Religious kibbutz movement does teshuva

The Religious Kibbutz Movement plans to take steps to make its 19 kibbutzim and three moshavim more religious.

kibbutz beeri 88 298 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
kibbutz beeri 88 298
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The Religious Kibbutz Movement plans to take steps to make its 19 kibbutzim and three moshavim more religious in a campaign to prevent its increasingly more conservative young members from abandoning the kibbutzim, Religious Kibbutz Movement head Nehemia Rappel said Monday. A survey presented Sunday during the annual executive meeting of the Religious Kibbutz Movement found that a large percentage of youth who grew up on religious kibbutzim leave, in part, because they are searching for a higher level of religiosity. Between half and 80 percent of youths who grow up on religious kibbutzim end up leaving. Today, the Religious Kibbutz Movement boasts a total of some 9,000 members. A survey based on a sample group of 600 members, or former members, of kibbutzim aged between 24 and 40 found that many of those who decided to leave were looking for a more religious environment than is offered on the kibbutzim. Those who decided to stay also expressed an interest in more stringent religious observance. Rappel said that in the next few years, the movement would raise the level of religiosity on its kibbutzim. The Religious Kibbutz Movement has traditionally been more liberal in its religious attitudes than some other segments of the religious Zionist movement. From its inception, even before the establishment of the state, kibbutz leaders preached full cooperation with the secular Zionist leadership. On many kibbutzim, there was an ideological opposition to the appointment of a rabbi. Rather, lay leaders with a strong Torah education were expected to provide both practical and spiritual leadership. Like the secular kibbutz movement, the religious kibbutzim put a heavy emphasis on military service and working the land of Israel. A recently published report found that two religious kibbutz high schools had the highest IDF enlistment rate in the country. However, in recent decades, the kibbutz movement has been influenced by a rise in religious standards that has swept the entire religious Zionist camp. Nevertheless, the religious kibbutz's institutions have been slower to react to this rising religiosity, in part because the older generation has resisted change. This has created a situation in which members of the younger generation have grown more conservative than their parents and grandparents. The religious kibbutz movement's middle and high schools abandoned total coed education a decade ago, retaining mixed classrooms only in select subjects. However, they continue to put a strong emphasis on secular subjects at the expense of Torah study. In contrast, many young religious Zionists are demanding more Torah education. They are sending their boys to yeshiva high schools and their girls to ulpanot, both of which place more emphasis on Jewish studies. Rappel, who is in his late 50s, said that more stringent religious phenomena he has witnessed among the new generation of kibbutz members which were not a part of his own upbringing on Kibbutz Yavneh include more married women wearing head coverings and more separation of boys and girls in extracurricular activities, as well as more emphasis on modest dress. But Rappel added that there were limits to the religious stringencies that the kibbutz movement was willing to tolerate. "Except in special cases, we will not allow our young men to do shorter army service as part of the hesder program. We continue to believe that our youth has the same responsibilities as secular youth." The survey was conducted by Miriam Bilig of the Ariel University Center and Prof. Yossi Katz of Bar-Ilan University with statistical support provided by Shelly Sorkraut of the Ariel University Center.