In a way, Daniel Goldschmiedt and the modern State of Israel have grown up together. They both recently turned 75. Their Jewish identity is central to their lives. And now that Daniel and his wife, Tzerel, have made aliyah, a new chapter in the couple’s lives is about to be written.
Goldschmiedt was born in December 1947 in Queens, N.Y. He was just a few months old when the State of Israel was founded, and it figured strongly in his identity as he grew up.
He recalls first visiting Israel in 1966 to see family. He remembers viewing parts of Jerusalem through binoculars since some of the city wasn’t under Israeli control at the time. “It was very moving,” he says.
A few years later, Goldschmiedt returned as a working architect and a speaker at a conference of engineers and architects. This time, he was able to get a lot closer to the history of the Jewish people, thanks to a friend of his uncle’s who was working on an excavation project of the south wall where the Temple once stood. “I got to stand on the southern steps going up to Har HaBayit,” the Temple Mount, he says.
In 1971, Goldschmiedt and Tzerel Hill married and settled in Queens near her parents. They went on to have three children: Eli, Aura and Dena.
Over the years, there were more visits and celebrations in Israel: a brother-in-law’s bar mitzvah in 1977, Eli’s first haircut at age 3 at the Western Wall, visiting their children during their gap-year studies in Israel and other family celebrations.
“We both grew up in Zionist homes,” says Daniel Goldschmiedt. “The yeshivah schools we went to were very Zionist. The shuls we both grew up in were associated with the National Council of Young Israel movement, and at the shul where we raised our family, Congregation Ahavas Yisroel of Kew Gardens Hills, Zionism was a high priority.”
Even in the United States, Israel was never far from his family’s thoughts. His wife was a teacher at Yeshiva of Central Queens and led the dance program there. She incorporated Israeli dance into the curriculum and choreographed the school’s participation in New York City’s Israel Day Parade for 28 years.
After their youngest daughter, Dena, got married and moved to Israel, the couple made yearly and even biannual trips to the Jewish state. The Goldschmiedts even bought an apartment there, not too far from where Dena and her husband, Jeremy Wimpfheimer, and their children were living at the time.
Two years ago, Aura, together with her husband, Zevi Rosenzweig, and their family also moved to Israel. Eli and his wife, Riva, and their family live on Long Island.
“It was always important for us to make aliyah,” says Goldschmiedt. “We always had the dream. God gave us the blessing of parents who lived close by, and we wanted to be there for them. Our last surviving parent, my father-in-law, passed away in 2019. Then we started making more active plans.”
‘I feel a tie to the country’
Now retired, the Goldschmiedts arrived in Israel earlier this year as new olim. Since then, they’ve been getting situated in their new home. “We’ve been spending a lot of time trying to find places for all the things we brought. Plus, we were successful in navigating our identity cards, our driver’s licenses, senior-citizen cards and finding doctors that we are going to use through our kupah [government health-care service], our medical group.”
“We are taking things slow and not rushing. We joined a 55-plus group in Beit Shemesh, and they always have activities and that gives us a chance to meet new people,” he says, adding that the Nefesh B’Nefesh organization was critical in helping them handle paperwork and other matters that come moving to the Jewish state.
Once they have settled into life in Israel, Goldschmiedt has another dream that he’d like to accomplish.
“I do calligraphy work as a hobby and have written ketubot on the side,” he explains. “One of my goals has been to write my own Megillah. My wife offered to buy me a hand-written Megillat Esther one year for my birthday, and I said, ‘Buy me the parchment, and I’ll write it myself.’ The parchment has been sitting on my desk for several years waiting.”
“Hopefully, it will be ready for next Purim,” he adds.
Though it didn’t initially occur to Goldschmiedt that both he and the modern State of Israel are the same age, he says: “If I had grown up in Israel, I would have grown up in a foundling nation, a startup nation, and it would have been a very different life than growing up in New York. I feel a tie to the country, and I’m proud I was fortunate to be able to experience my whole life with Israel from infanthood to adulthood.”