Remember the days of old, consider the years of ages past. Ask your father and he will inform you, your elders, they will tell you. -Deuteronomy32:7
Every person is obligated to see him/herself as though s/he personally came out of Egypt. -Passover Haggadah
In the discussion of the right of a community to define itself (see previous Galilee Diary), a key issue is that of continuity. Do the founders have rights that transcend the rights of those who come later? Does the older generation have the right to determine the conditions of life for the next generation? If the fathers had a vision, do the sons not have the right to modify or even reject it in favor of their own vision?
From 1992 until 2006, Shorashim was frozen at 50 houses, due to complex bureaucratic processes involving privatization of what had been a collective moshav. Now that growth has resumed, we have opted for the system of "build your own." Families may obtain rights to lots in our new neighborhood, and design and build their own homes (within basic zoning guidelines). While the founders of Shorashim were idealistic young couples (mostly middle class North Americans), willing to live, at least for a while, in difficult circumstances, the new "settlers" are not looking to be pioneers, but are seeking a nice house in a warm community in the suburbs. Instead of the standard-issue 900 square foot houses we all received along the slope (to which most of us have added rooms), they are building their dream houses on top of the hill, the maximum the zoning will allow (2,500 sq. ft.). They smile, tolerantly, at the founders' stories of the hardships and adventures of the old days (i.e., the mid 80s).
We take our Shabbat afternoon stroll through the construction site and cluck (A swimming pool? A wine cellar? For this we struggled all the years? What are we, yuppies?). There are even rumors that one of the newbies wants to make changes in the music in the synagogue (God forbid!). On the other hand, for the community to grow old here with the founders would be boring and depressing. The young families joining are a source of strength, energy, and new ideas, a welcome breaking down of the homogeneity and stagnation that was forced on us by the long freeze in building.
For a long time Tami and I were advocates of a selective absorption policy. We were concerned that people seeking a home in the suburbs, but not interested in the values (especially the liberal-religious lifestyle) of the founders, would ultimately take over, and we'd be left living in a community that we wouldn't have chosen, outsiders in our own home. However, over the years we've learned that, as with children, at some point you have to let go and give up control. We can live our community the way we want it to be, and try to articulate the vision, and try to encourage people who "get it" to join. But even in the days when we maintained a policy of selectivity, families were accepted who later seemed to have no interest in the "values" of the community (and are doing just fine here, thank you); so it seems a bit presumptuous, on the basis of an interview or even psychological test results, to tell a family that they "don't qualify." Who are we to say where you can live?
Moreover, communities cannot stay static; they must evolve and grow. People leave and people join, people get tired, leaders wax and wane, intellectual and spiritual and social currents shift. The founders' vision and our collective communal experience are certainly important elements of what we are as a community but if they become all we are, we will simply fade to irrelevance.