Sunday, September 02, 2007

Kibbutz revival?

A few days ago, the New York Times ran an article describing the apparent renewal of kibbutzim in Israel. After years of decline, beginning inthe 1980's, recently, people are again lining up to get into kibbutzim.
The article points out a couple of interesting things, one of which is explicit: that the renewed kibbutzim are not quite (for the most part) run inthe way that traditional kibbutzim were run, but rather as, "a kind of suburbanized version of it."
The article continues, explaining,

On most kibbutzim, food and laundry services are now privatized; on many, houses may be transferred to individual members, and newcomers can buy in. While the major assets of the kibbutzim are still collectively owned, the communities are now largely run by professional managers rather than by popular vote. And, most important, not everyone is paid the same.

kibbutz life

Now, granted the old, purely socialist system didn't really work all that well. We all know human nature, and in Israel, as anywhere else that this particular ideology was exercised, all kinds of unfortunate consequences resulted, the mildest of which is the obvious: that many people just didn't pull their weight. Not to mention all the later reported problems with the communal children's houses: the bullying and sexual abuse that sometimes resulted.

Nevertheless, I can't help but wonder about some things that weren't said: the recent changes in Israeli (following American) society such as the "greed is good" mentality of the 1980's resulting in the dismantling of Israeli social support systems - and how that process perhaps actually contributed to the current revitaization of the kibbutzim, as people tire of a society in which everyone is completely out for themselves, and the future is economically very uncertain. I also wonder if the suburbanization of the kibbutzim is any kind of success story. Aren't there other ways of attracting people into a community?
In some ways, it seems to me that this question is the exact same one facing Jews in communal institutions all over the place: how do you entice people into building communities in which people are actually part of a community and not just a fee for service relationship? The sad thing is, that this is indeed what most people are craving, but at the same time, our societies are currently so individualistic that we see any kind of responsibilty to others over the long term as inconvenient. And let's not even get started on the subject of intergenerational responsibilty. Of all the various shuls and independant minyans out there, how many are genuinely welcoming of people of very different backgrounds and places in their lives?

How have we come to this? -"young professionals" minyans, 20 something minyans, old fart minyans, whatever... where is the sense that we need to sacrifice having things our way some of the time? And I am not targetting any particular group when I say this. In my opinon, there is no one who isn't a culprit. From wealthy older folks holding onto services which barely anyone attends, to younger groups who are unwilling to make any kind of provisions for people who might not love the all-Carlebach channel. I suppose I could list on forever all the diferent niches who aren't talking to one another. And lest I leave it out, that includes the various "movements" as well.

I suppose I have wandered a bit astray from the point of the article, but I often wonder, when we talk about renewal, if the things we are renewing have the value and the solidity to really be communities for the long term, because what I don't see in many of these renewed communities, is obligation, love, or community.

xp to Jewschool

No comments: