Urban Kibbutz Puts Down Roots

Home: One member described the kibbutz as a ‘neo-shtetl.’
COURTESY OF THE RAVENNA KIBBUTZ
Home: One member described the kibbutz as a ‘neo-shtetl.’

By Nathan Burstein

Published June 24, 2009, issue of July 03, 2009.
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It’s seen its share of ups and downs, but the kibbutz movement is now alive and well — in Seattle.

Alternately described by members as “an intentional community,” “Jewish co-housing” and “a neo-shtetl,” the Ravenna Kibbutz — located in the northern Seattle neighborhood of the same name — recently expanded to a third home, earning a three-page spread in the June 21 real estate section of The Seattle Times.

Described in the article as “strategically located near a cluster of North End Seattle synagogues,” the community was founded in 2007 and is now home to 15 residents, who share chores and pay rent based on the size of their rooms. The community has an additional 200 friends on Facebook and recently attracted 40 people for a Sabbath dinner, the article reported.

In contrast to their early forebears in Israel, the young singles of the Seattle kibbutz are not trying to make the desert bloom, nor do they plan to raise their children collectively. Instead, resident Neal Schindler told The Seattle Times, “We’re about having fun” — with recent activities including a bagel bake, a coffeehouse night and the observance of Jewish holidays. Each home in the kibbutz is equipped with a kosher-dairy section in its kitchen, and residents devote part of their leisure time to “civic projects” and Seattle not-for-profit organizations, the article said. The kibbutz’s motto is, “Would it kill you to find a nice Jewish commune?”

Seattle’s pioneer kibbutznikim have proved themselves good tenants, winning over such landlords as Tom Engel, a co-owner of the community’s newest piece of real estate. “We’re cautious because we want to make sure our home is not abused,” Engel said. “[But we] know the other landlords, and knew their experience with the [kibbutz] renters was good.”

Feedback following The Seattle Times article has been positive, kibbutz resident Masha Shtern told The Shmooze. A 25-year-old originally from Moscow, Shtern said the group already has been contacted by a landlord interested in renting more space to future members.

“It’s been amazing,” Shtern said.


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