Right after Adi Ozery and her husband Boaz moved to the United States in 2020, the pandemic broke out. With their family and friends back in Israel, the couple and their three children were alone in their house in an unfamiliar country.
Boaz Ozery still had his work with the Wayne-based education nonprofit Friends of Ofanim, which works to bring STEM opportunities to Israelis — and which prompted the move to the U.S. in the first place. But for Adi Ozery, her mission to find her own place would have to wait.
Except it didn’t.
Isolated in her Wynnewood house, Adi Ozery found a way to start on her new mission anyway.
During Passover in 2020, she organized activities for her kids that reminded them of the homeland. They were still young and she did not want them to forget.
Then, the mother started inviting some other people into her home for holidays and coordinating similar activities for all of the kids. After a while, friends started telling her she should bring this work into the wider, Philadelphia-area Jewish community.
And so she did.
Ozery landed a job teaching Hebrew at the Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy in Bryn Mawr. She had never taught before, though she had worked for education organizations in Israel.
But she ended up loving the work, as it helped her reach American Jewish students. It also expanded her local world beyond her house and neighborhood.
“Barrack was a big opportunity to learn,” Ozery said.
It was a huge step. But the neophyte teacher did not end up wanting to make a career out of it, either.
Instead, she wanted to return to her professional roots from back in Israel: community work. In the Jewish state, Ozery supervised and guided programs for families and young people at risk. Before that, she was a field coordinator for children living in poverty, sheltering them throughout the day.
The Israeli has “a big passion for community work,” she said.
So she set out to find some in America. And it didn’t take long.
In August of 2021, after a year at Barrack, Ozery got a job with the Israeli-American Council, which serves the Israeli-American community with programs and initiatives for “every age group,” according to its website.
For Ozery, the IAC combines her experience as a manager with her passion for community work. She collaborates with organizations like the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia to organize programs for young people and adults.
Many are events that are open to American Jews, too.
In January, she hosted a day celebrating trees for Tu BiShvat. On April 24 to mark Yom Hashoah, Ozery planned and led a “6 Million Steps” walk to the Horwitz-Wasserman Holocaust Memorial Plaza in Center City. About 100 people turned out and participated.
A little over a week later, Ozery held a gathering for Israeli Independence Day.
There’s a large Israeli-American community in the Philly area, Ozery said. And she wants them to have opportunities to feel the connection to their homeland and remember it.
“The connection to Israel is very important to them,” she said.
But she also wants American Jews to feel a similar connection to the homeland. She called passing Israeli culture and Jewish history onto the next generation a necessity.
“This is our job to pass over to our kids and their kids,” Ozery said. “It’s our responsibility.”
As much as she’s doing all this for people outside her home, though, Ozery is doing it for her kids. Her daughter Roni, son Itay and daughter Maayan are 9, 6 and 3, respectively.
The mother sees her children quickly growing into young Americans who speak English. So in and around the house, she speaks Hebrew to ensure they maintain their connection to their Israeli heritage. At the same time, the family only planned to spend a few years in the U.S.
Boaz Ozery lived in Miami for three years as a child, and it opened his mind to the Jewish diaspora. The parents wanted their kids to have a similar experience.
Yet now, with both Adi Ozery and Boaz Ozery happy in their jobs and fulfilled by their mission, they might just stay.
Adi Ozery called this “the great question” that they are dealing with every day. Their families and their hearts are in Israel, but their work is in America.
“It’s important for us to have a strong community and support here and in Israel,” Boaz Ozery said.
So as of now, they are going to stay.
“We don’t have any intentions to go back at this point,” Adi Ozery concluded. JE