WHEN I MOVED TO ISRAEL THREE YEARS AGO, one of the questions asked of me was “What kind of Jew are you?” My answer was “Shomer” — that is, a member of Hashomer Hatzair, the Socialist-Zionist movement.
A few bureaucrats along the way tried to get me to change my answer to Reform or secular or unaffiliated, but I pushed back. I grew up in the community spaces of Hashomer Hatzair. My heroes were the people who fought back during the Shoah — many of them members of the movement, such as Abba Kovner and Mordecai Anielewicz — as well as “our” thinkers, such as Martin Buber. Growing up in the Socialist-Zionist movement as a member of Hashomer Hatzair in North America, I was exposed to education about Zionism, Israel, oppression, justice, and identity.
This education was far less focused than it once was on aliyah (moving to Israel) to build a kibbutz. Instead, the focus was on developing critical thinking through the lens of a leftist Zionism among youth who had a sense justice and of Jewish identity. Yet many of the historical ideologies and identities at the core of our history were very much in the background, quietly guiding the education in which we took part.