Reflections on Habonim

Categories: Personal Stories of Zionism, Israel and Progressive Identity
By Carolyn Amacher

It is said that we live in either our memories or our imagination.

For most adults of “my generation,” listening to the Doors, playing pick up basketball and eating Twinkies is enough to invoke the warm and fuzzy memories of our childhood. This nostalgia makes us feel safe and therefore nurtured, which is meaningful – and enough – for most. For most Jews it’s enough to visit our old campsites, to consort with our old “chevre” and to sing our old camp songs in order to invoke the zeal of our youth. I recently heard a friend chronicle the experience of visiting her old camp as if it was an archeological expedition. She was jubilant just to have seen the murals, traverse the old camp road and smell the pine trees. It was enough.

For those of us who live in our imaginations, nostalgia is not enough, no matter how happily we skip down memory lane. To find meaning we have to look further – into the future. Which is why Habonim Dror had such appeal to those of us “imaginers” who came up in the Movement in the 70’s, and why so many of us find meaning in the Movement today.

Habonim Dror tied the ideals of cooperative living and peaceful coexistence to a plan for future living. Amidst the Civil Rights strife of our childhoods and the ensuing Middle East conflict, the lifestyle we championed and simulated at camp could only be played out in our future. The future we envisioned couldn’t come quick enough – it was just around the corner but always out of reach. What we didn’t realize then is that at Machane ? at Moshava, and Tavor, and Gallil, and Gilboa -we were way ahead of our time.
The future was mapped at Habonim Machanot and still lives in the mind’s eyes of the Chanichim of the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and beyond -but has yet to become reality.

Most of us touched by Habonim see ourselves as bearing the torch that illuminates the decades-old ideals of cooperation and peace. The dissonance created by our vision and the reality of our lives in this new and already uncertain Millennium drives us to create change, to propel the vision, and to pass that torch, ever burning, to our children. My sons will participate in Kupah, partake in social action, practice gmilut chasidim, experience the power of working cooperatively and playing cooperatively, and will then
incorporate these values into daily living and transmit them to others. They will carry the torch, and in doing so, the hope for the future.

That’s what I imagine. And that’s why I sent my son Ezra to Habonim Camp Gilboa this summer.

About Carolyn Amacher, Board Member

Carolyn Amacher is a member of the Ameinu Board of Directors and has spent 15 years working in executive management of several Jewish Community Centers throughout the United States, and is currently Community Development Specialist for the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater, VA. Amacher has bachelor's degrees in journalism and psychology from Syracuse University. She also earned a master of social work degree from Yeshiva University and a Jewish studies certificate from the WUJS Institute in 1985, when she also worked for United Press International covering the Lebanon War and the absorption of Ethiopian immigrants. She has served as vice president for the Association of Jewish Center Professionals, president of the Syracuse University Alumni Club of Central Virginia and chair of the Community Advisory Board for KXCI Community Radio in Tucson, Ariz. As a member of the Western Region Partnership 2000 Steering Committee, she developed an environmental educational workshop with American and Israeli teens. Carolyn also served as Co-President for JNF in St. Louis and co-chair of Ameinu's St. Louis chapter. Carolyn is Community Development Specialist for the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater.
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