When Moshe's mother, Mrs. Winter, was compelled to leave the ghetto in search of food, she would swing young Moshe over her shoulder to cover her yellow star. With his blond hair and blue eyes, nobody suspected that little Moshe was a Jew or that his "caretaker" was his mother.

Moshe Winter exudes an aura of inner happiness and serenity. It is hard to imagine the pain and suffering he endured as a child of the Holocaust.

"I was born in 1943 in Budapest, Hungary's capital," Moshe begins. "At that time, until the German occupation of Hungary in March 1944, the Jews of Budapest were relatively safe despite widespread anti-Semitism and discriminatory laws against Jews."

Thousands of Jews were seized from the ghetto and shot along the banks of the DanubeWith the German occupation, Jewish life in Budapest turned into a life of fear. The Germans began moving towards Budapest, rounding up and deporting the Jews from the Hungarian provinces and the suburbs of Budapest. By the end of July 1944, only the Jews in Budapest were left in Hungary. In October of that same year, the Arrow Cross Party, the Hungarian Nazi Party, installed a new government and began a reign of terror in Budapest, shooting hundreds of Jews or drafting them into brutal forced labor. A death march followed and those who survived were taken to various death camps.

"In the meantime, we were herded into ghettos by the Arrow Cross Party," Moshe relates. By the end of December 1944, most of the remaining Jews of Budapest were packed into those closed ghettos. Thousands of Jews were seized from the ghetto, shot along the banks of the Danube, their bodies thrown into the river.

"At last, in June of 1945, we were liberated by the Allied forces."

"My family was taken to the Bergen-Belsen Displaced Persons camp. My father worked for the Allied forces in his capacity as a tailor and also translator, being knowledgeable in several languages. I still have a picture of myself wearing a uniform my father fashioned out of blankets for me," Moshe says with a trace of nostalgia.

Finally, in 1949, the Winter's were permitted to enter the U.S. due to the efforts of an uncle, Mr. Winter's oldest brother who had immigrated to the U.S. before the war, who sponsored the family.

The Winter family sailed to America on the General Han. "During the trip, I turned six and I still remember the birthday party the captain of the ship prepared in my honor."

"We arrived in Ellis Island where we were held for a few days until allowed the privilege of entering the United States. Our family settled on Kelly Street in the Bronx. My neighbor, I found out later, was Colin Powell. He took pride in the fact that his father worked in the Beth Jacob, a Jewish girl's school on Kelly Street, the same school where my mother worked as the cook."

Moshe's parents never spoke about the Holocaust with Moshe or his older sister. It was just too painful. "But later," says Moshe, "when we were already married, my mother shared some of her experiences with our spouses."

"Not one person bothered to turn around or offer any assistance"Even in the golden land of America, young Winter experienced his share of anti-Semitism. "It was a Friday, and I was taking the train from Manhattan to Long Island to spend Shabbat with my friend, when someone knocked off my kipah. When I turned around, I faced three jeering hoodlums. I said, 'Give me back my kipah.' They laughed and said, 'Why should we?' A fight ensued. They punched me, broke my teeth, shattered my glasses. But by far, the most traumatic part was that out of the three or four hundred fellow travelers, not one person bothered to turn around or offer any assistance. I decided this was not something I would put up with."

That was the moment that convinced Moshe to move to Israel.

Forty-three years ago, after he graduated college, Moshe and his New York-born wife, along with ten other couples that he knew from the Bnei Akiva (a Zionist Youth Organization) moved to Israel where they looked for a kibbutz to join. "It was fairly easy to come since my wife and I had no jobs or responsibility, and not yet a family. We felt that it was the ideal opportunity for us to make the jump."

The Winter's chose to make their home in Kibbutz Lavi because "it was the only kibbutz where the children lived at home as opposed to a children's quarters where the children of other kibbutzim were housed, fed and put to bed."

The Founding of Kibbutz Lavi

Kibbutz View
Kibbutz View

Following the horrific pogrom staged by the Nazis upon Jews in Germany known as Kristallnacht, night of broken glass, the British government agreed to permit children from Nazi Germany and the occupied territories to enter their country until the crisis would blow over. Between 1938 and 1940 nearly 10,000 Jewish children were placed in British foster homes, hostels, and farms, literally saving their lives. Most of these children never saw their parents again, all murdered by the Nazis.

After the war, in 1949, a group of these children – already teenagers – managed to immigrate to Israel where they founded Kibbutz Lavi on a barren hilltop overlooking the Tiberias-Nazareth Road. Conditions were harsh. The land was rocky, the stones needed to be removed by hand, and in the first two years, the lack of water in the area necessitated water to be trucked in daily. Yet these youngsters persisted and established a comfortable life for themselves, their descendants and future members.

The community sees to the basic needs of all members throughout their lives"Since the founders of our kibbutz were from the Kindertransport, they were very family oriented. They wanted to spend more time with their children, to eat with them and sleep close by, even though this was against kibbutz ideals," says Moshe. "And the fact that it was one of the few religious kibbutzim also drew us to Kibbuz Lavi."

Kibbutz Lavi's ideology is based upon values that are expressed through partnership and democracy. Therefore, the community sees to the basic needs of all members throughout their lives, in return for the individual's contribution to a common good according to personal ability.

"Today I work in maintenance doing jobs that nobody wants, or has the time, to do. Like fixing the brooms. But when I was younger, I worked in agriculture for twenty years and another twenty years in the Dairy. My sons work in the furniture factory."

Lavi's furniture factory specializes in synagogue furniture which is sold throughout Israel and exported around the world.

Members of the kibbutz don't receive a monthly salary. They do, however, receive a yearly budget for personal needs. Housing, food, healthcare and education are provided by the community.

Moshe derives much satisfaction from the kibbutz. "I've never wanted for anything," he comments. "This kibbutz is a part of me. Everybody works according to their ability and nobody tries to get out of work. It's like a family business; we all aim for success and we share the dividends with each other. Lavi was built as 'utopic' as possible."

After a full school day, the children join their family in the communal dining room for dinner. Sometimes, in inclement weather for instance, the family decides to take the food home and eat there so they don't have to haul their kids to the dining room. "The kids have a fantastic childhood, a wonderful culture, and are raised with values of mutual responsibility, of helping others," he says.

"I see my grandchildren every day when they go for a walk around the kibbutz"Indeed, the children are raised in what Moshe calls "real country life." They learn to care for animals and help in the kitchen from a young age. "For me, the nicest part about living in the kibbutz is that I see my grandchildren every day when they go for a walk around the kibbutz," he adds.

The synagogue in Kibbutz Lavi
The synagogue in Kibbutz Lavi

For those who have a difficult time making decisions, kibbutz life is a wonderful way of handing over the headache to the General Committee. Hardy individuals who thrive on choice may find relinquishing their decision-making rights a sacrifice. Decisions such as where to invest or spend money are decided by the General Committee. "In a kibbutz, one can't make their own decisions," says Moshe. "When certain decisions contrast with your beliefs, there's no point in getting angry, you just have to learn to live with it. And, of course, there will always be those who think a decision applies to you and not to me. For example, once there was a decision that all dogs should be tied up – they scare the kids, they dirty the grounds. But many people felt, 'my dog is all right, he doesn't cause problems.' So this decision went unheeded."

When the fledgling Israeli army was struggling to establish the country's freedom, kibbutz members were heralded as the heroes of the land and the elite of Israeli society. They were the ones who were the first to volunteer for every national task and they imbued the Israeli Defense Forces with a spirit of pioneering, bravery and determination.

Following the fall of communism, kibbutz style has lost much of its glitter and charm in the eyes of the world. Kibbutz Lavi has always been very liberal, and in recent years has become even more liberal. Yet there are changes. "Like everywhere else, we feel the economic crunch," says Moshe. "Recently there was a 10% cut off our yearly budget, but everyone understands. Another change that occurred is the way the children's clothes are distributed. In the past, all the children would get measured and the kibbutz would buy their clothes. Today, the younger couples get money for their children's clothes and buy what they want."

And many second or third generation members have left the kibbutz. "My five sons all married girls from outside of the kibbutz," Moshe notes. "Three of them don't live on the kibbutz because their wives preferred not to live here. They grew up in the city, so they want to make their own decisions, keep the money they earn, and live near their families."

Moshe predicts that the chapter of kibbutz life is coming to a closeIn the last few years, most kibbutzim have privatized. The motivation of the founders, their strong convictions and their distinct ideology, forged a society with a unique communal way of life which their children adhered to. However, as Moshe looks to the future, he predicts that the chapter of kibbutz life is coming to a close. The present generation has been raised in a prosperous society. These young adults have set their sights elsewhere. They're looking to utilize their knowledge, efforts and talents to meet the challenges of modern life in the technological age.

"I don't think kibbutz life can last more than another twenty, thirty years. All our children are college graduates; they'll go out in the world to get married and work in their fields of expertise. They want to make their own decisions. The world is changing and so is the kibbutz."

Today, Kibbutz Lavi hosts many visitors and vacationers in their prestigious hotel. Situated in the heart of the Galilee, with luxurious rooms, gourmet meals and scenic landscape, Kibbutz Lavi Hotel beckons to Israelis and foreigners alike. The children's area, the cows in the milking parlor and the Rose Garden with an ancient olives press all guarantee a unique experience. But what is perhaps most apparent are the genuine smiles and willingness of staff members to fulfill the beck and call of just anyone for anything, a reflection of the readiness to give that has been instilled in these individuals from childhood.