Topic: Jewish Intentional Communities

Hakhel Seminar: Day Seven

by Liz Savage What an incredible week; we’ve met such an amazing and diverse collection of people and institutions all around the country, all with their individual takes and structures about and around intentional communities. I don’t know quite what my expectation was going into this trip- maybe just touring around the dusty remnants of a bygone era- but the reality far surpassed all of what I imagined. The tour began in the wake of the election results here. For the 30% who voted for Netanyahu it was a great result. But the mood for some, myself included, was depressed. There was a real sense of gloominess in Tel Aviv, a place that overwhelmingly voted for fresh ideas and perspective. Israel has so very much to offer the world; its grit, its heart, its innovation, its beauty, and the notion that this election would further distance and divide the Jewish community in America was gut wrenching. And so with somewhat of a heavy heart, the tour began. First we went to the north, to learn about the beginnings of kibbutzim movement at Chatzer Kinneret and Degania. There, overlooking the glimmering Kinneret, we heard some history- Kibbutz 101, as it were-which […]

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Hakhel Seminar: Day Six

by Gavriel Meir-Levi As an Israeli who served in the IDF with Druze soldiers, it was a great privilege to visit the village of Beit Ja’n. Our guide and interlocutor was a young woman named Maya, herself a success story of the Druze community organization Ofakim L’Atid. Ofakim L’Atid means future horizons, and has branches in 8 out of Israel’s 18 Druze villages, with 2-3 more villages likely joining in the near future (note: this does not include the Druze populations of Ramat HaGolan which are in a separate category). Their activities include bike rides, distributing food to the needy, classes in nutrition and youth lounges for thousands of participants throughout Israel. Unlike any of the other communities we visited, the Druze Ofakim L’Atid community is run ENTIRELY ON A VOLUNTEER BASIS. No one is paid for their work, in fact often the organizers proudly pay out of their own pocket to help make sure a program is successful. The initial core group was made up of Druze IDF officers, but has since grown to over 100 male and female community leaders of various ages. Maya, our guide, participated in the youth programs as a teenager and then joined the […]

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Hakhel Seminar: Day Five

by Hart Levine of the Beis Community in Washington Heights, New York After a brief morning visit to Jerusalem, we visited two urban kibbutzim in Gilo and Lod. Bet Yisrael is a more or less pluralistic urban kibbutz in Gilo. Kibbutznikim in Bet Yisrael are all interested in leading a spiritual, Jewish life, but not necessarily in a formally observant community. Members work for the most part outside of the community. Some 9 core families pool wages. Many others live in the community, participate in some of the social action projects and learning with the bet Yisrael kvutza. About half the families are drawn from the mechina (service learning) year prior to army service. Bet Yisrael’s key social projects revolve around the education of youth with preschools as a primary focus uniting members from Bet Yisrael with other residents in Gilo. Bet Yisrael’s community version of Jewish practice was unique among the groups we visited, and spoke to many of us in the HAKHEL network. At its core, the et Yisrael community searched for the essence of Judaism to unify the secular seekers among them with the religiously observant members. Their solution was to emphasize Hillel’s Torah on one foot—clearly […]

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Hakhel Seminar: Day Four

by guest authors Roger Studley of Berkeley Moshav and Jeff Levy of the Jewish Community Housing Initiative (Boulder, CO) Today was about crisis and renewal. We woke to a beautiful day at Kibbutz Yizreel, had coffee overlooking a verdant valley, breakfast with marmalade made from produce from the kibbutz, and prepared for our day. The night before we’d learned about Kibbutz Yizreel, how they were one of the few kibbutzim to emerge strong from the crisis that decimated most of the 270 classic kibbutzim that had been created between the 1930s and 1980s. Today at breakfast and on the bus, we learned about this crisis. By the 1980s, the purpose of the original kibbutzim had largely been fulfilled: The swamps had been drained, the roads had been built, the borders of the country established, an economy and army had been created. Youth movements in Israel (such as Dror Yisrael) and the diaspora (such as Habonim Dror) were still cultivating young Jews and instilling in them the values of the movement: Love of Israel, collective responsibility, socialist ideals. But these young Jews no longer felt compelled to actualize these ideals by joining kibbutzim, largely because the mission of these kibbutzim no […]

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Hakhel Seminar: Day Three

by guest author Sara Shalva, Lev B’Lev member What a day! Continuing our exposure and exploration of the history of the development of communal life in Israel, today we visited and toured 3 urban kibbutzim.  In the morning, we woke from our home stays with families Garin Ometz and in the bus shared that we were so impressed and inspired by the generosity and openness of our host families.  We then dealt with some hard questions about Zionism and the nature of many of the mission driven intentional communities located in the periphery of Israel, dedicated to helping at risk populations.   Much of the discussion was in the shadow of the recent elections and the reality that many of us were very disappointed with the results and concerned about the future of Israel under this leadership.   Our first Kibbutz visit was to Mishol, an urban kibbutz in Nazareth Illit.  Now the largest urban kibbutz, we had a lovely home made breakfast and a wonderful tour and presentation.  I was most interested in learning that kibbutz functions in small groups, makes decisions based on consensus and works hard to differentiate between methods and values.  For example, Mishol uses consensus as […]

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Hakhel Seminar: Day Two

by guest author Harriet Schiffer, Berkeley Moshav member Our first day was a feast of new ideas and perspectives. In our first meeting with James he gave us a key to help us framework our journey. He entreated us to seek out the stories of the lives of the people in each place we visit and use those stories for inspiration and tachlis… Tachlis. A new word for me meaning, practicality. We were to use others’ stories to inspire us and to help discover the tools that worked in each community facing unique challenges. We traveled to Degania, the Mother of the Kibbutzim. Degania was the historical and classical springboard for all kibbutzim to come. We heard about young men (and some women) 16-18 making their way to Palestine to fulfill their Socialist Zionist dreams. Young, passionate, idealistic and determined. I thought about my grandfather who had travelled east across the Eurasian continent in those same years. He was escaping the same pogroms. In both situations, these young men had tough options before them and their lives seemed harsh. In both cases they were leaving family and all that was familiar behind. But my grandfather was completely alone and these young Socialist Zionists […]

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Hakhel Seminar: Day One

by guest author Sara Zebovitz, GariNYC founder and member Tonight, we spent some time with residents of Kibbutz Yizreel, a kibbutz built in 1948 and still going strong. My personal connection to this kibbutz is strong – Yizreel was founded by Habonim Dror, the movement I am a product and part of. Kibbutz Yizreel was described today by a few people as a utopia. Here, families of all generations live side by side, working through issues together, supporting each other, creating a safe and comfortable community for all who pass through, and sharing their lives financially, emotionally, and physically. The children have a sense of independence and also feel supported. The members have the opportunity to work outside of the kibbutz in the work in which they are passionate. The kibbutz, though it has struggled in the past, is financially well-off. Money is not a stress factor for the most part in the day-to-day operations of the kibbutz, as finances are shared and equal. Decision-making power is shared, but priority is given to the younger generation – to the future. For the past 15 years, I have learned about the evolution of the kibbutz movement. I have learned about the […]

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Giving Thanks, and a Very Different Kind of Recycling

Tomorrow it’s Thanksgiving. On Friday night – hodu sheini – many of us will eat some of the leftovers. That kind of recycling is good, and so is recycling boxes or bottles or turning plastic into toothbrushes. We could all do more to lessen our footprints. But Hazon, this month, has been the recipient of a very different kind of recycling. I wanted publicly to give thanks for it; to make an observation deriving from it that is important and worth thinking about; and to issue a public request that I hope may hit a chord with someone, somewhere. The story begins in the summer of 1974, when Cherie Koller-Fox and some friends rented a ski lodge, and nearly forty people came out during Elul to spend time together. The following year, and coming out of this experience, a group of friends established what they called Beit Havurah – a house that they bought as a shared Jewish gathering place; a bayit in which to celebrate, to hang out, to fall in love, to express a new sense of Jewishness, and in general to explore and expand the nature of Jewish life in the 20th century. In all of this […]

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The Launch of a New Incubator for Experiments in Jewish Intentional Community

The word “community” is a central word in Jewish life. We talk about “the Jewish community” a good deal. But the nature of community is complex and evolving. In the Manchester of my childhood it was taken for granted that my parents would likely know the parents of my friends, and that my grandparents would know their grandparents. My grandma died a quarter of a mile from where she was born – having lived nearly 96 years in one square mile of Jewish north Manchester. That world does still exist in some places, but it is shrinking. In its place we have evolving communities: old friends whom I catch up with when I see them; newer friends who live nearby. Virtual “friends,” with all the complexity we know that notion encompasses. I have been thinking about the notion of community in relation to Sukkot – and Sukkahfest – and our Intentional Communities Conference, at Isabella Freedman from November 20 – 23. The sukkah is something we construct with friends and family. Like the mythic barn-raisings of the old West or of the Amish community, it is the very opposite of “virtual” community; it is as tangible as a hammer and […]

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New Individual and Collective Dreams

Imagine for a moment if Hazon staged a Bike Ride (as we do several times each year) but if the participants showed up with incredibly varied notions of what a bike even was. One person came with a unicycle. For another, a bike meant one of those antique bicycles with the huge front wheel. And others came with a tandem bike, a tricycle, a scooter, an outdoor elliptical bike, a recumbent, a motorcycle, a stationary exercise bike, and other bikes beyond your existing conceptions. (I just looked at Google images for “strange bikes,” and you might enjoy doing the same.) The event would then become more than just a bike ride; it would be an exercise in exploring our individual and collective imaginations, about exploring what was, what is, and what may be possible. Last November’s first ever Jewish Intentional Communities Conference – co-sponsored and planned by Hazon, Pearlstone Conference & Retreat Center, and the Jewish Agency for Israel – felt a bit like that bike ride might feel. Nearly 200 people gathered together at the Pearlstone Center in November 2013 to talk about Jewish intentional communities – many with completely different concepts of what a Jewish intentional community was… […]

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Jewish Intentional Communities Conference

We’re delighted to announce that the Pearlstone Center, Hazon, and the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center are launching a Jewish Intentional Communities Initiative. Together we share a vision that over the next 3-10 years,  new Jewish intentional communities will bloom across the country—from urban kibbutzim to rural moshavim, suburban co-ops, and more—and that these dynamic and vibrant new Jewish communities will become inspiring catalysts in an ongoing renaissance in American Jewish life. (more…)

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