Finding their best selves
By Deb Silverthorn
Sheina, 29, and Cara, 27, Tolmas grew up in the halls of Akiba Academy and Congregation Tiferet Israel, with Jewish tradition steeped in their home, schools, synagogue and hearts. As 20-somethings, the sisters took different paths toward the same destination, aliyah to Israel.
Both young women, graduates of J.J. Pearce High School, found their footing in Israel while participating in gap year programs between high school and college.
In Sheina’s case, two months of Marva army training simulation during Young Judaea’s Year Course program inspired her to enlist in the IDF shortly after graduating from New York University with an economics degree.
“The first thing I learned was that American or not, college graduate or not, I was the same as everyone else,” she said. “Although my work in the IDF wasn’t what I’d imagined, it was a blessing in disguise, challenging me to step outside of my comfort zone, becoming more confident in my Hebrew and speaking abilities.”
Sheina spent her first three months of service helping olim, other immigrants to Israel, to improve their Hebrew. She later became a commander of education for the Givati Infantry Brigade, teaching commanders and soldiers about wars, history, moral code and specific weapons.
Once her service was complete, Sheina wanted to experience life as a civilian and understand what it really meant to live in Israel. She participated in the Israel Tech Challenge, a full-time, intensive coding boot camp. She now lives in Tel Aviv and is an ALM/DevOps engineer at Check Point, a company with a Dallas office. In the fall, she became engaged to Ezra Erani.
Cara Tolmas Krimsky’s journey after high school began with Kivunim: New Directions, a gap year program headquartered in New York and with an office in Jerusalem. She also traveled to 11 other countries, studying Jewish history. She then majored in movement science at the University of Michigan before returning to Israel to study at the Nishmat seminary, ultimately making the decision to make Israel her home.
“I studied a lot of Rav Abraham Isaac Kook’s philosophy about Israel being the platform for redemption, no matter how observant you are,” said Cara, married to Michael Krimsky since 2018. “I really believe this, and that Israel is a home that gives everyone the opportunity to be who they want spiritually.
“At Michigan, I got involved with the Jewish Resource Center and realized how powerful the Jewish education I received at Akiba was, and I felt a responsibility to continue that. There was an inherent connection and staying was all I [would] think about,” she said. “For me, there is a true sense of being in a tribe in Israel and I am here because I really feel that I can be the Jew that I want to be and my most authentic self. Life can be hard here but we share that experience in a sense, laughing about the intricacies of life and adapting to a new culture and a new language.”
The Krimskys live in Jerusalem, where she is a certified exercise physiologist. The owner of Move By Cara, she uses movement as pain management to help her client base which, since the pandemic began, has local participants and those thousands of miles away. She also works as the strength and conditioning coach for, and plays on, the women’s team of PeacePlayers International, a basketball club dedicated to bridging the gap between Israelis and Palestinians.
Ultimately, the sisters have made Israel their own, appreciating the chance to return home to visit, and to welcome their parents Alan and Gina’s visits to Israel. The women’s father takes pride in “the way they have embraced our love of Israel and taken it to the next level.”
And their mother echoes that pride. “We raised them in a Jewish home, Dallas’ great Jewish community, and they are living wonderful Jewish lives in the land of our people. We couldn’t miss them more, but we are so proud of them both.”