One on One with Tzippora Felsenthal
As a young teenager, Tzippora Felsenthal made Aliyah with her family from Passaic, New Jersey. Drawing upon her experiences in an Israeli high school, she created the “Teen Survival Guide to Aliyah”, a website packed with resources and useful tips for young olim. Odelia Glausiusz spoke with Tzippora to learn about her journey.
Tell us about your experience making Aliyah as a teenager?
It wasn’t unpleasant, but it required a lot of effort. When I started in an Israeli high school, I didn’t understand anything. For seven hours a day I just heard gibberish – but I also knew I had to make up all the material. So I spent a lot of high school just trying to pass tests, which I ultimately did, thanks to my amazing tutor. I did love my history classes; I thought it was so cool that in Israel, history means Jewish history.
I made plenty of funny mistakes. On the first day of school, as we all introduced ourselves, I said “yesh li chaver” which means “I have a boyfriend,” which got a lot of laughs! I also accidentally cursed at my tutor one time!
I grew up in a Zionistic home, and we always planned to make Aliyah. My parents felt that Israel is our true home. But truthfully, it was my parents who were idealistic – not me. Growing up in America, I didn’t have a personal connection to Israel. But once we arrived, everything changed. It still amazes me that I can just get on a bus and go to the Kotel. To be able to walk in the footsteps of our ancestors is something truly remarkable. By settling in Eretz Yisrael I feel I am living the life Hashem wants me to lead.
Do you think it would have been easier to make Aliyah after your seminary year?
I’m so blessed that my parents decided to move when I was 14. It was a little crazy, but the pride that I feel, and the appreciation and love that I have for the Land of Israel is because of that struggle. Because I had to work hard and put in so much effort, Israel became a part of who I am.
What inspired you to create a website for teens making Aliyah?
I was on a guided tour of Har Herzl, and our group walked by the grave of a lone soldier who died in Operation Protective Edge in 2014, the year before I made Aliyah. This soldier made Aliyah when he was only a few years older than me, and I immediately felt a connection. Then the tour guide said: “He died helping the Jewish people. What are you going to do for our people?” Those words really stuck with me.
I wanted to do something to help olim, but because of COVID there weren’t many sherut leumi jobs available. So I decided – you know what, G-d gives everyone a unique set of talents, experiences and challenges, and we are meant to use those to contribute to the world. I realized that having come to Israel as a teenager, I understood what teen olim go through. I wanted to make their journey through high school a little easier so they would have a more positive experience and truly feel that Israel is their home. That’s the vision of the website – to help teens overcome the difficulties they will invariably face on their Aliyah journey. Check it out at teensurvivalguidealiyah.com.
Odelia Glausiusz studied at Michlelet Mevaseret Yerushalayim, is currently studying English Literature at King’s College London and is an intern for HaMizrachi magazine.