Monday, April 23, 2007

Wednesday Apr 23

Visited Kinereth Camp
in Borough Park with
Jack, Julius and Shapiro
there were representatives
of other Camps, The occasion
was a Passover festival


Matt's Notes

Papa, Jack, Julius and Shapiro were all members of B'nai Zion, a fraternal order that, like many such organizations, provided support services to its members (like life insurance and burial services) but also had a strong Zionist agenda. Papa was Master of Ceremonies of his chapter, or camp, which had formed only a few months earlier. At the time, he argued to nickname his camp "The Maccabeans" after the Jewish warriors of old. This resulted in what he called a "big battle" -- perhaps his fellow members objected to the political or social implications of such an aggressive nickname -- but, driven by his desire to challenge the popular image of Jews as weak and vulnerable, Papa eventually prevailed.

Though a chapter's nickname was worth battling over, I hadn't thought much about what other B'nai Zion chapters might have called themselves until I read about the "Kinereth" camp in today's entry. Kinneret is the Hebrew word for the Sea of Galilee and, more significantly, the name of an early kibbutz, or collective farm, built on its banks. Maybe the Borough Park members chose this nickname because they felt like pioneers out in distant Brooklyn (so far from B'nai Zion's head office on 23rd Street in Manhattan). The name's socialist-agrarian flavor is certainly on the mellower side, though the settlers who started Kvutsak Kinneret in the early 1900's must have been mighty rugged, tenacious people.

I wonder how much a chapter's nickname really reflected its personality. Papa and his Maccabean pals certainly weren't prancing around the B'nai Zion Passover party like young Turks, turning over tables and snatching matzoh out of the hands of less assertively-nicknamed chapter members. Still, I would wager his camp's nickname continued to trigger debates at larger gatherings. How would such arguments have sounded, at a time when Zionist organizations felt that the future could turn on every gesture?


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