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First week of shlichut

We landed in New York as World Mizrachi shlichim (emissaries). I am writing now, at four in the morning, awake with jetlag after a few days in New York.

Well before we get to the educational activities (which is why we’re in the US), there are technical aspects that need to be dealt with that are difficult, complex and downright annoying. They are even quite deflating for someone like me, who is used to completing such matters easily in my own country.

I did not land in a lecture hall full of people, but into a list of assignments full of subsections.

Have you ever tried to open an American bank account? You need to bring them your Social Security number, which is similar to an Israeli mispar zehut (ID number), but it’s easier to get this number once you already have a bank account. What a neverending loop!
Have you ever tried to lease a car in a country you’ve never driven in before?
And what about school buses? For the familiar yellow school bus to pick up my children, I have to call the appropriate district within New York City. I spent 20 minutes relaying our details to the hotline operator before she informed me that I also need to physically come to her office, with the apartment lease and the first electricity bill we paid. And preferably the gas bill too. But the bills have not yet arrived, and the school year is beginning. We don’t have a printer yet but we need to print out so many forms to sign.

We received an email from the school today: two days before the school year begins, all students need to come in to get checked for lice. I hope we don’t embarrass the whole State of Israel.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining. G-d willing, it will all work out in a few days. I’m in awe. In awe and full of admiration for new immigrants who did all this, under far more difficult conditions, in a completely foreign language. Who left a comfortable and familiar place and uprooted their entire lives to come and live in Eretz Yisrael.

After I finished reading another email about United States health insurance and some confusing offers for purchasing a US SIM card, I quickly wrote to one mother in Israel, a new immigrant from France, whose son had been in my son’s class. I did not contact her the whole year. I apologized and asked — yes, now, from New York — if she needed anything. Of course she did. She needed someone to translate some forms for her and explain exactly what she needs to do. How obvious for me, how challenging for her.

With every displacement, migration, relocation, and certainly every immigration, a smile and a little interest can help ease, and most of all change, a person’s mood and morale. The difference between a pleasant, smiling secretary and a snappy, unsympathetic clerk is the difference between heaven and earth.

Dawn has risen in New York. This morning, three new neighbors wrote to me asking if we need any help. Of course we do.


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