Saving the Kibutz

Three years ago, I decided to move to America to work for the Jewish Agency for Israel and Hillel of San Diego. I was so excited to live in a new place, explore the amazing beaches of San Diego, and start a new chapter of my life. But soon after I arrived, my optimistic expectations were replaced with a disappointing reality; the hardships of being in a new country, dealing with a language barrier, adjusting to a completely different bureaucracy and the challenges of finding new friends were a big combination with my increasing feeling of homesickness. During those first few months in San Diego I made almost no new friends and began to feel very lonely.

Through my years working and living in America I realize that this was a repetitive problem. Young Israelis living here are struggling to find a community, a place that will give them the feeling of home and will let allow them to practice traditions and customs they miss and are so used to. After 2 years of watching this continuously happen to many Israelis, my friends and I decided to take action.

We got in contact with two other Jewish organizations and together we decided to open The “Kibutz” the first community house for young adult Israeli Americans. With the establishment of this house, we and hundreds of other twenty-somethings, finally found a home. The project was based on similar successful models around the world: 4 Jewish young adults with exceptional social and leadership skills living together and organizing events for other Jewish young adults in their communities.

The residents and leaders that we chose for “Hakibutz”, are a microcosm of our community. Two of us recently moved from Israel to the United States, and the other two were raised in the United States in Israeli, Hebrew-speaking families. By hosting 5-6 events each month, we have opened the doors to a vibrant Jewish community where friends can practice their Hebrew, meet other young professionals, and cultivate relationships that will last for many years to come.

For Israelis just arriving in the U.S. from Israel, this house provides an opportunity for engagement with the Jewish community. Language and cultural gaps often make it difficult for Israelis find a place where they feel comfortable. By hosting bilingual events, we create a space where Hebrew speakers and non-Hebrew speakers can connect over their Jewish identity. These events come in a variety of types – and we assist Israelis in finding the community events that are right for them.

For those who have lived here for many years, this house fills a space that Hillel, Mishelanu, or other on-campus Jewish programs once filled. Upon graduation from college, young Israeli-American professionals often find themselves lacking the steadfast community that they had at home or in school. Our events provide opportunities to fill that void by shaping a new Jewish community that’s suitable for young professional life. Our gatherings also create a space where Israeli-Americans can practice their Hebrew, no matter what level they’re at.

But beside being a house only for Israeli Americans, our house also served as a bridge between the Israeli American community and the rest of the Jewish community here in LA. We found out that for a lot of American Jews- many of whom are Birthright Israel alumni, the way to maintain their connection to Israel is through meetings and talks with Israelis.

The years after college (or in many Israelis’ cases, after the IDF) are the crucial years in which young people make the decisions that guide them throughout the rest of their lives: Who their friends will be, their communities, and their significant others. At the Kibbutz, we engage people who are at precisely these crucial stages in their lives. By creating a warm, welcoming community, we ensure that our young generation will be eager to take part in this type of community for years to come.

I am proud to say that since the Kibbutz has opened in January 2015, it has been a great success. In the 74 events we have had since the house opened, 1,280 community members have participated. The events we organized addressed different topics and communities. From holiday events for Israelis without a place to celebrate, parties, events opposing the de-legitimization of Israel, and even community service – there’s something for everyone.

Hakibutz project was made possible by a generous grant of an Israeli American organization. We were recently informed that Hakibutz project will no longer receive this funding which means that this house must close down by May 31.

We are currently hoping that another donor or organization will decide that a vibrant- young- Israeli American community is something that is in their own interest and decide to take us under their wing.

To Show that there is a support for such a community we made this petition and we ask everyone who care to sign it.


About the Author
Niran Avni Is a serial entrepreneur and is currently the Co Founder of Froffee the Frozen Coffee, The first automatic blended coffee in the US. He is also the Co Founder of Hakibutz in Los Angeles and former Jewish Agency Israel fellow (Shaliach) to Hillel of San Diego. Niran Served in the IDF as the Vice Adviser for Palestinians affairs in Hebron.
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