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Lisa and Marty Pressman

“A journey to Judaism”

by Ruth Rosenthal

Lisa and Marty Pressman are active and prominent members of the conservative Netzach Israel Kehillah in Ashkelon, a coastal city in the south of Israel.

Lisa, who has a son in California and and a daughter and son-in-law in New York City, is a second-generation American citizen, with a family background in Poland, Lithuania and Kiev. She spent her childhood, being in the company of her parents’ Jewish friends, while at the same time celebrating typically American holidays, such as Halloween and the 4th of July. The family were members of both Reform and Conservative Synagogues. As early as in her teenage years, she wanted to learn Hebrew and go to live in Israel. However, she listened to her parents and went to university.

Her journey through life, which would lead to the study of Judaism and her aliyah to Israel, took some detours. Lisa had and has a wide range of interests and she is not exactly the type to take things superficially. She studied history, music, psychology and sociology at the University of California, Berkeley and tried her luck at having a singing career in New York. This did not get off the ground, amazingly enough to everyone who has had the privilege of listening in Ashkelon’s shul to her wonderfully clear voice.

Lisa got married, had two children. She got divorced and reconnected with her Judaism. While working at the Reform Congregation outside of Boston she met Marty Pressman. Six months later they got married.

Marty, who also has two children, five grandchildren and five great grandchildren, was born in Montreal, Canada, and later moved to the USA. Seventeen years ago his son made aliyah with one of his children. Marty’s family background is also East-European, his father was from Kiev and arrived in Canada as a child, his mother was Canadian born, whereas his grandmother was from Rumania. He grew up in a three-generation home. His father was secular, but, through his grandfather, who was religious, Marty attended cheder.

Marty, who holds a BA in marketing and an MBA from New York University, had a career as the law enforcement liaison for a firm in the field of security hardware for prisons, government buildings, hospitals and hotels for over 20 years. Thereafter, until his retirement, he consulted and sold tactical equipment and body armour to the law enforcement community. He enjoyed his careers, describing his work as “play”.

Marty, also, got divorced. Throughout his life, wherever he lived or his business trips took him, he attended orthodox or conservative shuls. Like Lisa, he longed to make aliyah in his young years, but met with resistance from his family.

Lisa has a BS in Education and a Masters of Judaic Studies and Education. She also has a certification in teaching English. She worked with immigrants to the USA, which she found gratifying. Whoever interacts with Lisa in a learning environment is undoubtedly confronted with an educator.

Lisa and Marty started thinking about retiring in Israel. There was that early longing to live there, which they shared with each other, to be on the land itself, to be Jews without fear.
Lisa spoke with her children about her plans and was pleasantly surprised that they understood, respected and supported her decision.

Both she and Marty wanted to live outside the big city, within reach of family in the center of the country and in Jerusalem. They chose Ashkelon for its location, its affordability and its Masorti kehillah, where they were welcomed and where some families took it upon themselves to coach them. They study Hebrew regularly, but find it a difficult language. Fortunately, in Ashkelon they found a pleasant and active English-speaking community. The Corona makes their visits to the shul impossible, and, like most people, they have to resort to Zoom. The same is true for their participation in the weekly English language Torah study group, which would not be the same without Lisa’s knowledgeable and Marty’s analytical input. They both agree: “coming to Israel is coming home”.