Making a New Life by Judy Lash Balint Jewish Transcript of Seattle
December 13, 2004
Nava Turin, 52, cradles her infant twin boys as she looks out of the window of her modest three-bedroom home in Kochav Yaakov at the Judean hills beyond.
To those who meet her in her newfound home, a twenty-year-old community of 350 Torah-observant Jewish families just north of Jerusalem across the Green Line, the modestly dressed Turin looks as if she fits right in. But to anyone who knew the former Nancy Weiss when she was an investment banker in Seattle, single and living in Capital Hill, serving as president of the Women's Endowment Foundation of the Jewish Federation, her lifestyle turnaround is quite a surprise.
Turin's story made newspaper headlines in Israel recently—even in a country renowned for pulling out all the stops to help couples have children, it's unusual for a woman in her fifties to give birth to her first offspring.
But Turin's life story is anything but usual. Turin smiles widely as she recounts how a secular Ashkenazic Jew from Miami moved to Seattle, got involved with a Sephardic congregation, became observant, visited and then moved to Israel where she met and married a man with a similar background.
A whirlwind romance, wedding and move to Kochav Yaakov would be more than most people could deal with, but Turin barely takes a breath as she tells a visitor how she also managed to get pregnant, deliver twins and take the Israeli securities exam to resume her high-powered career.
Reflecting on her journey, Turin says the first steps were taken in Seattle when she was looking for a synagogue for her three times per year attendance.
She was introduced to Congregation Ezra Bessaroth (EB) where she found a warm welcome from several women and former Rabbi Yamin Levy. Before long, Turin found herself attending classes on Judaism and driving down to Seward Park for Shabbat meals with EB members.
Making her kitchen kosher followed, so that she could reciprocate invitations to her observant friends. Eventually, Turin made the move from Capital Hill to Seward Park and became fully Shabbat observant.
Before she became religious, Turin notes that she was perfectly content being single. "But once I began to see the importance and beauty of family life, I realized I was really unfulfilled in a very significant way," she says. "I also realized there were very few observant single men my age in Seattle whom I didn't already know as friends, "she adds with a laugh.
So, in 2000 Turin made her fourth visit to Israel. Prior visits had left her with no particularly strong connection to the country, and certainly no inclination to live there, Turin explains.
All that changed with what she calls "a monumental visit with monumental spiritual experiences" during that Passover visit in 2000. "Standing at the Kotel (Western Wall), the site of the Temple, being blessed by thousands of Cohanim made me feel such a connection to who I really was," Turin remembers.
On that same trip, Turin visited the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, the burial place of Abraham, Isaac and Sarah, for the first time. There she encountered an elderly man who told her: "Your papa Abraham and mama Sarah are so happy to see you, and so glad that you've come home," she recalls. "It was a defining moment in my life," Turin says quietly.
The Torah reading for the week Turin was born is Chaye Sarah that recounts the life of Sarah who gave birth late in life. "I was already in my late 40s and realized that it would soon be too late…."
Turin says the trip led her to the realization that "I'm not a ghetto Jew, my roots are not in Miami, Seattle or Russia—my roots are here." She vowed to return to Israel within a year, but found herself missing Israel as soon as she returned to Seattle.
After arranging a leave of absence with an understanding boss, Turin planned a three month pilot trip to Israel to see if she could make it as an immigrant. "From the minute I made that trip, God was by my side," Turin explains. "When you're doing what you're supposed to be doing, God helps you."
In short order, she closed out her affairs in Seattle, changed her name from Nancy to Nava, and moved to Jerusalem in November, 2000. Despite her limited Hebrew, Turin quickly found work in her field, selling institutional bonds. Her next task was to go about the sensitive business of finding a match.
Rabbi Solomon Cohen-Scali of EB provided an introduction to a rabbinic colleague who heads up a Jerusalem Sephardic yeshiva. Yaakov Turin, 55, a former New Yorker, was studying there. Like Nava, Yaakov had never been married, was raised in a non-observant Ashkenazic family and found Judaism through the Sephardic tradition.
It took the couple just eight days before they knew they would get married. One day as the Turins were discussing wedding plans in a downtown Jerusalem café, a homicide bomber blew herself up close by. "It made us realize what's important in life," Nava says. The wedding took place in Jerusalem five weeks later.
"We knew we wanted kids, but due to my age we realized it might not happen," she continues. But with the help of Israel's cutting-edge medical technology, the Turins received the news on their first wedding anniversary that Nava was pregnant with twins.
Since then their life has been a whirlwind of doctor visits, diapers and decisions.
Reuven and Dov, born several months premature, celebrate their first birthdays this September. Nava has resumed her successful business from home, working on U.S time in the late afternoon and evening after her husband returns from work to care for the kids.
"We're very blessed," says Turin. "I'm just so glad that our boys will grow up with Jewish values in a Jewish country, not yet so saturated with materialism."