Spotlight: Laura Schatzberg and Hashomer Hatzair Memories

Shalom readers,

I am Laura (Lilit) Schatzberg. I came to Hashomer Hatzair relatively late, as a junior in high school in the Bronx, NY. Many of my peers had been members since elementary or junior high. But once I walked up those rickety steps to Ken Hachoresh on Burnside Avenue and saw the happy chaos of blue-shirted, dungaree-wearing kids, I was dedicated. I went to moshava as a chanicha that summer, 1964, and became involved in all movement activities in the city after. I became a madricha, went on seminar, and spent eight months on the chava in Hightstown, NJ. I made aliya in 1967, two days after the end of the Six Day War, with several members of my garin and many more volunteers. I was on Kibbutz GalOn and from there joined the army. I left the kibbutz after four years and spent the next seven years in Jerusalem, mostly as a student at Hebrew University and working various jobs. 

Back in the US, I moved to California and live here still in a small town on the coast. I have done many types of work but what I have liked the most, and have done for the last 20 or so years, is teach English as a second or foreign language. I taught locally to the Mexican population and also in Namibia in the Peace Corps and in Odessa, Ukraine in a private language school. I still teach online and now am very concerned for my students in Ukraine. 

I believe the time I spent in Hashomer Hatzair solidified the sense of social justice that my parents had instilled in me. It gave me a way to practice those ideals. Working side by side with people who share your world view is very nourishing and makes work enjoyable. We had that in HH. I also think that as youth running the day to day operation of an organization we became capable and responsible.

I have remained in touch with many in my garin and during the pandemic we had a couple of zoom meetings. For the third meeting, it was suggested that we discuss how HH influenced the lives we led since being in HH and Andi Fischhoff suggested that we make a book out of our reminiscences. I volunteered to put the book together and Andi became the organizer and co-editor. The contributors are not only from our garin – yud gimmel – and not only from New York. There are forty-one pieces and a section devoted to those who have died. Andi and I have both added our stories.  

Needless to say, the book is special to those who wrote for it and their families, but I have had friends with no other connection to HH than their connection to me, say that they found it so interesting to know about this very small group of people with strong connections to each other and to an ideal from such an early age. 

In our day the stated goal of HH was aliya to a kibbutz and self-realization (הגשמה עצמית) in Israel on that kibbutz. Some of us made it all the way but most of us fell short of that goal. Whether or not we made it to kibbutz or to Israel, HH made a mark on us as concerned people of the world. We are all individuals on our own path in life but we connected in  a special way at a unique time in our lives through HH. 

I know that now HH, in light of current realities, has wisely modified those goals. But I believe from what I have seen in HH online and the way that HH has responded to the crisis in Ukraine, that the idealism and ability to mobilize to meet a need are still very much a part of the seriousness of the core ideology of HH while providing an enjoyable and enriching experience for youth. 

Our book, Hashomer Hatzair, Israel and Our Jewish Heritage, ISBN 979-8-9854014-0-0, is available to order from any bookstore and from Amazon. To download the ebook, click here. 

It is my hope that others will follow with books of their own. 

Chazak Ve'ematz, Lilit

 

hashomer hatzair 1966

Lilit with her Garin in 1966, she is in bottom left corner (with the Tembel hat!)


1 comment


  • Ira Cohen

    Hi Laura (Lilit),
    I hope you remember me from 1454 Grand Concourse. It’s Ira Cohen. I thought about you when I read of the passing of your uncle, Nehemiah Persoff. I hope you are well and would love to hear from you.
    Best,
    Ira


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