From swamps to swimming pools
The AACI honors the American kibbutznik contribution
"We fade into our kibbutzim a lot of the time," says Chava Feldman, coordinator of the kibbutz-based 50th jubilee celebrations of the AACI (Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel). "People don't hear much about us, or they think of us as millionaires sitting by our swimming pools, but we've worked hard for what we've got."
The official aim of the jubilee program at Kibbutz Kfar Blum next weekend (April 12-13) is to "highlight the achievements and contributions of American kibbutzniks to Israeli society," says New York-born Feldman.
In practice, since those attending are American-born kibbutzniks, and also largely of an age to remember the early days, the weekend is likely to be one of socializing and nostalgia.
Saadia Gelb, an AACI founder and member of Kibbutz Kfar Blum since 1947, will talk about the early days of the organization that was set up to help North American immigrants shortly after the state was established.
There will also be reminiscences from Avi Livney of Kibbutz Barkai, who was a crew member on the "Exodus," which brought Holocaust survivors to Israel illegally as part of Aliyah Bet.
Paul Shulman, one of the first commanders of the Israeli Navy, will highlight the North American contribution to the Israeli military. Reuven Criden will speak about his late brother, Joe Criden, who lived on Kibbutz Kfar Blum and presented a television show about car maintenance.
Participants will also watch videos about American-born pioneers who came to Israel and helped establish kibbutzim - including Kfar Blum in the Upper Galilee. Feldman says there will be square dancing, Israeli folk dancing, singing, and "a good amount of free time to socialize and catch up."
Only a quarter of the number Feldman hoped for will attend the weekend - 25 coming from outside Kibbutz Kfar Blum - because of the security situation. "It's a struggle, but we're going ahead."
The kibbutz-based jubilee celebrations follow special events organized by the AACI to highlight North American contributions to the areas of health and Jewish life in Israel. A reception at the President's House in Jerusalem to celebrate North American aliyah is scheduled for June 5.
Kibbutz members are also running two additional events to mark the AACI's 50th jubilee year. At Kibbutz Gal On, close to Kiryat Gat, an afternoon program is planned for April 25, which will include a talk about trends within North American Jewry.
There will be folk dancing and videos of the early years on kibbutzim. An afternoon of baseball and hotdogs will be held on Kibbutz Gezer, near Ramle, sometime in June.