CYJ Update: Robin Anderson, Director

Check out a few former Midwesties who stayed on to lead the movement

CYJ Midwest is gearing up for the 2018 summer. Our final event this spring is the  annual camp picnic on Sunday, May 6th at Central Park in Skokie, IL. We hope some of our Midwest Bogrim will join us. Contact Rachel at if you can join us to help CYJ’s first time campers excited for the summer!

In 2018, we have campers and staff joining us from 11 states, as well as from Mexico, France and Israel. We just added two new elements to the high ropes course and a new pedal boat to the beach!

We are excited to have many of our Midwesties back working this summer – Tania Blanga, Lara Braverman, Tziona Chernoff, Noah Cope, Danny Gabel, Maya Garfinkel, Jonathan Gendler, Ben Hirsch, Sam Honan, Mollie Kramer, Lauren Kurtzer, Josh May, Molly Mintz, Jessica Morris & Gabe Rosenthal – along with our shlichim and other staff.

In 2019, CYJ Midwest will be offering a Counselor in Training (CIT) program for entering 12th graders. If you are interested in knowing more, connect with Robin at

Why Did I Start Phoenix YJ? Sarah Tessler

I have grown up with Young Judaea in my life but not the way all my friends did. They have clubs and year round programs with overnights and events, I had nothing but summer camp and an occasional convention all the way across the country. I had nothing I could drive down the street to participate in. Living through the experiences of my friends and my mother was the only way I could feel like I was a part of more than just the summer components of Young Judaea because there is so much more they have to offer that I haven’t been able to partake in. With all of that in mind an idea struck. It wasn’t necessarily my idea alone. My mom would tell me about how Young Judaea once existed in Phoenix but it disappeared with CYJ West. I waited until I was old enough and could take more responsibilities and more action and I started my very own Young Judaea club in metropolitan Phoenix. I want to give kids in my area the chance to be a part of this life altering youth organization that is all about zionism, peer leadership, pluralism, Jewish identity, and social action. Around here all most kids know is NFTY and BBYO. Young Judaea doesn’t have a voice here. That’s why it was so important to me to bring YJ back to the valley so it can thrive again like it once did.

From Midwest to Tel Yehudah: Tamar Lerner

Tamar (2nd row, 3rd from l) with friends at TY

Going to TY for the first time was extremely scary. I was one of probably 20 midwesties in a camp full of almost 500 people. It was hard at first. TY had new traditions, new types of people, a new atmosphere. While it took a while to get used to, I am now pleased to say that Tel Yehudah is my home. I have made some of my favorite memories and dearest friends in my two short summers spent there. After my Yachad year, I thought no other summer could top it. I had a chug (a portion of your eidah that you spent most of your time with) filled with crazy Miami boys and the sweetest Northeast and Texas girls. I consider most of them still some of my closest friends today. However I proved myself wrong by enjoying my next summer more. Hadracha was the most life changing summer of my life, and I truly feel like a new person coming out of it. I have never felt such a strong sense of community with so many different people in such a short amount of time. Yachad was great to get really close with select people, while everyone bonded with everyone in Hadracha. There are people I met this summer whom I would never have thought I could get along with who I consider family. And that’s the best part about TY: meeting and bonding with new people and experiencing their camp life. Tel Yehudah has changed my life in the most incredible way possible; in a way only Young Judaea can.

~ Tamar is from St. Louis Missouri

Pittsburgh Young Judaea Update: Mira Morris

The theme for the Pittsburgh Shabbaton this year was Israeli Innovations, chosen by the Bogrim leaders of Pittsburgh YJ.  These leaders organized astonishing peulot about drip irrigation, waze, and other forms of technology all created in Israel.  The leaders, ranging from ninth to twelfth grade, planned breathtaking games and fun discussions, that the kids participated in while learning about innovations that Israel created.  The kids even engaged in a tikkun olam program created by one of the Bogrim leaders where they helped make blankets for kids in hospitals. While some kids call the Shabbaton a “day at camp while still at home,”  in Pittsburgh YJ, we like to believe that is is even more than that. The Shabbaton is a place for kids of all ages to come together and become a family. Kids from different parts of the city and even different cities become best friends in under 24 hours and bond with people that they will never forget.  While the end of the Shabbaton is always sad, it is extremely heartwarming to hear kids discuss how they can not wait to see each other at the next event or even at camp. As Young Judaea our mission is to help kids discover who they are, and the Shabbaton is just one of the amazing ways that kids connect with themselves and with the people around them.

Check out the pictures from our Shabbaton here

Mollie Kramer: A Letter from Year Course in Israel

Mollie (center) and some of the women of Year Course

Hi Midwesties!

I’m writing this from Ben Gurion International Airport waiting at the gate for my flight to Poland. I’m about to go on Kuma, the Year Course trip that takes a group all around Poland and teaches us about the Polish Jewish community before, during, and after the Holocaust. When I’m not sitting in airports, I live in Tel Aviv and volunteer at a farm in Bat Yam. I’m pretty new to the city though because I just moved here from living on Kibbutz Ketura for two months. It was amazing volunteering at a place that could only exist in Israel, and only does exist because Young Judaeans worked to create it. It was so interesting talking to some of the founders and comparing how YJ has changed through the years. Year Course has truly opened me up to a new side of YJ, but more importantly a new side of myself. Year Course has been a wonderful experience so far and I hope to make the most of the last few months I have left in Israel.

~ Mollie is the former Mazkira (President) of Midwest Young Judaea and a former Midwest and Tel Yehudah Camper. She worked at CYJ Midwest last summer and is participating in the Camp Counselor Fellowship Track on Year Course in order to return to CYJ Midwest.

Chicago Judaean Tziona Chernoff Honored as one of JUF’s “18 Under 18”

Tziona (front) at Midwest’s Winter Convention

18 Under 18 is a select group of outstanding Jewish teenagers who spent their time working to make the Jewish community in Chicago a better place.  Young Judaean Tziona Chernoff was chosen to be honored this year with 17 of her peers.

In Tziona’s application, she wrote about “how the lack of communication between Jewish teens from different sects of Judaism lead to animosity and mistrust, and if we use social media to bridge the gap then we could help solve that issue”. She noted that the orthodox teens grow up with this idea that they need to “fix” or “save” non-religious teens which make them unable to talk to other Jewish teens, then conservative and reform never really communicate with Orthodox so they have misconceptions based on media that lead to mistrust.

She spoke about my love for Young Judaea, and being on regional board, as well as being involved with a religious community like my school. She also focused about  hervolunteering in La Ribida Children’s hospital, and spending time with the children there.

Please join us in celebrating Tziona and celebrating the 18 Under 18 Honorees and all Jewish teenagers at the Botanic Gardens on April 16, 2018 from 7 – 9 PM. Please RSVP at