It all began in 1932, with fourteen haverim in a tent, living and studying together for a month. The following year, Habonim established its first Camp Kvutza at Accord, New York. Accord stands out in the memories of all the oldtimers for its sheer physical beauty and difficult pioneering conditions. During that first summer, the fundamentals of Camp Kvutza were developed: 1) collective-democratic living, 2) a full Jewish life, 3) self-labor.
Inspired by Accord, two more Kvutzot were opened in 1935-in Montreal, and in Chicago at Camp Tel Hai. In 1936, Los Angeles had its first camp. By 1939, Moshava (Baltimore) and Kinneret (Detroit) were founded.
Close to 1500 haverim attended the camps in 1940, and in preparation for the 1941 season, new camps were projected for Texas and Winnipeg. The summer Kvutza had become Habonim's most powerful and most effective educational weapon and had also become a "big business" operation. With the development and expansion of the camps came a need for better planning and direction of both their educational and administrative aspects. As a result, the Cincinnati Habonim convention in December, 1940, called for the organization of a Habonim Kvutza Committee. This committee established a series of minimum requirements, began to work on the first Kvutza Manual, and set up a systematic program for selecting the volunteers to staff the camps.
This by no means meant that our camps were becoming standardized. In educational methodology, they ran the gamut from experiments in Lieberman's Creative Camping to semi-military discipline. Only a few of the camps were on permanent sites; most sites were rented. In many cases permission was secured to use the site for an indefinite period of time, but there was already a feeling that means must be found of assuring permanency and continuity in the operation of our camps.
In 1943, Camp Avoda was operated for the first time at the Hehalutz training farm in Creamridge, New Jersey. The objective of this experiment was to create a positive attitude toward collective living and halutziut among non-affiliated American Jewish youth. The primary educational factor in Camp Avoda was its proximity to the collective group and the farm. In later years, a number of highly successful Camp Avoda seasons were conducted at the farms with groups drawn from within the movement.
In 1945, 1600 youngsters spent the summer at eleven camps, in Killingworth, Connecticut (for New York), Baltimore, Detroit, Chicago, Los Angeles, Dallas, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, and at Creamridge. 1946 saw perhaps one of the peak years in Habonim camping when over two thousand campers attended Kvutza. Later, Philadelphia founded its own camp (Galil). St. Louis had its Kvutza, Tel Natan, for several years, but the collapse of the movement in the city brought about the demise of the camp as well. New York bought a new camp site at Amenia, New York. For several seasons this was a work camp in the process of construction.
During the years, there have been a number of sig nificant experiments in Habonim camping. Foremost among these was the national Hebrew camp, Amal. Its first season in 1948 opened on a rented site in Vermont with 26 campers. At Amenia (1949) and Killingworth - (1950), the camp accom modated fifty campers, gained the backing of six bureaus of education in various cities which sent scholarship students, and became established as one of the foremost Hebrew camps in the country. Habonim was the only Zionist organization to sponsor a Hebrew camp.
Influenced and sparked by Amal alumni, in 1951, a number of interesting and important Hebrew programs were planned at Kinneret and Moshava. Amal itself was at Creamridge. One of the significant results of Amal has been the proof that under proper conditions, fairly large numbers of non-movement people can be attracted to our camps and integrated into the movement. In 1952, Amal was conducted at Moshava, and during the summer of 1953, at Galil. At the 1953 convention of Habonim, it was decided to discontinue Amal as a separate institution and to stress Hebrew at all Habonim camps.
Mahaneh madrichim is an experiment in the realm of leadership training rather than strictly camping. The first national mahaneh madrichim. was held in the summer of 1940 at Galil for the training of madrichei tzofim. In 1948, two madrichim camps were held, one in Vermont for the East and one in Detroit for the West. This pattern was followed the next year at Montreal and St. Louis. In 1950, one national madrichim camp was conducted at Kinneret. Each subsequent summer has witnessed large seminars of madrichim, bonim, and noar, and pre-embarkation seminars for the Habonim Youth Workshop in Israel. In addition, most camps have conducted training programs for prospective madrichim. 1950 also saw another experiment long under consideration. Toronto conducted a "rambling camp." A number of haverim inade a long trip by truck, carrying full supplies and equipment and camping nights at previously selected sites. The three camps in the East have conducted an annual Maccabia, the sports and cultural festival, in which all the campers participate.
The past few years, too, have seen a number of interesting variations and experiments in the Habonim camping picture. There has been an awareness that existing Habonim camps must be put on a more efficient and permanent basis. Many more camps are on permanent sites into which large investments have been put by the local Labor Zionist movements and Merkaz Habonim. There has been a trend to put the administration of our camps on a semi-commercial basis. The national Habonim Camping Association has been showing steady but slow improvement in the handling of national aspects of camp. The permanent New York Kvutza at Red Hook, New York, was purchased in 1953. New camp sites were purchased for the Midwest in 1956 and for Camp Miriam in Vancouver in 1956.
We are aware that Camp Kvutza is our most effective educational instrument, and increasingly aware of its potentiality as an instrument for expansion.
During 1957, the following seven Kvutzot, all on permanent sites, will be conducted: Camp Habonim, Red Hook, New York; Camp Kvutza Galil, Ottsville, Pennsylvania; Camp Moshava, Annapolis, Maryland; Midwest Camp Habonim, Three Rivers, Michigan; Camp Naame, Saugus, California; Camp Kvutza, St. Faustin, Quebec; Camp Miriam, Gabriola Island, British Columbia.
Kvutza Manual, 1957