By Guy Lieberman
Cherie Albucher is one of those rare politicians who stepped into the political arena less out of a need for power, and more from a deep drive to help her local community.
Born in Jo’burg and schooled at King David Victory Park, Cherie’s family made the move to leave South Africa for Israel in the very midst of the transition to post-Apartheid South Africa. She was 16—not a simple age to move countries.
“It was a scary time for many families, but for those who were ideologically driven by the Zionist vision, it wasn’t such a great leap. It just felt like the time was right. I happened to be very excited by the prospect of Aliyah. I landed into the Na’aleh programme for English speakers, which was… eye-opening for a young South African kugel. I quickly learned a lot about what made up the larger Jewish world.”
I spoke with Cherie about her history and her aspirations. After her bhagrut and army service, she married Moshe, the man she had met just 6 months into her Aliyah.
“We came to Modiin as a young married couple, when I was 23 years old. We quickly saw our future there, a vision we shared with the nascent community. As I started growing my family, I looked around and saw that there were other opportunities to help grow Modi’in. So, I got involved!”
And get involved she did. Knowing what it takes to come to Israel as an Olah, she took her firsthand experience and used it to help others. She started working with the Modi’in municipality to proactively help with the absorption of new families. This was additional to whatever government support olim were receiving.
“For over 15 years I helped 600 families integrate into life in Modiin. In the early days, there was the funding support and political will to see that Modi’in attract the kind of Olim who would get involved in communal life. The South African arrivals were a natural fit and are part of what made Modi’in the successful city that it has become.”
Israel and the Zionist vision have changed dramatically over the years since she arrived, in 1992. She, however, remains steadfast in her belief in the ideology.
“I am saddened to see what is happening in Israel, but I believe that the Israel that I made Aliyah to, and that I still envision, can still be part of the national dream. That ideology does not need to disappear—in fact, it is precisely the cohesive force that we need more than ever, right now. It’s the essence of who are and the reason why we are here.”
Politicians get a bad rap, especially in the current climate. Cherie has elected to look past those assumptions.
“I don’t actually regard myself as a politician in the classical sense—I’ve never seen myself in that light. But obviously if I want to get things done on the scale that they need to be done, with the resources required to back these programmes, then I need to step into the arena. Politics is a new word for me now.”
Cherie is now included in the municipal list of council appointees in Modi’in, having aligned with a long-term local leader, Ilan Ben Saadon. She feels confident that she can continue adding value to the Modi’in community.
“We have so many CEO’s and other leaders from the tech industry living in our city. It’s totally unnecessary for them to travel distances to other cities, when we have the basics of a high-tech park right here in Modi’in. One of my missions is to develop those assets—we could fill thousands of square meters with local talent who are skilled, who should not need to leave the city for work.”
But perhaps one of the deeper drives comes back to family.
“One of the reasons we invested our lives in Modi’in was so that we could grow as a family here and have a multi-generational future. Now that my adult children are starting their own families, we realise that there is no way that they can afford to buy a home here. That means they’d need to move away from us, their parents. Yes, this is a national issue, but to combat this locally we plan to establish an affordable housing programme for them. If we can’t use our political will to keep our community’s families together, then why else would I be so involved?”
I wonder if Cherie has any political aspirations beyond the local sphere.
“If I am called to step up to a position of national leadership, and if it will help in the project that is the Israel I believe in, then yes, I will take that on!”
If that were eventually the case… I would probably vote for her!