Young, energized, and hopeful, two strangers, who would later become my grandparents, immersed themselves in the Zionist movement of the 1950s. With the ever-present shadow of the Holocaust still looming in their minds, they yearned for a place where they could feel at home. They planned to make Aliyah (“to ascend”) and live on a Kibbutz in Israel. However, life on the Kibbutzim, the communal farm settlements that laid the foundation for Israel today, stood in stark contrast to the crowded city life of the Lower East Side, New York that they knew. They each joined Hashavim, a Hakhshara (“preparation”) Zionist youth organization. The organization had a farm that, like a Kibbutz, had land to be worked and chicken coops to clean, but unlike a Kibbutz, was located in Vineland, New Jersey, not the recently created state of Israel. This is where my grandparents met (unfortunately, there are no photos of the two of them together). Thanks to my grandfather, an avid photographer, we have this window into their lives. These photos show group discussions, downtime, social dances, volleyball, a table set for a meal, and the chicken coop. I'm amazed that the country that is known today as the “Startup Nation” for technology, grew from a collection of farming communes in only sixty eight years. I’m so proud that my grandparents were part of that history.
– Anya Laskin Keller