The scariest part for me regarding this whole aliyah process was meeting with the representative. I think because it’s called an interview it triggers my stress response system and I think I have to prove myself or else I wont get hired or something. My advisor just said don’t feel worried it’s ok no big deal but that doesn’t stop it from feeling like a massive deal. I mean I had been telling people I would be making aliyah this December so if I get a rejection letter from the jewish agency then I’d feel like a failure.
So for me what made this even more jarring was that I work a full time job, M-F from 9-5:30 so getting an interview would be hard without taking time off. So I decided to use the day that I had to take Autumn up to her dermatology appointment at UC Davis. When I called to schedule the appointment there was only one day in SF but I couldn’t do that day soI had to use the July 5th appointment at UCD to which I all ready took off sick time and fly down to LA. Flying to LA is only an hour and change so not really that bad. I initially attempted to fly out of Oakland, as it closer to me, but there were no flights at the time I needed. This meant I had to take myself to San Francisco and fly out of San Francisco international airport (SFO).
So I get to the airport without a problem, which was nice but what I anticipated. But thats when the smooth sailing ended. I get through security and stand in line with United. well I’m looking at the boarding time and it’s saying we will board at 1:50, but it’s past 1:50. around 2, the attended gets on the loud speaker to announce that the flight is delayed. (ahhhhh!!!) I then call the Schliach and inform her that my flight is delayed. No problem she says, so my distress dies down. We board around 2:15 and I’m feeling better. So I’m sitting there in my seat and I’m waiting. The plane starts moving and then it stops. We are delayed again the pilot says and this time we wont be heading out until around 3. (didI mention my appointment was at 4 at the agency?). So I’m all distressed again but really there is nothing I can do. We take off around 3, the flight is smooth, and I arrive at 4:15. At this point I’m in tears, because there is no way I can get from LAX to the agency in LA in less than an hour. I call her and ask what she wants me to do, yes still in tears. She says just come I’ll wait for you. I finally arrive at her office at 5:30 (the office closed at 5:00). To describe how I was feeling during this time only one word comes to mind, Panicked!
The interview itself was pretty smooth, as far as I could remember, due to that high stress level which was only magnified by all the disasters that happened. My Schliach first checked my documents, making copies for her file. It was at this point that I learned that due to me leaving of my middle name on my passport I had to get an apostille so it could match my brith certificate (ahhhh!). In addition to this new document I needed, she also wanted me to add some information regarding when I met with my rabbi when I converted. Not too bad! The second part was the actual interview. I’m assuming that since I’m a convert, she needed to direct questions to me about my level of observance and my past religious experiences. She prefaced it by saying she would be asking some sensitive questions. these questions included: what my previous Catholic religious practices were (which was funny because really I only ever attended church because my mom made me and she had this way of guilting me regarding jesus even though I do not believe), my belief in Jesus including whether I thought he was the messiah (Again I had to keep from laughing but instead talked about my the messianic age not some person who’s going to come and bring lasting peace (rather all of us as people are responsible for creating peace on earth)), and something else I can’t remember because it wasn’t as interesting. She then shifted the questions to why I wanted to make aliyah and what my plan was. She asked me about my finances (this was the first time I felt nervous as this is a sensitive topic to me) and where I wanted to live. This is where I informed her that I was changing my preferred city to Jerusalem and not Tel Aviv. She asked me about my debt and whether I would be taking my car. She suggested an Ulpan, but since it’s residential and I’m brining my dog, I couldn’t do it. I thoughtful sure I wasn’t going to “pass” because I have low finances. She asked me if I had questions after she was done and I asked about the next steps. She gave me a conditional approval, contingent on me re-writing my letter and getting an apostille. Also because my pilot trip is in November she wouldn’t submit my Visa information until after I returned (I found ut later that if I got my Visa info before going on my pilot trip then it would trigger my aliyah benefits). I then have to submit my exit/entry form again with the added dates from my pilot trip once it happens. But Once the letter and the apostle are in she can let NBN know and they can give me the flight information and I can schedule my flight.
We chatted some more, learning a little more about each other, and then she shooed me off because she knew about LA traffic and not missing my flight (which was a nightmare anyway, but not worth going into because I was really on cloud nine having the most anxiety producing part of the process over). Just know I was utterly exhausted, that evening and the following day, but I did it. I passed. Aliyah here I come