It was while Yisroel Dovid "Justin" Zimmerman was living in a rural city in Japan that he began to take the bullet train to the synagogue in Kobe at the end of each week. There, Jewish businessmen would take a break from their dealings in the gemstone industry to observe Shabbat together.
“It was my first exposure to people who were Shomer Shabbat and Shomer Kashrut,” said Yisroel Dovid. “I always had a very warm feeling when I was there.”
Six years later, after a stint working in New York, Yisroel Dovid found himself in Japan once again. While living and working in Tokyo, he would receive a call every Monday from the Rabbi of the local synagogue asking him to commit to coming for Shabbat dinner. Though Shabbat was still several days away, Yisroel Dovid always said yes. He enjoyed the huge dinners and the lively crowds drawn from all over the world.
Though Yisroel Dovid had lived in Japan for seven years, he always knew that it was not his permanent home. He had a great job, a nice apartment in the center of the city, and tons of friends. Yet, he would never be Japanese.
“I was looking for something larger to attach myself to,” said Yisroel Dovid. “I always wondered, what would my massive contribution to the world be?”
When a religious family moved across the street from Yisroel Dovid’s office, he became close with them and soon discovered his next move. If Judaism might hold the answers to Yisroel Dovid’s questions, he needed to learn more about it. He decided to quit his job, relocate to Israel, and begin studying at Shappell’s Yeshiva in Jerusalem.
After conducting most of his daily life in Japanese during the last several years, Yisroel Dovid experienced a major culture shock at the Yeshiva. He had never studied Jewish texts before, and he devoted himself to his learning. After his first year, the head of the Yeshiva asked Yisroel Dovid what his plans were.
“‘What do you mean?’ I asked him. ‘I don’t know anything yet,’” said Yisroel Dovid. “I had just started learning–I felt like I still needed more!”
For four years, Yisroel Dovid studied and spent Shabbatot in different communities throughout Israel. While reading the book Eretz Yisrael in the Parsha, Yisroel Dovid discovered Zionism. He thought that it would be nice to marry an Israeli because it would help to permanently tie him to the land.
One day, the librarian who worked at the sefarim store next to Shappell’s introduced Yisroel Dovid to a woman who was born and raised in Israel and spoke English fluently. After dating for two months, the couple became engaged. Five months after meeting, they married.
While continuing his studies, enrolling in a Hebrew Ulpan, and building his Japan-Israel market entry consulting business, the couple began searching for an apartment to purchase. They found a great option in Lod’s Garin Torani – religious community – with 800 families and easy access to the rest of the country thanks to the railways and highways.
The community was warm, offering Shabbat hospitality for guests, welcoming new families with signs, cookies, and an Aliyah to the Torah, and giving new residents “adoptive families.” After settling into Lod and becoming a permanent fixture in the Garin’s minyanim, Yisroel Dovid began to see more possibilities for the city.
“We want to turn Lod into a destination for Olim, and we want to make it comfortable for Aliyah,” he said.
With its central location and close proximity to the airport, Yisroel Dovid sees Lod as the perfect spot to launch an Aliyah hotel. The hotel will house new Olim, as well as the resources they need for their acclimation, including a job center, a housing office, and matchmaking services. The hotel complex will also include a 24-hour kollel, a high-tech incubator, and conference space for business events and smachot.
“I would like to help address people’s challenges and foster Aliyah,” said Yisroel Dovid. “When more Jews move to Israel, the world will be a better place.”