The youth movement Habonim Dror North America is a surefire way to instill a deep-seeded, progressive connection to Israel, says a study conducted by two sociology experts.
Steven M. Cohen, research professor of Jewish social policy at New York’s Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, and Steven Fink, a survey and evaluation specialist and a sociology teacher at Montgomery College in Maryland, found that 85 percent of Habonim Dror alumni responding to a survey say they have visited Israel on multiple occasions since their involvement in the Zionist youth movement or camp. A further 70 percent say they have lived in Israel for at least five months at one point in their lives.
The findings contrast with those of the recently released Pew study of American Jews, which found that only 43 percent of Jews living in America have visited Israel at least once and only 23 percent have made multiple trips.
Among the nearly 2,000 individuals who responded to the survey were alumni from Habonim Dror Camp Galil, located in Upper Bucks County. The camp, one of seven in the United Sates and Canada, attracts many campers from the Philadelphia area.
Northeast Philadelphia native Sharon Waimberg, now executive director of Galil, says the movement’s ability to present a realistic view of Israel is central to keeping campers connected to the Jewish state in the long run.
She believes that many college-age Jews turn their backs on Israel when they realize that the modern state does not reflect the ideological views of the country fostered during their youth.
“We’re looking at Israel as it really is today,” Waimberg said. “Israel is the centerpiece of our program.”