Culture, Politics

Habonim Comedians (or, "Finally, someone wrote that article")

For months my Habonim friends have been proudly sharing their memories (both real and borrowed) of having Sacha Baron Cohen and Seth Rogen as part of their youth movement. Indeed, possibly the two best comedies of 5767 have starred former participants in Habonim Dror. Finally, the forward did a brief piece on this striking phenomenon. Though they got a quote from one of the current directors, there wasn’t an interview with Baron Cohen or Rogen. What does it mean that the socialist Zionists were such a big influence on these two men? Just another example of the world Jewish conspiracy?

7 thoughts on “Habonim Comedians (or, "Finally, someone wrote that article")

  1. I personally don’t find two people out of a cast of thousands indicative of a “striking phenomenon.” I’m sure Habonim is an amazing organization and it nurtured both of these comedians well. But I bet dozens of winners of the Nobel prize have shopped at Target over the years, and I’m not going to credit Target with fostering intellectual brilliance. I’ve noticed many, many posts on this blog (and on other blogs, too – and in the Jewish press) that try to create a buzz out of not much, and this is the first time I’ve commented on it. So nothing personal to the person who posted this little piece. The comment is frankly intended more generally to the editors, writers and contributors to Jewschool, Jvoices, Jewcy, Jspot, Heeb, JTA, the Forward, and all the other blogs, sites and magazines I read regularly. Consider this a belated response to months of other posts as well.

  2. I seem to remember BBYO folks trying to take credit for Adam Sandler and the Beastie Boys. Or maybe it was USY?

  3. i went to habonim camps and eventually became a madrich (counselor) in the movement. it was substantially different from working in any other jewish organization i have been a part of. it is truly a *youth* movement. the folks who run the central office are in their early 20s. the folks who run the summer camps are sometimes barely 20. that it works is remarkable and that it works so well is amazing.
    the movement takes as gospel the idea that if you expect great things of young people and you give them room to be amazing, together you will be. when i was working at camp galil, the staff crafted the curriculum together at camp in a few days at the begining and over the course of the summer. it no doubt lacked the polish of educational programs commissioned and delivered by long-time rabbis, but the staff is committed to implementing it and excited about its current-ness. like Jamie said in the forward article, creativity is a big part of the movement. it is more-or-less a requirement for working.
    lastly, Habonim has a proud tradition of challenging conventional wisdom. perhaps it is due to our socialist roots and the accompanying criticism of materialism but Habonim Dror camps in the US (and perhaps the world, though i am not sure) spend time deconstructing culture with kids. it is both radical and fun. it’s great to get out 17 magazine/SI and the like with 13 and 14 year olds and have them write new taglines spoofing the hypersexual ads.
    I suppose this comment isn’t particularly directed. i see how habonim could act as a wonderful place to nurture anti-establishment creative humor, music, or other kinds of rhetoric. it doesn’t surprise me at all that habonim has produced some brilliant leaders in the jewish community, the comedic world, and the activist world. habonim’s radical belief in the ability of youth should inspire us all and help shape how we view what a youth movement can be. perhaps one of these days i’ll discuss some of the drawbacks and challenges of the habonim approach (there are many), but not today.

  4. Adam Sandler was supposedly NFTY (as were Jon Fishman and the guy from Counting Crows; Mike Gordon was Schechter), and the Beastie Boys were supposedly some yeshiva high school, but this is all hazy.

  5. Add to the list Joey Garfield and Josh Lewis from Habonim in the Midwest. Both were very active in Habonim and went on to be founding members of The Bert Fershners.
    Both have lengthy comedy resumes.
    We all remember their amazing and funny antics every Saturday night by the medura…

  6. It isnt a US phenomenon, several british comedians, including Sacha BAron Cohen and David Badiel were in “the movement” as were the producers of “whose line” Dan Paterson and Mark Levison. There was clearly an atmosphere of comedy and production of comedy sketches in British Habonim.
    I have no clue as to whether this has survived but it was certainly the case 30 years ago.

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