For Melissa Goldman, Daniel Warshawsky and Joshua Seed, making Aliyah and joining the Israel Defense Forces as lone soldiers was not a spur of the moment decision, but the result of a culmination of years of experience from school, camp, youth group, synagogue and family. The three grew up extremely active in the Conservative movement, spending their free time in USY, summers at Camp Ramah, and the year between high school and college on the Conservative movement’s flagship Nativ College Leadership Program. All three made Aliyah on Nefesh B’Nefesh’s August 2016 charter flight, moved to the religious Kibbutz, Alumim, in Israel’s south as part of Garin Tzabar and Nefesh B’Nefesh Lone Soldiers Program, and currently serve as lone soldiers in the IDF. Their personal backgrounds and reasons for Aliyah are varied, but their inspiring stories remain the same.
When Melissa Goldman made Aliyah in August 2016, it was the actualization of an idea she had been considering since she was a young girl visiting Israel with her family and on school trips. Originally from Rockland County, NY, Melissa is a proud product of the Conservative Movement, having attended the Solomon Schechter Day School and the Nativ College Leadership Program (Nativ 32), as well as being active in United Synagogue Youth (USY). She spent her summers at Ramah Nyack summer camp, including the summer of 2015, when she served as Assistant Division Head. Melissa was fortunate to have visited Israel 10 times before making Aliyah, including two visits with the Solomon Schechter school, as a participant on the USY HaChalutzim trip in 2011, and to staff USY Pilgrimage in 2014.
When reflecting on her reasons for moving, Melissa felt that there was something special about life in Israel that she wanted to experience on a daily basis. It was in Israel that she had more meaningful discussions, felt a stronger connection to the people walking on the streets and had a bigger investment in the well-being and future of the country. After high school, when she convinced her parents to let spend a year in Israel on the Nativ program, it was the first time she had ever experienced independence, and mastering the new culture, language and even the public transportation left her with a new-found sense of self and autonomy. Once her meaningful year in Israel came to a close, Melissa enrolled at Binghamton University and completed her BA degree three months before her Aliyah.
On the day of her Aliyah flight, Melissa was visibly excited. For her, making Aliyah was a big decision and one that deserved a good deal of thought, but also emphasized that it is “not saying goodbye, it’s only a see you later”, which helped as she moves away from her family and begins to plant her roots in Israel. Her parents, supportive and proud, had a simple message for her – “we love you, be safe, be happy and follow your dreams.”
When deciding what she wanted to do upon making Aliyah, Melissa explained that to her, it was clear that she wanted to “contribute back to the country that had given so much to her” by joining the IDF. After Aliyah, Melissa moved straight to Kibbutz Alumim, with a group of likeminded lone soldiers in her “Garin”. There she took Ulpan and preparation courses to get her ready for her impending army service and drafted in November 2016. Melissa currently serves in the IDF as an instructor for combat soldiers it the artillery unit. She is extremely happy with her position in the army and is particularly proud of the Hebrew skills she has gained so far in the army, having come with basic Hebrew and now fluent.
Daniel Warshawsky, originally from Deerfield, IL is currently serving as a combat soldier in the elite Paratroopers unit. Growing up, he was active in United Synagogue Youth and spent summers at Camp Ramah in Wisconsin, where he later served as Rosh Eidah (unit head).
After graduation from Chicagoland Jewish High School in June 2011, he spent the following 2011-2012 on the Nativ gap year program (Nativ 31), living in Jerusalem and Yerucham. During his time at Indiana University he received a BA in Telecommunications as well as a BA in Jewish Studies, and spent Spring Semester of 2015 at Hebrew University in a special partnership with the Nachshon Project. At Indiana, he was involved with Alpha Epsilon Pi, Indiana University Hillel and AISH at Indiana University.
Before making Aliyah, Daniel had vast Israel experience, having visited Israel 10 times since summer 2002, including participation on Eastern Europe/Israel Pilgrimage in Summer 2010 and the Chicagoland Jewish High School senior Israel trip in January 2011.
When he shared his reason for making Aliyah, he explained that while America is where he was currently physically living, he always saw Israel as his home. Whenever he wasn’t in Israel, he was always thinking about the next time he could be. When he had the chance to live in Israel for a year after high school on the Nativ Program and during his junior year abroad at Hebrew University, he felt like a part of society, and the feeling of being an “outsider” diminished. Even though he knew the easy thing would be to stay in America and live the life expected of him, he felt the right thing for him to do was be in Israel. He explained that,
“One of the best feelings that I have is when someone comes up to me on the street and starts talking to me in Hebrew. When I look at them and respond in Hebrew, I feel like I’m finally a part of the country and its people. When I am in Israel, I feel like the truest version of myself. I can wear my kippah freely without the feeling that I may be judged. I don’t have to sacrifice my Jewish values in order to live the life that I want. I can keep Shabbat without feeling like I am missing out on something. I can keep kosher again and feel good about doing it. I want to have a family here, not only the family I would raise, but also the one that I will receive as a Chayal Boded, the Garin that I will be a part of, the family of other Olim that live here, and the support system of Israelis that I have already made over the course of my many stays in Israel.”
Joshua Seed, an alum of Nativ 32 and Ramah Nyack, joined Melissa and Daniel in their journey to becoming lone soldiers in the IDF, where he currently serves as a combat soldier in Givati. Originally from Toronto, Josh attended Tanenbaum CHAT high school, followed by Nativ and then studied at Binghamton University.