Exploring the Impact of Habonim Dror

A Study by Steven M. Cohen & Steven Fink, 2013

SSP Impact

Testifying to Impact

Subjective claims to having been influenced by an organization or experience can frequently be discounted.  However, when they come in conjunction with other powerful evidence, such testimony gains some credibility.

We asked respondents to assess the extent to which their experience with Habonim Dror affected them in a variety of ways … political views, life-long friends, attachment to Israel, and engagement in Jewish life.  In broad terms, solid majorities, ranging from 53% to 68%, provided the most positive response (“to a great extent”).  About a quarter or more (25% to 34%) answered, “to some extent.” Only a few (5% to 20%) answered, “a little or not at all.”
Indeed, selected comments enrich our understanding of how bogrim believe Habonim Dror made a significant impact of their lives.

  • A hugely formative experience.  Shaped my political views, my views and skills in education, my choices of work, my choices of lifestyle, my social circles, my core relationships.  I can't think of a more foundational childhood/youth influence than Habonim.
  • My involvement in Habonim was one of the most profound influences on my life.  As a teenager in the late 60s and early 70s, it provided me not only with a social outlet, but also a way so synthesize the traditional Jewish upbringing that I received at home and at an Orthodox day school with the leftist political views that I was forming inspired by family members and friends.  Ultimately I made aliyah in my early 20s and lived on kibbutz for 10 years.  To this day, my closest friends are former Habonim members.
  • In a world where finding a positive Jewish identity was difficult, Habonim provided a home away from home in which to explore my Jewish identity, values, and find strong social connections.  It was a life shaping oasis of a society within a larger society which both provided safety and security as well as invited one to expand one's thinking and experience.  I would not be the person I am today without having been through Habonim.
  • Habonim is largely responsible for making me the person I am today--in terms of my passion for social justice, love of Israel, connection to Judaism, confidence in myself, and leadership abilities.  It also helped me get through the social difficulties and awkwardness of adolescence unscathed and sure of whom I was.

Bogrim frequently mentioned the role of Habonim in forming close relationships with friends, a deep sense of community, and the feeling of “family.”  Bogrims’ positive sentiment included such phrases as “life-long relationship”, “connectedness,” and “sense of belonging.”  Many also wrote that the Habonim Dror experience contributed to their sense of identity and feeling accepted, often in ways different from their non-Habonim Dror friends.

  • The idea that we as a community are responsible for each other's well-being.  Habonim was my life, and the people I meet from my Habonim experiences have an instant connection.
    Habonim Dror provided me with a community.  I find Habonim people everywhere and feel a connection with them.
  • It taught me how to function in a community both by making compromises, listening to the people around me and how everyone needs to do their part.
  • Mosh was my home away from home, my second family.  The friendships I made as a camper at Mosh and on Workshop continue to be the most meaningful and rewarding.
  • Growing up, Camp was the one environment that allowed me to connect with others in a substantial way.  The friends that I made at camp are a part of my permanent family.  No matter how much time passes and how much distance is between us, we always pick upright where we left off because we have such a strong foundation.
  • My summers at Miriam are some of the most formative of my life.  It's the first place I ever felt like I belonged — I had a really special kvutza that felt like a family, one that I really needed as I was growing up.