Leo the Lion Roars in Texas!

1621855_10152219884263421_2118881454_nNeither sleet, nor snow, nor cancelled flights could keep nearly a hundred Young Judaeans from attending Lionfest at Camp Young Judaea Texas in Wimberley, TX this Presidents’ Weekend.  Formerly known as National Midwinter Convention, Lionfest gathers Young Judaeans from all over the country to meet, share ideas, learn critical leadership skills and elect a new National Mazkirut.

While the convention itself is meant to resemble the structure of camp Shabbat, the crucial difference is that all elements of Lionfest are led by National Mazkirut members and teen leaders, with one central theme weaving the weekend together. This year, the concept of controversies in Zionism spurred passionate dialogue amongst participants. They examined the meaning of different Israeli symbols, such as Hatikvah (the national anthem) and the Israeli flag, as well as the complicated history of tensions within different streams of Zionism from before even the founding of the State of Israel.

Director of Year-Round Programs,Sharon Schoenfeld said she was inspired not only by the hard work put into planning the weekend, but also by the initiative of parents, participants and staff as bad weather nationwide sent everyone scrambling to reschedule flights and make alternative travel arrangements.

“It was clearly very important to everyone to be there,” Schoenfeld said. “Lionfest is a laboratory for teens who want to continue to lead and be involved in Young Judaea, and this an opportunity to translate everything they learn at camp and in Israel to bring home to their communities.”

With so many talented teen leaders present, Lionfest became the ideal opportunity for running skill-building workshops to enable participants to bring new programming home to their own communities. A session on arts and leadership, which highlighted the use of Israeli films as an educational tool, challenged chanichim to visualize leadership through an artistic lens.

As at every winter convention, the election of a new National Mazkirut, the teen-led national governing body of Young Judaea was front and center! The newly-elected members are:

Ethan Gertzman, from Ringoes NJ as Mazkir

Matthew Kreitman from New York City as Administrative Vice President

Noa Jett from Pittsburgh, PA as Bogrim Programmer

Antonia Nevias-Ida from Long Island, NY as Ofarim and Tzofim Programmer

Michaela Davenport from Tucson Arizona as Social Action Programmer

Ben Weinstein from Glemont, NY as Merakez Pirsum

Congratulations to the new National Mazkirut, and Mazel Tov to everyone involved in making Lionfest 2014 one of our best yet!