Tziona Ackerman Rister is the daughter of Dr. Neill and Michele Ackerman of Scranton. Tziona was good enough to start off our series with her exciting story of aliyah.
I am a native Scrantonian who grew up in the warm Jewish community of the Hill Section. I attended the Scranton Hebrew Day School and the Bais Yaakov of Scranton.
After I spent a year in advanced Jewish studies in Baltimore I then went on to complete my Bachelors in Spanish and Secondary Education at the University of Scranton. After working as Spanish teacher in both a South Bronx public school and then a Girls H.S. in New Jersey, I decided that it was time for a change.
I was interested in doing a Masters degree but I didn’t know quite what and where I wanted to study. Israel was definitely an option as I grew up hearing a lot about Israel from my parents who met each other there while studying at Ulpan. I also had my own vivid memories of a family trip to Israel that we took when I was a child. I still remember my first trip to the Kotel (Western Wall in Jerusalem) and what it was like going to “gan”(Israeli pre-school) and being interrogated in Hebrew by aggressive Israeli 5 year olds. So when I was googling MA programs and found a program in Israel, I immediately applied. I joined a MASA (Travel) sponsored program called TASP : Teach and Study Program, which is hosted by Bar Ilan University. It’s a two year MA in Teaching English as a Foreign Language combined with a teaching internship at a public school in Tel Aviv.
I spent an exciting two years in the Tel Aviv area taking advantage of everything Israel had to offer. Besides for the time I spent teaching disadvantaged boys from South Tel Aviv, I spent a lot of time at the “women’s only” beach, took many day trips to Jerusalem, studied diligently in Ulpan, pursued my passion of dancing, spent Chanuka in Eilat, Purim in Tzfat and experienced Shabbat with families all over the country. It was at the end of my first year in Israel that I finalized my decision and made aliyah.
After graduating from Bar Ilan last June, I decided that it was time to move to Jerusalem. After securing a job and an apartment, I came to spend the summer in Scranton. It was during my time in America that I met Amram, a young rabbi/ librarian from Brooklyn, who might have been more idealistic than I about making aliyah- something I never thought was possible! We managed to date enough during the summer to know we wanted the relationship to continue, and after a making a few trips back and forth to and from Israel, we got engaged. Amazingly, in only a few weeks, Amram managed to find a job and cut through all the red tape at the Jewish Agency. He packed his bags and joined me on aliyah.
On January 1st, Amram and I were married in Israel and we are starting our life as a couple in Jerusalem. I work as a high school English teacher at Chavat Hanoar HaTzioni and I am also a part time student at Nishmat’s Center for Advanced Torah Study for Women. My husband works as a librarian at the Lander Institute.
Please visit Israel. Maybe you will fall in love with our homeland as I did.
We’re collecting photos and stories of NEPA olim. Please submit them to Dassy.Ganz@jewishnepa.org