The new collectives

Since the mid-1990s, conventional wisdom has been that the kibbutz movement was dying. The only movement taking place in the cooperative settlements, in fact, was kibbutzniks leaving.

“The kibbutz movement felt in such crisis because it was in crisis,” said Anat Gera, a kibbutznik who recently visited San Francisco. “In the ’80s and ’90s, we said ‘I’m a kibbutznik’ quietly. But now we are in a time of prosperity and pride. We can say, ‘We are kibbutzniks’ loud and proud.”

Gera was in the Bay Area with a few of her fellow kibbutzniks recently to promote a new program called “Bo HaBayta,” or “Come Home,” for which she is the general manager. A joint program of the Jewish Agency for Israel and the Kibbutz Movement, the program is designed to encourage North American Jews making aliyah to consider living on a kibbutz. The process can even be begun online at

But the kibbutzim seeking new American members are not those of the past. The kibbutzim that are participating in the program are being touted as “the renewed kibbutz.”

Move to one, and you will be the owner of your own house there. Work outside of the cooperative, and you will keep your salary. “You no longer need to milk the cows to get milk,” they joked.

“The old system didn’t appeal to us anymore,” Gera explained.

In the renewed kibbutz, members pay a monthly fee to the collective, which takes care of services, education and cultural activities.

When the kibbutzniks gave a presentation in Hebrew to Israelis in Palo Alto, about 30 people attended. They’ve since returned, because the demand for information is so high. They’ve also been meeting with ex-kibbutzniks, many of whom now live in the United States.

The visitors also said that renting a house on a kibbutz for the first year is a possibility, to see if it’s a good fit. Those who do so do not have voting rights but get almost all the other benefits.


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Alix Wall
Alix Wall

Alix Wall is a contributing editor to J. She is also the founder of the Illuminoshi: The Not-So-Secret Society of Bay Area Jewish Food Professionals and is writer/producer of a documentary-in-progress called "The Lonely Child."