Sunday, August 15, 1999

Exodus to Israel

Former 'American Israelite' editor fulfills lifelong dream

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Moving anywhere after 34 years in the same house is traumatic enough. But moving permanently to another country, where apartments are substantially smaller than American dwellings, presents its own particular predicaments.

        Furniture? Clothing? Large appliances? How about small? And what to do about cases and cases of books?

        Such have been the recent concerns of Phyllis Singer, as the former editor of The American Israelite prepares to move to Israel for good this month. The move fulfills a lifelong dream for Mrs. Singer, 62, and her husband, Allen, 64 — but first they had to decide what would stay and what would go.

        “It's like packing your lifetime into boxes. What do you do? You can't take everything with you,” she says.

        “It pains me. I have boxes of family photos, and things from when my parents died. And books — the hardest thing was to go through the books. We've probably cut down our books to a third of what we had, and it pains me.”

Tried 25 years ago
        The Singers first thought about moving to Israel 25 years ago. As observant Jews and committed Zionists, the thought was inevitable. But with five children, ages one to 12 at the time, the timing was bad. Mrs.

        As their children graduated from college, married and started their own families, the Singers began thinking again of heading to Israel. The decision was made around 1994, and serious planning began around 1996.

        “It's been a dream for more than 25 years,” she says. “We packed away the dream, but we didn't lock it away. We said, maybe someday we'll be able to do it. All our children are grown. All of them are married. All our parents have passed away. So we have decided, if we're ever going to do this, now is the time.”

        They left Cincinnati Friday to visit their children in Chicago, New York and Washington, and will head to Israel Aug. 26. One son, Hanan, lives in the northern part of Israel, and after a short visit with him they will head to Jerusalem and begin language training.

        “We both have Hebrew-school kind of Hebrew, so we're both going to try to master the language,” she says. “We want to live there. We don't always want to feel like Americans living in Israel. We've made this life choice.”

Left prized possessions
        In packing the boxes that litter their Roselawn home, the Singers have been able to part with many of their possessions. Their children's report cards were thrown out, along with childhood artwork. American bedroom sets are too large for Israeli apartments, so they had to go. Birthday cards, large appliances, clothes that had hung in closets for years — all easy calls.

        But others were harder decisions.

        “I have agonized over what to do about my Passover dishes. People say, "You're never going to make a Passover seder again.' I'm not sure. I'm packing them up and taking them,” she says.

        When they arrive and settle in, there will be more work to do: bank accounts to set up, a permanent apartment to find, citizenship documents to complete. They will continue to visit the United States, and Mrs. Singer will continue to write for local publications, but they intend to fulfill their dream by plunging into Israeli life as much as possible.

        “It's exciting and at the same time it's scary. We have very deep roots in Cincinnati,” she says. But “we just always felt (Israel) was the right place for us to be. It's kind of the fulfillment of living a Jewish life.”


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