HDCA Newsletter – November 2021


HDCA Newsletter – November 2021

Mazkirut Reaches Decision on Upcoming Veida

by Jenna Abrams, Rakezet Chinuch

HDNA is scheduled to hold its biennial Veida, or Convention, in December 2021. Movement members have been looking forward to gathering together in-person for the first time in almost two years. However, given the ongoing COVID crisis, Mazkirut Artzit has struggled to determine whether and how Habonim Dror can responsibly hold Veida (and the accompanying Winter Seminar) this year.

For the past two months, we’ve been having conversations with many community leaders (both ma’apilimot leadership and adult partners) so that we would be able to make the most informed decision. We asked many stakeholders about what they see as the purpose/goals of Veida, the feelings around Veida in each community, the options for the format of Veida, and challenges and advantages of each of these options.

From these conversations as well as our own experience leading the movement, we have gathered that Veida needs to be a space that allows for productive dialogue that will support community-building between people from different machanot. It also needs to be a fun, engaging, social environment that can contain disagreement in a healthy way. It’s really difficult for these things to exist in a largely online format, and the ma’apilimot with whom we engaged in these questions did not support trying to do complex decision-making online. At the same time, because of COVID-19, we do not feel that it is going to be possible for us to have an in-person seminar in December where we gather as an entire movement and are still able to ensure the safety and well-being of our participants.

Given all of these conversations and the insight we’ve received from our various partners, we have decided that we will be delaying the formal decision-making process of Veida 2021 to May 2022. We will be having programming in the Winter for the movement that will support the educational and social process of Veida in May, so we will still be collecting Veida proposals in the next few months. We will also be attempting to organize regional in-person meet-ups with seminar content in December, based on the interest of each community, as well as online movement-wide programming.

Planning Continues for MBI 2022

HDNA is currently finalizing an agreement with NFTY to offer a 4-week trip to Israel in July, 2022 that is tailored for HDNA chanichimot and that will also allow chanichimot to participate in programming at their home camps.  The program will utilize tzevet from HDNA and Mazkirut Artzit will be working with NFTY to build the itinerary.  Through this partnership with NFTY, HD participants will be able to access $3,000 tuition vouchers from RootOne that will bring the anticipated total cost of the trip to approximately $5,500 USD.

Mazkirut made the decision to pursue this arrangement after conducting a survey of families with chanichimot currently in 10th grade. The survey assessed priorities for summer 2022 as well as cost issues. From a schichva of approximately 130 chanichimot, 55 families responded.

The survey asked families to rate, on a scale from 1 to 5, how important it is for their child to:

  1. Spend time in Israel this summer? 65.5% of respondents rated this 4 or 5
  2. Attend a program with peers from other HDNA camps? 76.3% rated this 4 or 5
  3. Spend time at their home machaneh? 56.4% rated this 4 or 5

Complete survey results may be obtained by emailing Kaela Evenchick, Rakezet Tochniot, at programs@habonimdror.net

Stand Up for Democracy! Rabin Memorial Event

by Tamar Levi, Central Shlicha, HDNA

Upon beginning my tafkid as Central Shlicha, I was excited to learn about the central role HDNA has taken on in preserving the memory of Yitzhak Rabin z”l in the North American Jewish community. For the fourth year, as part of the Stand Up for Democracy Coalition, we are proud to bring together a diverse group of organizations to discuss challenges to democracy in Israeli society and the North American Jewish community. This year, we will be hosting in-person events for youth movements in NYC, DC and Philadelphia and an online event for adults. The Youth Council, made up of representatives from all the youth movements, has chosen the topic of social media and democracy. The online event will include discussion rooms with guest speakers, including Dr. Yehuda Kurtzer of the Shalom Hartman Institute.
Youth Movement: 2:00pm, November 14th, 2021 (DC, NYC, Philadelphia)
Adult Event: 3:00pm, November 14th, 2021
Online Closing Ceremony: 4:00pm
Please see our facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/events/1282136075540726 to learn more about the event and the coalition, and registration is open at the link here https://bit.ly/rabincoalition.

Summer Mifgash Wrap-up 

On Sunday, September 19 the Habonim Dror Camp Association held its first-ever virtual summer “Mifgash” (meeting). Instead of the usual mifgash protocol, in which board members of two machanot gather at a third over a summer weekend to learn from each other and exchange ideas, board members and professional staff of all six HDNA camps were invited to convene via zoom. While nothing can match the excitement and intensity of an in-person experience, we were able to meet, learn about common problems and begin working towards solutions.
Approximately 40 chaverim from all six machanot attended the Mifgash. We enjoyed short videos of summer activity at each of our camps, heard from incoming HDNA Central Schlicha Tamar Levi and incoming HDNA Board Chair Jared Matas, and enjoyed a “chevrati” (social activity) planned for us by Erica Kushner, HDNA Mazkirol and Jenna Abrams, HDNA Rakezet Chinuch. We split up into breakout rooms to explore six critical issues for our machanot: Medical/COVID, Climate Change, Facilities, Gender Identity and Inclusion, Recruitment/Fundraising and Mental Health Issues at camp. In response to a follow-up survey, Mifgash participants identified Recruitment/Fundraising and Mental Health Issues as the topics most appropriate for HDCA to focus on in the coming year. Watch this space for news updates!


And finally, enjoy this Word Cloud we made of participants’ thoughts while watching the camp videos.  Habonim Dror Camps are all about ruach, creativity, chevra and joy!

Welcome Jared Matas – HDNA Board Chair

Jared in the Central Office organizing the mailing of B’tnua

Jared is a proud boger of Machaneh Miriam, a member of Workshop 43 and was Mazkir T’nua of HDNA from 1998-2000. Jared was a co-founder of Garin Alpayim which helped the movement reconnect with socialist-Zionist hagshama after spending most of the 90s ideologically adrift amid post-Zionism and the collapse of the traditional kibbutz movement. In 2001 – 2002, while living in Jerusalem as a member of Kvutsat Yovel, Jared helped conceive and implement the revitalized Workshop program for the 21 century, with a new focus on social activism and urban communal living.

In his post-movement life, Jared moved to Boston where he has worked for two decades as an educator with experience ranging from kindergarten to middle school and college. Jared also works as an educational consultant for synagogues, day schools and Hebrew charter schools across North America, leading teacher professional development on topics such as project-based learning, STEAM integration and remote teaching. Jared was previously the Director of STEAM Innovation at JCDS, Boston’s Jewish Community Day School, where he led school-wide initiatives in the areas of Design Thinking and project based learning. He is currently the Director of Technology at the Cambridge Montessori School.


Jared writes: Two years ago I joined the board of the Habonim Dror Foundation and it has been a pleasure to reconnect with the movement. I find it inspiring to meet current movement leaders and learn about the work they are doing to ensure there is a progressive and Zionist voice in the Jewish community. Despite the significant financial, ideological and organizational challenges facing the movement, the camps and Israel programs continue to thrive and thousands of youth are benefitting from that powerful Habonim experience that we know so well. I am embarking on my term as Chair of the HDNA Board of Directors committed to supporting the ongoing success of the movement.

As I’ve begun this work, an added bonus for me has been to reconnect with so many chevrei that I haven’t been in touch with in years. As we all know, one of the strengths of the movement is this amazing network. If we haven’t spoken recently, I’d love to hear from you – please reach out: jared.matas@habonimdror.org

Welcome Sue Aistrop – HDNA Business Administrator

by Sue Aistrop

It is with great pleasure that I take the position of Business Administrator for HDNA. My engagement with the movement began when two of my children attended Camp Galil.  Their experiences at camp and on MBI were intense and long-lasting.  I saw they made choices and decisions in their lives based on principles they embraced and have relationships that continue to this day. 




I have spent many years in the non-profit world, serving people with HIV/AIDS, working on food insecurity, and most recently working with seniors in Jewish organizations.  My hope is that my background and skills will serve HDNA with scope and long-range vision. I’m thrilled to commit to an organization that so mirrors my own social outlook and worldview. 


HDCA Leadership Meets with JCamp 180  

JCamp 180 is a program of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation that supports non-profit Jewish summer camps throughout North America. In conjunction with this year’s virtual JCamp 180 conference, we were invited to meet with Harold Grinspoon to discuss HDNA camps’ experience in summer 2021 and our thoughts and concerns moving forward towards summer 2022. HDCA coordinated information-gathering from each of our machanot in advance of this meeting in order to ensure that we could represent Habonim Dror camps well to the JCamp 180 leadership.
On October 20, 2021 Sharon and Alisa together with Erica Kushner and HDNA camp leaders had the pleasure of meeting with Harold Grinspoon, Winnie Sandler Grinspoon and Sarah Eisinger. It was a very cordial and positive meeting where we were able to report that:
  • Across our movement, HDNA camps raised over $800,000 through the JCamp 180 All Together Now match program.
  • All 6 of our camps ran successful programs in 2021 with no COVID at any of them.
  • Our camps’ enrollment ran the gamut from extremely full to less full – specifically due to limited camper beds during certain time periods.
  • All the camps ended the summer in a stable financial position, but some have a need to build back reserve funds.
  • All the camps need to continue fundraising for scholarships.
  • All of our camps have capital needs and several have overall rehabilitation needs.
  • All the camps faced increased mental health challenges with both campers and staff.
And most importantly we took the opportunity to thank Harold and his organization for the support he’s given our camps over the years.

MarHaba! Ismi Alisa. (Hello! My name is Alisa) 

by Alisa Belinkoff Katz, HDCA Co-Chair
In late October HDCA joined with HDNA, Ameinu and other Progressive Zionist organizations to host a three-part introductory course in Arabic language and culture sponsored by The Abraham Initiatives. The three dozen participants learned how to conduct a very basic conversation in Arabic and gained insight into Palestinian family life and culture.
Our instructor, May Arow, is the Director of Language as a Cultural Bridge for the Shared Learning program of the Abraham Initiatives. In that capacity she works with Arab and Jewish educators who teach Arabic in Israeli Jewish schools. In addition to vocabulary and phrases (Kiif Haalek = How are you?), May gave us entree into the often fraught reality that accompanies shared learning between Arabs and Jews. Misunderstandings abound where cultural practices diverge around such simple things as the offering of food to guests.
We all felt very mabsoot (happy) after taking this class and may offer it again in the future. Let us know if you are interested in joining! 

HDCA Newsmakers

We are so inspired by Rabbi Tom Gutherz, the chair of the Habonim Dror Foundation. Tom is the Rabbi of Congregation Beth Israel in Charlottesville, Virginia. His strength and leadership in that community in the wake of the 2017 far-right rally is highlighted in this article from The Forward.