When Akiva Tor arrived in the Bay Area to become Israel’s consul general, he realized he “had to build a cocoon for the family.”
Naomi Tor agrees. “I wanted the transition moving here to be as smooth as it could be,” she says. “It was a culture shock anyhow, but we told the kids that the separation [from Israel] and the homesickness is for a good reason.”
With Tor’s four-year term coming to an end, the family will return to Israel next month.
Everyone has flourished here, the couple says. The Tors settled in the Oakland hills, joined Beth Jacob Congregation and sent their four kids to Jewish day schools. This allowed the family to live full, Jewish lives.
“I’ve definitely grown as a person,” says Yonah Tor, 18, in flawless American English, “and being in the Bay Area definitely influenced that. The majority of our lives we spent in Israel. Being here reinforced [our Israeli identity], because we were so different. It was a kind of pride we didn’t have in Israel.”
Adds her sister Zohar, 17, “I feel lucky I came here for such vital years of my growing up. I’m going back to Israel a lot more experienced and knowledgeable of the bigger world.”
Being the children of the consul general, she says, meant representing their country as much as their father.
“We haven’t separated work life and family life that much,” Zohar adds. “Coming here, we knew we were going on a shlichut [mission], and not just my dad. Every day was a shlichut for us.”
Naomi Tor gave up running a large Israeli nonprofit company to come to California, though as a diplomat’s wife she’d been down the same road before.
She took a job teaching Hebrew at Oakland Hebrew Day School, where her younger children, Yehudah, 14, and Roni, 9, attended. She says she has mixed feelings about leaving the Bay Area, especially the school community, but she has much to look forward to.
This is the most important message for the kids,” she says. “We have something to go back to: We have family, we have roots. For me, I’m going back not just to being the wife of a diplomat, but being part of Israeli society and contributing however we can.”
To that end, she is on track to complete her doctoral dissertation in sociology.
Yonah recently graduated from San Francisco’s Jewish Community High School of the Bay and will enter the Israeli army soon after returning. Zohar graduated early from JCHS and soon will attend the Rothenberg Institute at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Yehudah will enter ninth grade and Roni will enter fourth grade.
Looking back on the past four years, Naomi Tor takes pride in her husband’s accomplishments.
“For Akiva, it’s not a job,” she says. “During the week, the weekend, all the time, he was thinking, ‘What else can I do?’ I saw him blooming here. I leave with a good feeling because Akiva has a lot of satisfaction that he and his team did a lot of what they wanted to achieve.”