101-year-old returns to Israel, where she was born

Stella Rockoff, seated, front right, with her family in Israel. (Shai Getsoff)

As the oldest immigrant to make aliyah in the last five years, Stella Rockoff, 101, who had lived in Clifton, has returned to her birthplace. “My family left at a time when the Jewish State was just an idea,” she said. “Today, I am proud to call it home.” Last week, an El Al plane landed at Ben Gurion Airport, carrying a group of nearly 60 new olim from North America. Stella Rockoff, her daughter, Elaine, and son-in-law, Michael, were on that plane; they were making aliyah with the help of Nefesh B’Nefesh and in coordination with the Ministry of Aliyah and Integration, the Jewish Agency for Israel, Keren Kayemeth Le’Israel, and JNF-USA.

Ms. Rockoff was born in 1921 in Jerusalem during the British Mandate of Palestine. Her birth certificate is written in three languages: Hebrew, Arabic, and English. Her family immigrated to the United States, settling in Brooklyn, when she was 5. She married Rabbi Herman Rockoff and moved to Pennsylvania, where they were distinguished leaders in the local Jewish community. Their children were born in Pennsylvania.

Later, the family moved to Manhattan, where Ms. Rockoff became the executive secretary of the Rabbinical Council of America. In that job, she worked closely with leading rabbis and was very active in managing annual conferences throughout the U.S. and with Israeli institutions. Before making aliyah, she lived in Clifton, and was the oldest member of Congregation Shomrei Torah in Fair Lawn.

“The idea that she will be reunited with the family in Israel makes mom very happy,” Michael and Elaine Reinheimer, Ms. Rockoff’s daughter and son-in-law, said. “The grandchildren and great-grandchildren can’t wait for her to arrive. America has been very good to us, but now it’s time to go home.”

“I congratulate Stella and her family for making aliyah, proving that it is never too late to return home,” Rabbi Yehoshua Fass, Nefesh B’Nefesh co-founder and executive director, said. “Stella was born at a time when we were fighting to establish a home for the Jewish people, and now she is returning to a country that welcomes thousands of Jews every year who are continuing to build it in every facet of life. This is the essence of what Nefesh B’Nefesh has been striving for these past 20 years.”

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