Lawyer makes aliyah without having been to Israel
By Susie Davidson
On Nov. 18, Hopkins, his wife Rachel and their three young children, aged 4, 2, and 6 months, are making aliyah with a Jewish Agency program, First Home in the Homeland. It’s an unlikely, but a committed move for the couple, who met at George Washington University and have been exploring their spirituality ever since.
The family will be living in Kfar Retamim, a fairly new Yishuv (religious village) in the Negev desert.
For Hopkins, it will be his first time in the Holy Land. “I will step off the plane in November as an ‘Oleh Chadash.’[New immigrant] Sight unseen. I guess you can call it a leap of faith,” he said, adding that Rachel has been twice. The couple has not met any of the young families they will be settling with, except through Skype. They first heard about the community through Nefesh B’Nefesh, which promotes making aliyah.
Hopkins, an attorney who focuses on business, real estate transactions and estate planning work, will continue to serve his Massachusetts clients as a “virtual counselor.” Rachel, a special education practitioner, also plans to continue working with autistic children in Israel. “Neither of us were very religious, but have been on a spiritual journey that is now leading us home to Israel,” said Hopkins, whose mother is Jewish and father Catholic. He and his older sister were raised as Jews, and attended a small, Conservative synagogue in Newtown, Conn. “We attended services most Friday nights and celebrated Chanukah, Rosh Hashanah, and Yom Kippur, but were not observant,” he said.
Rachel, who grew up in Randolph, attended Temple Beth David in Canton, where the couple were married. “She also was not very observant, but decided to explore her Judaism more by choosing to attend high school at New Jewish Academy [now Gann Academy]. She moved in with her grandmother who did keep a kosher home, and went on to take courses in Judaic Studies in college,” said Hopkins.
Following a move to Framingham, they became involved with Temple Israel ofNatick and the Chabad Center of Natick. “Both have been important communities in the development of our Yiddishkeit,” he said. Rachel helped plan Friday night family dinners at Temple Israel. “There, we met lots of young families struggling with the same question of how to raise Jewish children in today’s world, and the Chabad Center taught me a lot about how to proudly identify as an observant Jew and practice my religion.”
As with any family making aliyah, they will leave loved ones behind. “Our families and ourselves are experiencing a whole host of emotions, but have been supportive, and understand that we are serious about the decision and our desire to make it work,” said Hopkins. “Our relationships are very strong and will remain so. Luckily, technology makes the world smaller than it was 40 years ago.” Relatives have begun planning spring and summer visits.
Is the family apprehensive about the volatile climate in the Middle East? “Absolutely not,” answered Hopkins. “We were aware of the situation when we made our decision long ago, just as we are now. But we believe that in this day and age, there is a threat to our safety no matter where you live. Jews are under threat every day in communities across the Europe and the globe, as are many others.” He learned this personally in December 2012, after the school shooting in Sandy Hook. “It is where I went to school, and where my nephew currently is enrolled,” he said.
“Living a life in fear is not living,” he continued. “While we must be realistic about the potential dangers that lurk everywhere and act accordingly, it is a balancing act.” For the Hopkins, that balance meant finding a community that was not along the border. “We feel strongly that given the current climate, it is important now for Jews to support Israel,” he said. “We are blessed with the opportunity to show our support by strengthening the community of the South, by living there and raising our family there.”
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