it’s time to stop daydreaming and start the process. The first step was to get a new passport since I lost my old one. Next, I’m going to open a “Tik Aliyah” (Aliyah folder) with the Israeli consulate.

To become an Israeli citizen, the Israeli “Law of Return” requires that the prospective immigrant prove his Jewishness. The Jewish definition of “Who is a Jew” states that one must either have a Jewish mother or have converted to Judaism. However, the founding fathers of Israel decided that in order to fulfill Israel’s mission as a Jewish refuge, anyone who would have been persecuted as a Jew is entitled to Israeli citizenship. Since the Nazis decreed that anyone who had one Jewish grandparent was Jewish enough to kill, the Israeli government adopted this definition. To obtain Israeli citizenship, one needs to present the Israeli consulate with two letters from prominent community members or a certificate of conversion as proof of Jewishness. I’m now in the process of preparing my paperwork.

Interestingly, post-war Germany also decided to open its borders to Jews in order to rebuild its local Jewish population, so anyone who has a Jewish mother can also immigrate to Germany. This results in the strange situation where the Jewish State uses the Nazi definition of “Who is a Jew”, and the descendants of the Nazis use the Jewish definition.

In the mean time I’ve been corresponding with a few potential Shidduchim (matches) via internet and telephone. I refer to these electronic relationships as eLationships. For those who don’t know, in the Frum (Orthodox Jewish) world, dating for marriage-minded singles works something like this:
1. Compile a list of character traits you are looking for in a prospective bride.
2. Go to local Rabbi, Rebbetzin (Rabbi’s wife) or trusted friend and tell them you’re “on the market” and what you’re looking for.
3. Someone recommends a Shidduch.
4. Give and check Shidduch’s references.
5. Initiate contact via phone or email.
6. Arrange and go on dates.
7. Get serious or split up.

Some of these steps may be skipped. For instance, if I bumped into someone I liked at shul (synagogue) and thought she was appropriate, I might start asking around about her without waiting for someone else to have the idea. Sometimes people don’t ask for references. In some very religious communities the couple meets once before getting married, although that is strongly advised against for people who grew up in western society.

So far I’ve made it up to steps 5 and 6, but no further. I’ve been involved in several eLationships recently, but I’ve been finding them extremely difficult since most of the girls I talk to live far, far away. I can have a few phone conversations, but if I want to get to know the girl, I have to buy an airline ticket and fly cross-country. The amount of money I would lose would set my Aliyah plans back by at least a month, maybe two, so it’s already a serious investment.

All these failed eLationships and financial issues sometimes trigger me to fall into the blues. Most mornings I wake up ready to go, to bring myself one more day, one more hour, one more minute closer to my goal. I can daven (pray) with kavannah (intent), and I get to work with a spring in my step. But about once every six months to a year, something happens that causes me to lose my footing. I won’t sleep all night, but in the morning I just want to lay there. I go to work but am really just an empty desk. My last episode happened around Lag B’Omer last May.

Since these “Blues Episodes” have happened a few times, I’ve been learning how to deal with and control them. The Jewish concept of Emunah is not really blind faith, but faithfulness, i.e. sticking to what you know even in times of challenge. I find that if I can just focus on the memory that, yes, there was a time when I woke up and had that powerful sense of direction, and that yes, I am still working towards a goal, even though I may be a bit confused now and it seems out of sight. I use the memory of having direction to gather enough strength to sustain the effort. Gradually, over a course of two or three weeks, I slowly regain my footing and begin again to have that burning fire in my belly of purpose and direction. I always come out of “Blues Episodes” stronger than I was when I fell in.

Well, I’ve got no blues for the time being and am making some serious progress. I put in another 10-hour workday today, I’m putting together my paperwork, and gearing up to begin the Aliyah process!