Pittsburgh couple makes aliyah – throughout COVID-19

Lee Golden flipped through a few hundred yogurts on an Israeli grocery store’s online order form. He had translated the page into English but couldn’t tell the difference between all of the yogurts. He decided to randomly pick yogurt and move on.

It was Carri and Lee Goldens’ second food order during their mandatory 14-day bidud, or quarantine, upon arrival in Israel.

So far, they have seen the quiet Tel Aviv airport, the view of the countryside from their van ride, and the steps to their temporary quarantine apartment. And there is an orange tree that they are looking at outside the bedroom window.

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For the couple Lee, 64, and Carri, 63, Aliyah had been developing for years – but when they started planning, they couldn’t imagine what the move would look like.

Lee started thinking about it a decade ago, and when the couple visited Israel in 2018, the view felt real.

Carri hesitated. Pittsburgh has always been home – both she and Lee are second generation Pittsburghers, and the pair built their lives here from childhood to marriage to raising two daughters, now 29 and 32.

“There’s nothing we really don’t like in Pittsburgh,” said Lee.

Finally, Carri had the idea to move to the Jewish state.

“We are ordered to colonize our homeland,” said Carri. “This is the only home. That’s it. This is the one we got. ”

They decided to continue the Aliyah process in 2019, fill out Nefesh B’Nefesh forms, collect information about the cost, and get fingerprints to prove their identity.

You conducted an interview with the Jewish Agency at the end of February 2020, just before everything closed. After that, nothing happened for a while.

But when Nefesh B’Nefesh was able to buy airline tickets for the couple in October, the process moved on.

They booked the temporary apartment for quarantine and also found permanent apartment, choosing it instinctively and virtually (they had originally planned to visit Israel in the summer to choose a location). And they were preparing to move out of the house they lived in for 32 years.

Carri handled the home upgrade while Lee did logistics and financial research for Israel. They tossed their plans aside and started packing. Carri described her mindset as, “This mess can be thrown into a duffel bag and wait until Israel.”

Her last rushed days in the US were filled with meals from friends, masked and detached meetings with some close relatives, and zooms with others. Then they left.

They were greeted with a pandemic-friendly celebration: at the airport, the Aliyah Ministry held up welcome signs and Nefesh B’Nefesh greeted them with sandwiches and biscuits; Former Pittsburghers in Israel – including one of their daughters – sent them food while they were in quarantine.

“We feel like rock stars,” said Carri. “We were very excited to feel so welcome.”

Lee is actually happy about the quarantine. “That was great,” he said. “I can hang out with my wife for two weeks straight, which never happens.” You are in a comfortable apartment with books and games and can recover from exercise and flight and jet lag until the quarantine ends.

For Hanukkah, Carri brought a so-called “cheap” menorah, a box of candles, a couple of dreidel and some decorations. The couple set up a small Hanukkah display in the living room.

Lee and Carri Golden with their makeshift Hanukkah display in their quarantine apartment (photo courtesy Carri Golden)

Nefesh B’Nefesh helped Lee find a job in Israel – he will continue working as a patent attorney from next month. Carri, a social worker, hopes to find work, but she doesn’t jump into it. She wants to focus on settling in Israel, improving her language skills through ulpan and making her new apartment in Rehovot feel at home.

Even with the aliyah process shaken by the pandemic, the new Olim feel comfortable with their decision.

“It really exceeded my expectations at the time and we haven’t gone anywhere,” said Lee. “I didn’t expect to have a job, I didn’t expect to have an apartment, I didn’t expect a lot of things, and it topped everything.

“If we ever get outside, it’ll be great.” PJC

Kayla Steinberg can be reached at ksteinberg@pittsburghjewishchronicle.org.

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