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November 7, 2017

Dear Channichim

Dear Channichim

We know that the last two months may have been a confusing time for you. The past two months has seen our Mazkir Klali (Secretary General) resign and leave Habo, to then be followed by a confusing blog filled with stories you don’t understand and social media attacks aimed at the blog and Habo. We hope through this letter that you can all feel like you have a better understanding of what’s been happening, and can once again feel what you’ve always felt – that Habonim is a powerful and important youth movement that needs and wants you!

We want to start off by saying that the movement, and specifically Machaneh, is in a far better place than it has been in for a long time. We’d say the last time the movement was doing this well was in 2011 – some of your first Machanot. This year has seen Habo grow hugely in numbers, as well as in impact and power. All of our major programmes have been huge compared to the last 5 years, not to mention Machaneh17 already having over 100 channies more than last year. All of this, on top of a strong Bogrim body, our best relationship with the SA Zionist Federation and general support in the community has meant that Habo has reached new heights this year and will continue this strength in 2018. So, if there were any of you who were worried about Habo – you don’t need to! We’re doing absolutely incredibly and at this point it looks like we are the only movement who has grown this year.

Now, onto what you are confused about. We are going to try keep this to the point, and we’re  also going to do our best to not speak for others. Everything in here is how we see it, which we feel is pretty accurate.

Around 2 months ago it became apparent that Adam Dison (then Mazkir Klali and Rosh Chinnuch) was no longer the best person to continue with these jobs for the rest of the year as was intended. The reasons were almost exclusively for his own personal reasons which are not for us to get into, but essentially he was no longer feeling like he could continue with these roles the way he needed to and found himself more and more being unable to continue the year as he had started it. So, at the beginning of September he appointed David as interim Mazkir Klali until the new 2018 leadership came into power. After this, he was still involved in Habo, was still living with us in the Habo Bayit in Joburg, and was still doing some parts of his job as Rosh Chinnuch. That lasted for around a month. Over that time, it became apparent that he was no longer in a position to carry out those few tasks and became increasingly hostile towards those in the movement for reasons that are still unclear. On the 2nd of October Adam sent us his letter of resignation and officially ended his positions and time in Habo. This was a move we completely supported and thought was not only best for him and his health but also for Habo especially as we geared up for the busiest time of the year. We think this is also something that most of the maddies, if not all, in Habo supported as it had become clear that this is what was best. Over this month or so all of his responsibilities and roles were shifted to other people in the movement to ensure that there was a smooth transition that didn’t affect the movement. This was done so well that it was barely even noticed by any of you or others in the movement. And this still stands – there is no leadership vacuum and all preparations for Machaneh are well underway and on track.

Over this same 2-month period, Adam chose to start a blog where he has shared various different pieces ranging from music he likes to political issues he sees at Wits University. Along with these have also been some posts that have left many confused due to their ambiguity – those that are about Habonim Dror Olami (HDO). To clarify what HDO is, it is in no way the same movement as HDSA and Adam’s posts have never been about HDSA. HDO is the office in Israel that runs the logistics for Habonim programmes (for lots of the Habo countries) in Israel like Shnat. It’s not its own movement, it is just an office/organization. Our sister movement in Israel is called Hanoar Ha’oved Vehalomed (this is unrelated to this post but maybe some of you will find it interesting). As one of the people who managed Shnat from South Africa, Adam has over the last year found many issues that he and others see in HDO. A lot of these issues the which the two of us (David and Jess, we are the other Mazkirim this year) also see in HDO, not to mention other Habonims in other countries who work with HDO. The difference is that what most others have decided to do (including the leadership of HDSA) is still work with HDO for 2017 and 2018 despite these issues. Where we see problems, we open up dialogue and processes to try address these – the real Habo way of dealing with things. This leads to frustrations at times, but such is the nature of running the massive programmes we run. Will we always work with HDO? Not necessarily. But for now, they are the ones we choose to continue to work with. Habo in USA and the UK chose to not work with them. Either way, we view HDO as real partners who run good and safe programmes that we can support and shape.

So, Adam chose that he would try to expose the issues he sees in HDO through his blog. Some of what he writes we have agreed with, and other things we think are way off the mark and are just incorrect. But the point of this isn’t to engage with those posts and we don’t think blogs are a useful way to create change you want to see in the world. If you have any other questions about HDO or the issues people find with them, then please get in touch with either one of us. 🙂

Adam has also recently posted a piece that attacks Bnei Akiva SA on his blog. As with all of his writings, this is completely unconnected to HDSA, ourselves, or any of its members. We’re not going to engage with what he says as we have never been to Bnei and can’t comment on what he has written. As soon as that post went online, David called the heads of Bnei to once again reassure them that this stuff was not coming from Habo (they were already aware that Adam is no longer in Habo and doesn’t represent us). Throughout all of this, we have been open and transparent partners with Bnei. In fact, this whole year we have worked on projects together and have built a healthy relationship. As the two biggest youth movements in South Africa, it’s important for us to get along, which we do. It hasn’t always been like that, but the last two years has seen incredible growth and camaraderie between us. In terms of his post, we could never endorse a public attack on a fellow Jewish movement or organization. In the past and going forward, if there are issues we see in Bnei then we engage the right people on their side as we don’t believe public attacks are constructive or the way that Habo people are taught to act, especially not aimed at fellow Jews. Bnei leadership and madrichim have all been very understanding that his posts aren’t from Habo and we thank them for this understanding. David sent a letter to the Bnei madrichim expressing this. However, an ex-member of Bnei (who we believe was actually kicked out of Bnei for drinking) decided to write an open response to Adam’s blog. This post too was completely rejected by Bnei leadership and was not supported by them, and didn’t reflect Bnei’s views. The post was mainly aimed at Adam’s post, but at points felt like was attacking Habo directly. The author has since expressed that his post was in no way aimed at Habo and he thinks it’s fantastic that our two movements are getting along so well. Either way, it was hard to read as a member of Habo. But what we want to reassure you is that at Habo we could never and will never support attacks on fellow Jews, and believe that we have to work together as one community in order to take ownership over the Jewish people.

So that’s essentially where we stand. Adam is not in Habo and hasn’t been for some time. A lot of this is for personal reasons, and for what was best for the movement. His blog is unrelated to the movement and we continuously state that we do not support it. Our relationship with Bnei continues and we wish them the best for their Machaneh. Habo is in the best place it has been in a long time and we are so incredibly excited for the life-changing three weeks that Machaneh17 is going to be. As we move forward, what’s planned for 2018 in Habo is so incredibly exciting and inspiring and we know that all of you are going to find your place in the movement, and the movement’s place in your life. At the end of Machaneh David will be bidding HDSA farewell as his 13th camp means that it’s time to let those younger than him take ownership for a movement that he loves dearly. At this point it looks like he’s going to be making Aliyah in January (to join our sister movement in Israel) which he is incredibly excited about, but of course that’s not before we run the best Machaneh that this country has ever seen.

If you ever want to chat about any of the above, anything in general, or just want a funny selfie from us then please feel free to get in touch with either of us in any way that you want. Our details are below.

All of our love, Channichim. Just a few short weeks until we are home!

Aleh Ve’Hagshem

David Schwartz
Rosh Machaneh 2017
david@habo.org.za | 0828830871

Jess Levitt
Incoming Mazkira Klalit 2018
jess@habo.org.za | 0828588653