Building Progressive Zionist Activists: Exploring the Impact of Habonim Dror, authored by Prof. Steven M. Cohen and Steven Fink describes evidence of the life-long impact that the Habonim Dror youth movement has had on its participants. The report draws upon a survey of nearly 2,000 alumni of Habonim Dror camps and other programs, ages 20 to 83.
Dr. Cohen sums up the study findings. “The Habonim Dror experience often seems to exert a powerful impact upon identification with Israel long after the alumni have completed their active involvement in the movement. Significant involvement with Habonim Dror is also associated with developing progressive political values in both the American and Israeli context, and with lifelong bonds with the Habonim Dror friends of one’s youth.”
Some salient findings about Habonim Dror alumni include:
- 85% visited Israel more than once and 70% had lived in Israel for at least 5 months.
- 75% consider themselves politically progressive
- 19% currently held leadership positions in multiple Jewish or Israel-related organizations
- 31% contribute to a local UJA-Federation
- 49% contribute to a Jewish sponsored or Israel-related social change organization
- 64% contribute to a social change oriented charity without a specific Jewish sponsorship or Israel focus.
- 93% remain connected to their Habonim Dror friends
Some Jewish communal leaders’ reactions to the study follow.
Jerry Silverman, President/CEO of Jewish Federations of North America:
“When I was CEO of the Foundation for Jewish Camp, the organization conducted a survey of Jewish federation executives across North America. The FJC discovered that more sitting federation executives came from Habonim Dror than from any other camp Movement. It was a strong statement to the leadership building nature of the Habonim Dror camp model.”
Hasia Diner, Professor of American Jewish History at New York University:
“Habonim taught us to think critically and even as youngsters our madrichim (counselors) pushed us to participate in adult-level debates. It is not surprising that so many of us became academics, writers, and individuals involved professionally in analyzing how the world works. Even among my fellow American Jewish historians, an inordinate number come from the ranks of Habonim graduates, shaped as we were by intense Movement discussions which had no parallels in our ordinary school lives.”
Nigel Savage, Hazon founder and Executive Director:
“This is an incredibly significant study, because of the length of the time period that is being covered. The impact of immersive experiential education is persistent – it has an impact in many cases years and decades after the experience itself. And I see this literally on a daily basis – there are a slew of Habonim alumni playing a key role in Hazon at both the staff and lay-level.”