Transition: Sharon Wagner-Zauder

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22 July 2018

By Sharon Wagner-Zauder: Senior Israel Engagement Manager, UJIA

There have been major turning points in my life which have been connected to physically moving from one place to another whether it was when I was 13 and 5 months to Israel or moving to a different part of London or spending a year abroad.

The two major transitions that I made were in 1997 and in 2017.

In 1997 I moved to Israel as a single 25-year-old fulfilling a dream that I held since I was 14. The transition, like all, had to mourn the path I was not taking as much I was celebrating the fulfilment of a long aspiration. Part of me wanted the choice to be taken out of my hands, I didn’t feel comfortable being the sole controller of my own destiny. Before I left I spent many hours agonising about the decision, but as soon arrived I moved in to adaptation mode and trying to get on with my life. Ulpan, cultural differences, the important of other expats, especially those who understand where you had come from. Unlikely friendship with other Brits mainly due to their Britishness or even other English speakers. I felt most anti-Zionist to go to Israel and speak English – I wanted to integrate but I didn’t bank on my mild dyslexia becoming so much more severe when I intensely studied Hebrew.

Friends introduced me to friends and I grew more comfortable in my new home. But I was always separate, the new olah, the one who spoke grammatically incorrect Hebrew, the one who is too pale to be in the Middle Eastern sun, the one who found the banks too confusing, the British one. I felt the last definition the most absurd as I had not spent my formative years going to camp to better understand my British identity.

I gave myself 3 years. In the year July 2000, I had just graduated from my tour guide course I had signed up to work full time at the Machon L’madrichai Chutz L’aretz at the Jewish Agency, things were looking up. I realised that my life in Israel, however frustrating at times, was what I wanted.

If we move forward to 2017, I am married 11 years and I now, have 3 children aged, 8,6 and 3, I am working mainly as Tour Guide with some teaching and educational consultancy on the side. An opportunity presented itself to return to London and work for the Jewish community. We had been talking about shlichut as a family for a few years and it became a concrete possibility at the beginning of 2017. Should we go? Does it matter which country we go to? How will it affect our children? Does it make career sense? How will affect us financially?  It becomes clear that a suitable job in UJIA will be the direction we go in. Now I am going back to work in the last organisation I worked in before made Aliyah, living again in Finchley and I am excited by the opportunities. Opportunities to be home every night to kiss my children goodnight, to go to Tesco, to reconnect with friends that I never get to see enough, opportunities to give back to the community that gave me so much.

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