Shira Brown discusses making aliyah and living in Israel.
Shira (Parshan) Brown, 26, made aliyah from Southfield in 2014 at age 18. Growing up at Young Israel of Oak Park and as a student at Akiva Hebrew Day School (now Farber), Shira had a strong Zionist education.
JN: Was there Zionism in your home?
Shira: My parents have always been pro-aliyah, but aliyah was not realistic when they bought a house and had full-time jobs and three young kids. When people talk about aliyah, they think about the ages of the kids, which was always a factor for us.
JN: Tell me about your parents’ aliyah.
Shira: I was just wrapping up my second year in Israel and I got a phone call from my mother: “Shira, we sold the house and are making aliyah.” I thought I was getting pranked by the “Mojo in the Morning” talk show, but it was true.
They made aliyah in the summer, and I was elated! It is amazing to have a support system in Israel, and I got mine back — and the best part was, I became their support system. I helped them deal with healthcare, phone bills, and setting up electricity and water, and it was amazing to know I can help them.
JN: What was your biggest influence for making aliyah?
Shira: Akiva (Farber) did an amazing job of bringing us Israel’s Memorial and Independence days. They put on the complete ceremony just like it is in Israel. We even had the sirens, which made us cry.
I am very idealistic. Once, when I was reading the parshah that said Moshe, the leader of the Jewish people, couldn’t go into Israel, and I thought about the fact that he led everyone, he did all the work and he motivated the Jews, but he couldn’t go in. That really bothered me. After knowing this, how could we not go in?
JN: When you got here, what did you do?
Shira: When I first came, I decided to do Sherut Leumi (National Service). I wanted to experience the raw, hard, challenging neighborhoods, to get the real Israeli experience. I worked in a special-needs kindergarten in Ramat Gan in the mornings and, in the afternoons, I helped run a club for teens who were dealing with living in a neighborhood with drugs and a violence problem.
JN: What are you doing these days?
Shira: I create marketing strategies and campaigns for Anglo businesses in Israel and create websites for clients and businesses.
JN: How did you meet your husband?
Shira: I love this question because my story shows the value of giving back. When making aliyah alone, I received a lot of support from the community and from an organization that supports Lone Soldiers and lone national service volunteers. It is hard to accept help, so I would say to myself, “I will give back as soon as I can.”
When my family made aliyah, I started volunteering with Lone Soldiers and National Service volunteers and created a program called “Adopt a Soldier,” where I set up “matches” between families and soldiers.
I invited our own soldier, Menachem, for Shabbat and that is how I found my match.
JN: What do you love about living here?
Shira: I made aliyah the summer of 2013, so I experienced Protective Edge in the summer of 2014, which was really challenging. But what did I learn? I learned about the humanity in Israel. Random people would ship trucks of hygiene products and food without question. It was natural because Israelis care about one another.
Before that happened, there were small examples throughout the whole year. Being alone, I was invited out for weekends and meals and taken care of by strangers.
JN: What do you miss about living in Michigan?
Shira: I miss the scenery, the greenery and family. My husband and I are going on a trip this summer to Florida, New York and Detroit. The first two places are for tourism — Times Square and Disney World — but we’re going to Detroit to show him my childhood and my memories. Detroit is a close community, and I will always feel at home there.
JN: Do you have a message for any young person who’s thinking about making aliyah?
Shira: If you’re coming for idealistic reasons, try to do a program and experience being with Israelis. Try not to be in a bubble because a bubble can hurt you in the long run. It’s like an immune system and when it breaks, it’s going to be harder.
From the beginning, you can have English-speaking friends, but network with Israelis and try to be in programs and speaking Hebrew with Israelis.