March 6, 2015

REVIEW: THE VIRTUAL KIBBUTZ: STORIES FROM A CHANGING SOCIETY by Ellis Shuman



What is a kibbutz?

A kibbutz is a Jewish owned communal settlement located in Israel. Originally, the general focus was agriculture. Today, the concept has undergone many changes and modernization and although several still operate farms others have expanded into manufacturing and services.

As an American living outside of Israel, a kibbutz represents a “coming of age” alternative for learning.  Since there is an expectation of productivity, it is a place to grow in a semi-protected environment away from the comforts of home and family. Ideally, young adults, prior to college or immediately thereafter, travel to Israel to humbly work on the kibbutz for their keep.

It is important to note that this is not a religious sabbatical and is not limited to Jews or those that practice Judaism.

THE VIRTUAL KIBBUTZ: Stories from a Changing Society

The Virtual Kibbutz is a collection of short stories based on events at various kibbutzim. Written by one of my favorite bloggers, Ellis Shuman, it is an interesting and somewhat educational combination. Searching for Seinfeld, a delightful tale begins the book with a reporter’s search for evidence of Jerry Seinfeld’s kibbutz experience in the 1970’s.

The author explores an array of stories about the different challenges a community faces as they live and learn together. The unique circumstances often reflect the climate in which the Israeli people live, but interestingly the results do not mirror the expected stereotypical outcome. This was refreshing and educational. My favorite: The Clown and the Dancer is a beautiful story of love and dedication. 

In the beginning, the hope was that a kibbutz could become a Utopian society. A concept abandoned long ago, in When Avry Won the Lottery, the author presents a plausible test to the various views on communal property.  A Cow’s Tale is a sort of “Cats in the Cradle” story about aging.  

Ellis Shuman
There are twelve stories, each with a complex circumstance that in the end provides the reader with a bit of education and a lesson about the human condition. A great read for those curious about life on a kibbutz and for anyone that enjoys a short –story before nodding off to sleep.