Posts tagged " emigration "

Should we emigrate or stay put?

February 19th, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 24 comments

Shalom,

 Firstly I would like to sincerely thank you for every podcast, thought tool, answer to every question with so much thought and wisdom.  It’s been life changing listening and reading everything you and your wife share.  

We live in Namibia, a country bordering South Africa and linked to the South African Rand.  We are going through a huge recession and as the saying goes here – if South Africa has a cold, Namibia has Pneumonia. Everything that happens in SA has a huge impact on us.  

We are seriously contemplating if we should emigrate. Why?  The main reason – to create a better future for our children.  There is little to no future for them in Namibia.  As the economy worsens, corruption and violence increases.

 Moving to another country like New Zealand means we can create a new life with new possibilities together.  They can go on and study at numerous universities.  They can get married and we can see our grandchildren grow up together…

 …or we can stay and they will most probably move away themselves somewhere in the future, and with our weak currency visiting them anywhere in the world will be next to impossible…

We don’t know the future of our country but for now the future does not look great. We are by no means doom and gloom people and as mentioned earlier we are still safe but when does one get to the point where one actually takes a step toward something like what you call “the American dream”? When does your children’s future take preference before your own comfortable life(or seemingly comfortable life)?

Do we have a lot to give up? TONS!!! Both our families are all here.  We are a very close knit family.  We live on a stunning plot outside town with lots wide open spaces, My daughter (age 11) has her own quarter horse, the boys (ages 13 and almost 4) can climb trees and hunt birds. They love the animals and freedom. Here everyone knows who you are. You’ve already made your name. Basically our whole life- 14 years of marriage.  Everything we worked for… we will have to leave that behind and look to the future, for our children…or stay and pray it gets better…

When is considering to emigrate a good option?

We have done a lot of research. We’ve made our lists of pros and cons. My head says go, my heart says no.

 Any advice/thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

 Thank you so much,

The B. family

Dear B. Family,

Thank you for writing and thank you for your kind words regarding our teachings.  We derive great joy from hearing that our work benefits people’s lives. 

While we shortened your letter a bit for this column, we hope we haven’t removed the emotional impact. As with so many other important life decisions, twenty years from now you will know what was the best thing to do, but by then you will be living the consequences of whichever decision you make.  The good news is that by far and away, most decisions are not matters of life/death.

In all probability, twenty years down the road people will still be living, for better or for worse, in both Namibia and New Zealand.  Occasionally the wrong decision places people in the heart of terrible war zones.  Think of Jewish families who fled frightening rural parts of Poland in 1938 and settled in Warsaw only months before the Nazis invaded.  Or the people who wanted to get away from it all and relocated to the Falkland Islands just before the war of 1982.

In the spring of 1960, there was a terrible event in which about 70 people were shot dead by South African policemen in Sharpeville.  This was followed by a mass exodus of many South Africans who had opportunities elsewhere in the world.  The conventional wisdom was that this was the right time for people, particularly those with white skins, to leave the country.  Many did just that.  Yet in the fifty years since then, South Africa has had some of its best times. 

Today, however, with disturbing socio-political trends in Southern Africa including Zimbabwe and Namibia, I think that for people in the right circumstances, it could be a good time to start a new life elsewhere.  That said, I have advised a number of South Africans over the past year or two to remain and help bring stability. Everything depends upon circumstances.

We don’t, and more importantly ancient Jewish wisdom, doesn’t, minimize the impact of leaving one’s homeland and family. In Genesis 12:2, after telling Abraham to leave his land, birthplace and family, God promised him three blessings to compensate for the typical costs of major relocation—family, finances, and reputation.  These are exactly the same concerns mitigating against you leaving Namibia today.

We point out a few ideas to ponder. Taking as a given that we cannot guarantee security, looking to the future and taking into account what is going on in southern Africa, it does seem that you are wise to anticipate worsening conditions.  It goes without saying that what we recommend to you with your young family is quite different from what we might say to a semi-retired couple who have lived in Southern Africa with their families for over fifty years.

In addition to the points you made about New Zealand offering your children more educational and economic opportunity, we’d like to add an idea. In Jeremiah 35:7-11  we meet Yonadav the son of Rechav, whose descendants survived a war by relocating because they did not feel tied to land.  Now Yonadav’s prescription to avoid owning real estate is a bit extreme as a practical policy. But the point is to feel sensitive to the subtle signals that it’s time to move without being overwhelmed by the emotional impact of all the immovable property one owns. 

You can carry your family heritage and your beliefs with you and establish a home wherever you are. While parting from close family will be wrenching and you and your children will lose out by being ‘strangers in a strange land’, is it possible that you should be establishing a foothold in a new country?  Maybe your destiny is to provide a landing site if things do deteriorate rapidly.  Perhaps one day you will be able to offer your extended family a haven and refuge.  This was very often the thinking behind the grueling emigration that brought many Jews to America and South Africa in the late 19th century.  In the end they did make it possible for many of their friends and family later to escape the Nazi death machine. 

We do not know if you have the ability to land in a new country with a nest egg to launch your new life or whether you would be starting entirely from scratch.  (Ancient Jewish wisdom does recommend keeping a third of your assets in easily movable form—hence the Jewish fondness for the diamond business.  A nice pouch of high quality jewels greatly eases immigration!  I’ve often contemplated the question of whether crypto-currency could serve this purpose but at this point I do not trust it as possessing real value.)  Either way, as more years go by, and some of the flexibility and adaptability of youth fades, starting over does become more difficult.

In a way, dear B’s, your final sentence pretty much provides the answer.  You wrote that after weighing it all up, it is coming down to a head vs. heart analysis.   It is always very clarifying when a difficult decision resolves itself into a head/heart conflict.  We think you know what we would say.  Nearly always, head trumps heart.  That doesn’t mean there is no pain.  It just means that ultimately there is more gain. 

Do whatever you can to minimize the heartbreak and pain of leaving, plan for success as much as you can, but in the final analysis, if you have the strength to do so, follow your head. (And make sure that your pro and con lists are complete.)

With blessing for peace, prosperity and success wherever you are,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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