Thirty years ago, I was the National Young Judaea pirsum, the same position held by my son Benjamin today. Ben asked me to write about what has changed, and what is the same, about Young Judaea.
During my time in Young Judaea. the movement was centered around local clubs, with YJ revolving around numerous weekly meetings in local synagogues and JCCs. The focus of those meetings tended to be on social icebreakers and games, and general discussions about Jewish identify – with more serious topics reserved for regional and national conventions. Today, while there are fewer local meetings, it seems to me the focus of the movement has broadened, as members are much more engaged with a broader spectrum of events in American life, from LGBT issues to environmentalism. The events are often far more sophisticated and complex. The idea of conventions all across the country, volunteering during alternative winter break, or lengthy kayaking and bicycle trips at camp were wholly unknown to us.
Like every other aspect of our lives, Young Judaea has also been transformed by technology and social media. When I edited the Young Judaea newspaper, I had to send each article to an outside printer to be turned into justified columns, and then had to cut out the columns with scissors, glue them to yellowing grids of newsprint with rubber cement, and take them 1 ½ hours each way by subway to our publisher in Brooklyn so the edition could be printed. Today, I watch as Ben posts his articles on facebook by the click of a mouse. (A cliche, I know, but there is no way to exaggerate the change.)
One thing that seems to have changed little, though, is the nature of the kids who participate in the movement. I recognize in Ben’s friends the same kind of smart, funny, decent, friendly, quirky, and socially conscious individuals that I remember from back in the day. And they share the same wonderful sense of community that Young Judaea is so particularly adept at fostering.
*Note: This is David Weinstein, a Judge for the New York Court of Claims in Albany, NY, not David Weinstein, director of Camp Tel Yehudah.