Your Story: Dejah Lachow

People don’t like to hear it, but we weren’t able to thrive in the US. I’m $40,000 in debt from one year of college (at a state school! Not private!) And had been working 2 full-time jobs just to get by with no chance of going back. I moved here for the education benefits. I’m under 27, so I can get my bachelor’s paid for here, and the other financial support I receive as a new immigrant is more help than I’ve ever gotten from anyone since I was 17. Even with corona happening, this is the only path I had forward. Plus the healthcare. I hadn’t seen a doctor in 5 years in the states because I couldn’t afford insurance, and made too much money for medicare/Obamacare. I was above the poverty line because of my two jobs, but once you factored in rent, car insurance, food, debt payments, etc., I didn’t have enough for the $100/mo plus deductibles and copays and the time off to see a doctor.

People say rent in Tel Aviv is high, but it’s honestly pretty similar to what it was for me in Maryland. Then they say, “but wages are lower!” But I don’t have as many expenses here. I don’t need a car, I don’t pay for school if I go, fresh fruits and veggies are cheaper as long as I buy in season, I’m not expected to have as much stuff to fit in, and there are places to socialize/things to do without paying money. I think the people who complain about how hard it is here and how expensive things are here come from a place of privilege in the US or wherever they came from. If you come from the upper-middle class, it’s going to be a step-down. If you were struggling to make ends meet and were living with terrible roommates in an apartment with mice after you were married while working two jobs and dreaming of maybe getting an education someday, it’s better here.

I only made Aliyah in October (after over a year in the process!) So I don’t have too much going on yet. I’m in residential ulpan at Beit Brodetsky, and it’s challenging doing everything over zoom in our one-room apartment.

The only suggestion/tip I have is to be persistent and be a nudge. If you don’t make yourself seen, you won’t be seen. You can’t let the bureaucracy forget about you and push you around.

I’ve been able to find private gigs as a tutor/babysitter here reasonably quickly, so I do have some money coming in. I’m also in the process of interviewing for remote jobs that operate on US hours so that I can learn while working. It hasn’t been easy, but I think it hasn’t been as difficult as people make it sound. If you’re willing to be patient and to advocate for yourself, everything is possible.

I feel that here the “American dream” is actually more possible. I’ve found people who are willing to help and to bend the rules. All immigrants start on the same footing. If you show up with $2,000 or $200,000, you still need to learn the language and find out how things work here, and the money will run out eventually for everyone if they don’t find out where they fit here.

I would suggest that people not let the advice of “come with money” scare them away if they don’t have money. There’s been more financial support here than anywhere else in my life. Sal Klita has been more than enough for my husband to live on with our already frugal lifestyle. If you’re already on a tight budget, it will be the same here. Not everyone has to learn to live with less. That advice comes from people who are used to eating out, going to movies, and buying new clothes just because they want to. If you’re struggling in America, you can still come to Israel. That’s why they offer Sal Klita, pay for the flight, and provide free ulpan.

Although some people say you’re dropped here without support, it’s not true. But nobody’s going to do anything for you. I’ve had a post-Aliyah advisor from Nefesh B’Nefesh calling to check up on me, and my olim advisor from Misrad HaKlita has been super helpful too. There’s always someone to help you here. Jews stick together and take care of each other. You don’t have to be spiritual or religious to be successful in Aliyah. You don’t need to have a deeply held belief in Manifest Destiny. You just have to want to be here and remember why that is.

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