Shalom Young Judaea,
We are about to begin asepha, a process that has the power to shape our movement and set the course for our growth for years to come. Before we begin, I want to share a little bit with you all about what has been happening in our movement this year.
Young Judaea is a movement that is truly unique. We provide Jewish youth nationwide opportunities to explore their Jewish identity and their connection to Israel on a highly intellectual and spiritual level. As this convention has focused closely on Zionism and our personal connections to it, I truly believe that this convention will serve as a turning point for our movement. With the new connections that we have personally built with Isreal, as well as connections that the movement is renewing, such as connecting our national initiative to Israel, Young Judaea in the U.S and YJ Israel will now work much more cohesively.
Young Judaea Israel is experiencing much success in all of its programs this year. As of now, there are over 130 chanichim registered for Year Course, and that number has the potential to increase, setting the stage for the largest Year Course in a while. Our programs for students such as Onward and Amirim are bringing over 700 college students to Israel this summer for Israel programs. In addition to this, summer tour numbers for our British sister movement, FZY, have increased as well. We are so excited to see YJ Israel thriving and cannot wait to see this growth continue into the future.
Back in the U.S., our year-round movement is going through some exciting new changes as well. I am very pleased to announce the hiring of our new Director of US Programs- Sandra Marks- who will begin next week! Sandra comes to Young Judaea having worked at Capital Camps in Waynesboro, PA as the Associate Director and before that at Hillel International, where she served as the Director of Strategic Initiatives. Sandra’s love of camp and Zionist youth movements began at Camp Moshava in Indian Orchard, PA, where she was a counselor and senior staff member for 17 summers. Sandra has a long history of Jewish education, both formal and experiential. We could not be more excited to welcome her into out Young Judaea mishpacha.
In other good news, Year-Round YJ has experienced numerous successes recently. We just capped off an incredibly meaningful and successful Alternative Winter Break trip to Puerto Rico in December, the Midwest region had a successful winter convention and has their spring convention coming up in just a few weeks, and the Northeast has continued to grow and run successful programming for its chanichim. We have seen the establishment and continued success of clubs such as Chicago, Pittsburgh, and Atlanta, and are also incredibly enthusiastic about the support we are seeing now that we are in Texas.
A presence in Texas is something that we have been striving to achieve for quite a while now and we wish to continue this growth not just in the great region that is Texas, but nationwide. To do so, we will be moving in a direction as a movement in the coming months which will look into the growth of participation in national events from regions that may currently be more involved in other aspects of YJ. With the growth in national participation, we will only continue to grow stronger as a movement.
As I stand before you, I see the future of our movement right in front of me. Before we elect the board that will lead us into our next phase as a movement, everyone in this room should know that you play a huge part in that. I have said this before and I will say it again that I believe the phrase “building tomorrows leaders today” is used quite often in the world of Jewish youth movements. However, I strongly believe that this statement does not apply to Young Judaea. I can say with the utmost confidence that due to Young Judaea, the leaders of tomorrow are already here.
Eitan Weinkle, National Mazkir 2019-2020