State of the T’nua

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.

Thank you.

Eitan Weinkle, National Mazkir 2019-2020

Alternative Winter Break 2020

On December 22nd-27th, 2019, 30 Young Judaean teens continued the work we began in December 2018, rebuilding affected areas of Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria struck the island over two years ago. Our group was hosted by the JCC in San Juan which is also home to the YJ Puerto Rico chapter! Diego Mendelbaum, Director of the JCC and father of 2 Judaean teens welcomed our participants with open arms.

Each day on AWB was packed with learning and volunteer opportunities. We partnered with SBP, a disaster relief organization, to rebuild 3 different homes across the northern coast of Puerto Rico. This work mainly involved debris removal and painting but a couple teens got a how-to on power tools! Our partnership with SBP began in AWB New Orleans many years ago and we hope to continue the connection for years to come.

We also painted over 3 homes and 1 school in Loiza in classic Puerto Rican greens, oranges and blues. The JCC established a close-knit relationship with the Loizan community in the aftermath of Maria. It was a joy to work with them 2 years in a row. Our participants got to know Loiza’s community members a bit better by running a Christmas carnival for the local kids and volunteering at a soup kitchen for the elderly on Christmas day. A definite highlight was sharing our rikudim with the community and learning some of their dances as well.

See photos from AWB 2020 here.

Our chanichim learned more about the hurricane’s environmental impact when we volunteered in the Camuy forest removing invasive plants and planting mangroves to serve as an additional line of defense in the case of another hurricane. This day of volunteering was sweetened with a trip to the gorgeous Mar Chiquita in Manati, a small beach cove protected from the rough Atlantic by a limestone rock wall.

We were lucky enough to celebrate Chanukah with the Puerto Rican Jewish community. Our group assisted the JCC with their annual Chanukah party by running art projects and games for the kids, performing a Chanukah skit, and leading rikudim. Some other highlights of the trip include a multi-generational Young Judaea alumni panel, where our teens learned about Puerto Rico’s history and Jewish community, and a trip to Old San Juan where we shopped around and visited old historic landmarks.

Each night chanichim gathered into small groups for “Mishpachot,” a dedicated time for reflecting on the day’s events led by our madrichim.  In these conversations our teens thought critically about ethical volunteering and discovered a new passion for political activism, equity, and environmentalism. On the last night of our trip our madrichim led a peulah entitled, “Sustain the Change,” encouraging the group to brainstorm new and creative ways we can bring these experiences home to our local communities. The impact of AWB is often felt by participants for years after they graduate. We are so grateful to all of the support we received in order to be able to run this inspiring program!

National Mazkirut Elect – 2019-2020

The National Mazkirut Elect will begin their tenure at the end of summer 2019

Eitan Weinkle: Mazkir – Pittsburgh, PA

Shalom Young Judaea! My name is Eitan Weinkle and I am ecstatic to be serving as your National Mazkir for 2019-2020. I am 16 years old and from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. My experience with Young Judaea started in 2011 when I first attended year-round events and Camp Young Judaea Midwest. I attended CYJ Midwest for six years from 2011 to 2016 and most recently attended Camp Tel Yehudah for two years. This summer I am thrilled to be participating in CYJ Midwest’s new Counselor in Training program. I also have a great passion for year-round Young Judaea. I have served on the va’ad of Pittsburgh Young Judaea bogrim since 2016, and I am currently the Midwest Social Action Programmer.

Outside of Young Judaea I also stay very active in my community. One way I stay active is through music. At my school, I am in the concert choir and started our school’s chamber choir. I also participate in HaZamir, an international Jewish choir, every Sunday at my JCC.

Israel has also played a huge role in my life as a Jew and as a Judaean. I first visited Israel when I was six years old and have been back multiple times since then. I am excited to experience Israel in more depth on Young Judaea’s Year Course.

This coming year my biggest goal is to ensure that our movement has strong roots and is able to sustain recent growth. In order to do so, I plan to re-implement the club mentality with frequent programming in cities to make sure Young Judaea continues to grow.

After High School, I plan to study Political Science. Young Judaea has given me multiple opportunities to advocate for change. For instance in Hadracha at TY this past summer, where I advocated for contemporary immigration issues. I also attended the Schusterman Advocacy Summit with AIPAC where I got to advocate for Israel. These experiences have given me a passion for creating social change which is why I want to pursue a career in policy.

Something that I bring to this Mazkirut is experience and determination. I have been a part of leadership in Young Judaea for many years now, the skills I’ve gained from my experience will help me motivate the mazkirut and turn ideas into action. I keep myself and others on track by setting goals and constantly updating them. I know that this is going to be an incredible year for Young Judaea, and I can’t wait to see where this Mazkirut can take us!

Hannah Slavsky: Administrative Vice President – Plainview, NY

Shalom Young Judaea! My name is Hannah Slavsky, I am 16 years old and I am from Plainview, NY. I am extremely proud to serve as your National Administrative Vice President (AVP) for the 2019-2020 year. I have been a part of Young Judaea and grown up with the movement from a young age. I attended Camp Young Judaea Sprout Lake for 4 summers, Tel Yehudah for 3 summers and participated in CYJ Sprout Lake’s Hadracha Plus Program. I am also currently serving as the Long Island New York City (LINYC) AVP. In my home community, I belong to Midway Jewish Center, where I attend a variety of youth programs and volunteer as a madricha in the religious school.

Israel plays a great role in my life. My connection to Israel leads me to many other opportunities to work with my Jewish community to help Israel in any way possible. This is why I recently started a campaign at my synagogue to help raise money for Israel’s Fire Brigade. This community-wide goal is a way to link my community and the Jewish homeland together. This allows us to work towards a goal that will benefit Israel and help the Israeli Firefighters perform their jobs well.

I have several experiences within Young Judaea that have impacted my life for the better. This past summer, I participated in Camp Tel Yehudah’s leadership program, Hadracha. My favorite part of the entire session was working in the women’s rights tikkun group. We spent our summer learning about the issues throughout the world regarding women’s health and rights in general. Lobbying on Capitol Hill and visiting members of Congress was truly life changing. This trip highlighted the fact that everyone has a voice and has a chance to make a change in the world. Another amazing experience I had was this past December on Young Judaea’s Alternative Winter Break (AWB) in Puerto Rico. This trip made me feel extremely grateful to experience Puerto Rico through a tikkun olam lens. I was thrilled to take part in several different types of community service to help the country rebuild after Hurricane Maria.

My goal this year is to help Young Judaea continue to grow and spread across the country. I plan to do so by working with my regional counterparts to create a resource guide that will consist of several JCCs, synagogues and schools around the country to hold events. This way, each region can have their events in new locations to make each event diverse and unique. Additionally, I hope to run a thought-provoking and well-attended National Convention in February. I also plan to strengthen the outreach va’adot so that more Jewish teens hear about the opportunities in year-round YJ. Lastly, I hope to provide everyone with awesome merchandise so that everyone can proudly represent YJ year-round.

A unique skill I plan to bring to the mazkirut is my passion. I also have the ability to work extremely hard and get the job done! I am very efficient and I will communicate with the rest of the mazkirut to make sure all tasks are being completed accordingly. I look forward to an amazing year of fun and learning with the rest of the National Mazkirut.

Jess Siegal: Bogrim Programmer – Needham, MA

My name is Jess Siegal, I am 16 years old, I am from Needham, MA, and I am SO excited to be serving as National Bogrim Programmer for the 2019-2020 year! I am a second generation Judaean, and Young Judaea has always been a huge aspect of my life and identity. I went to CYJ Texas for 6 summers and Camp Tel Yehudah for 2 summers. In regards to year-round, I led the revival of New England YJ and served as the Mazkira of New England when we formed a regional Mazkirut for the 2018-19 year.

I attended Jewish day school from kindergarten through eighth grade, and now go to public high school. During the school year, Young Judaea is my main connection to my Jewish identity. I try to go to as many YJ events and conventions as I can because I love the clear passion, happiness, and ruach that YJ fosters in its chanichim.

I spent this past summer at TY in the Hadracha program and it was the best summer of my life. Hadracha taught me how to effectively lead others and in doing so, I learned a lot about myself.  I especially enjoyed the trip to DC and lobbying for women’s rights. Taking the time to research an issue I am passionate about and using my knowledge to speak my mind encouraged me to be more confident in my ideas and opinions. The trip was an amazing chance for me to use my voice to make a difference.

So far, I have been to Israel twice: once for a cousin’s bar mitzvah and once with my eighth grade class. On both of those trips, I felt a deep connection to the country and fell in love with its illustrious history and culture. I plan to continue to explore Israel this upcoming summer on Machon and on Year Course 2020-2021!

Education is incredibly important to me, and I believe that it is a critical aspect of YJ, as well as Judaism as a whole. The position of BP focuses on teen programming, and I aim to act as a support system for all regional programmers to ensure the strongest results from teen leaders across the nation. I will use my experience in New England to establish workshops and resources for other teens in similar positions, but shift the focus to writing and leading programs and thought-provoking discussions. Finally, I plan to refocus Israel education and write effective programs about the country I have come to know and love.

Other than Year Course, I am not entirely sure of what I want to pursue after high school. As of now, I want to minor in Political Science but my major is still up in the air. I hope to bring my positive energy and organizational skills to Maz, and I am so excited to see what this year brings!

Nikki Lerner: Ofarim/Tzofim Programmer – Larchmont, NY

Shalom Young Judaea! My name is Nikki Lerner, I’m from Westchester, New York, and I am thrilled to say that I will be serving as National Ofarim-Tsofim programmer for the 2019-2020 year! I went to Camp Sprout Lake for five years and three years at Tel Yehudah, including Hadracha plus at Sprout. Besides camp, my YJ experience has also consisted of my two terms as Empire’s Ofarim Tsofim programmer beginning in 2017.

Since I’m a very community-oriented person, Young Judaea has always played a crucial role in my life. Because of how much I had learned about Israel through YJ, I had always had a connection to Israel. It wasn’t until the first time I visited in 2018 that I finally got to experience this beautiful spiritual place for myself.

After graduating high school, I plan on attending Year Course 2020-21. After Year Course, I want to study Art History in college as I think art has played such a crucial role in society. I had the privilege of visiting the Jewish Museum in Manhattan and looking at modern art from Jewish artists of different backgrounds. The recurring theme in the exhibition was about the Jewish experience today, and I believe that this is why art is important; we can share our experience as Jews and learn from others.

Being National OTP is an incredibly big deal for me and I plan to honor this important position through all the goals I have for this coming year. First, I plan on working with junior camps on improving our outreach methods since it has been a problem for many regional OTPs in the past to get kids to come to events. I also want to do more events in partnership with junior camps in different regions so that kids can be in a familiar setting and ease into year-round YJ. My last goal is to keep in touch with my counterparts and make sure regional OT programming is running smoothly.  I believe getting OTs involved should be our priority as they will be the ones to continue the YJ legacy after we’re gone.

Sara Saidel: Social Action Programmer – Overland Park, KS

Shalom Young Judaea!

My name is Sara Saidel. I am 16 years old, I live in Overland Park, Kansas, and I am incredibly excited to serve as the National Social Action Programmer!  Young Judaea has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. As a third generation Young Judaean, being part of YJ was in my blood, and going to a YJ camp was a given. I am so thankful it was. I started attending Camp Young Judaea Sprout Lake in 2010 for six summers, went to Tel-Yehudah for five sessions, and spent my last summer back at Sprout Lake in the Hadracha Plus leadership program.

While unfortunately I have never had the experience of being a on regional mazkirut because of where I live, that is not to say Young Judaea hasn’t impacted me, and continues to impact me every day. All five of Young Judaea’s pillars are near and dear to my heart, but ever since I started attending Sprout at age 7, the pillar that stuck with me the most is tikun olam. To me this means standing up for my beliefs in the form of activism. This movement has been part of so much progressive action throughout history and has not ceased to spread this message for the 110 years YJ has been active. One way YJ spread this message to me was through tikkun groups during the Hadracha program at Tel-Yehudah. This program allowed me and my group to do in-depth research about a global issue of our choosing (I chose the human-trafficking crisis) then go to D.C. and advocate for it with big-time organizations and politicians. This experience made me realize that I want to dedicate my life to social action and tikkun olam.

Young Judaea has given me a truly unique relationship with Israel. I have been there once when I was younger, and have lots of family there, but I often struggle with understanding where I stand on many of the issues surrounding the land. Young Judaea has helped me feel connected to the beautiful country as a Jew and as a Zionist, and taught me to love the diverse culture unique to it. However, YJ has also always encouraged me to learn as much as I can, and to form my own opinions about Israel. I continue to try to educate myself on Israel every day by keeping up with Israeli news!

After high school I plan on studying International Relations so I can dedicate my career to helping those who are suffering from injustice all around the world. I would also like to learn more, and focus on the global human-trafficking crisis.

I have many goals next year. My biggest goal is to bridge tikkun groups to year-round programming. I would also like to give social action a much larger visibility on YJ social media, and incorporate our new national initiative, Environmentalism, by having a recycling program implemented at all events, and dedicate national social action days to environment-themed programs! (These are programs when all regions complete the same social action program on the same day.) I will bring experience I have from my community in program planning, communication, and teamwork to the National Maz, as well of my enthusiasm, positivity, and passion!

Gabby Rub: Pirsum – Scarsdale, NY

Shalom Young Judaea! My name is Gabby Rub and I am 16 years old from Westchester, NY and I am honored to be your National Pirsum 2019-2020. For as long as I can remember, Young Judaea has been a part of my life. From the first time I entered the YJ bubble at Fall Camp back in 2011, I knew that I wanted to be apart of this amazing organization. And so I began to become more involved in the place I now consider my home. I was a camper at Sprout Lake for 4 years, Tel Yehudah for 3 and also participated in the Hadracha Plus program at Sprout. I also held the position of Pirsum and Social Action Programmer on Empire YJ. Having attended countless YJ events and conventions, I’ve been able to see the movement grow and succeed.

My love for Israel has always been part of my identity, but my connection has been strengthened by YJ. My father is Israeli, and moved to America when he was a child. My mom went to the University of Jerusalem, where she was able to study what she loved in a place that she loved. In YJ, I was able to find my connection to the beautiful homeland of the Jewish People, and hope to strengthen it even more if I am able to attend Year Course 2020/2021. In college, I am not quite sure what I want to study but I’m considering psychology or business. These areas of study help me see the world in a different way than just mathematical equations and scientific forums, and I am able to think in a deeper way – a skill that can help me in all aspects of leadership.

This year on Maz I plan to focus on enhancing the level of professionalism on YJ’s social media platforms. Whether this be creating a YJ Jingle or having set days where each region knows on what platform they should post, these tips can be used to make our postings as successful as possible. Additionally, our newsletter Kol Hatnua is something I will ensure is working as successfully as possible. Since Kol Hatnua is written by YJ for YJ, we exemplify this motto by highlighting what YJ means to us. Each issue could feature a different region that highlights their events of the year and facts. We can also have different columns, like a “Kef” Column where Judeans can post their wacky ideas/words/images. I hope to increase awareness and readership of Kol Hatnua to ensure the story of YJ is told across the world.

Year Course: A New Adventure – Anna Stewart

For years, I have been anxiously anticipating going on Young Judaea Year Course and taking on an amazing new adventure. Now that I am finally here, it has been more than I could have imagined. From meeting new friends from all around the world, to having fascinating discussions with my peers, to weekend trips around the country, and even just days relaxing on the beach, these past three months have been amazing. Already, this experience has been transformative and one I know will have an impact on the rest of my life.

Year course brings together a group of people from different backgrounds and gives them the opportunity to learn from each other and their greater community. By providing each participant with classes, volunteer placements, chances to visit different groups from across the country, and free time to explore on their own, it opens up each person’s mind to new points of view and opinions. Not only this, but people from different countries, including scouts from Israel and an FZY delegation from England, are all living in one building and sharing their different cultures. One of the most remarkable things about Year Course is that it is a place where people are both learning to grow up and are learning from the new people and places around them. This mix of education means it is not an unusual sight to find people discussing their views on different important topics at the kitchen table at midnight while their grilled cheese is cooking.

So far, my most significant experience has been my volunteer placement at UNITAF, a daycare for children of refugees who do not have Israeli status. Being exposed to a new community of people who are working to survive in a country that they did not originate from has had a large impact on my Israel experience. Being surrounded by teachers who are passionately working to help kids and families has taught me so much about giving back to both your own community, and others in need. Everything I have done thus far has shown me different sides of Israeli culture, something I could not have experienced on any other program, and I am so excited to see what the next six months will have in store.

My First Time (Voting That Is)

DANIEL VAYNSHTEYN – CHARLOTTE, NC

As someone who has been a part of Young Judaea for a long time, voting had always been something I looked forward to. From learning about the importance of the State of Israel from Camp Judaea as a kid to my experience in DC on the Hadracha Program at Camp Tel Yehudah, I had been raised to comprehend the power one vote can have in an election. It was Young Judaea that inspired me to become politically active: taking part in AIPAC summits and lobbying my representatives in favor of Israel and even volunteering for a local congressional candidate’s campaign.

Before I went out to vote, I spent a long time researching candidates and their positions, including watching local debates and comparing them to my stances. I live in the Ninth Congressional District of North Carolina, a highly contested district which was considered up for grabs by polls and political pundits. Through the leadership experience and knowledge, I had received from attending YJ summer camps, I established where I stood on the candidates and the constitutional amendments up for referendum. I reached out to other young people who were first-time voters and friends and acquaintances of my parents, letting them know the importance to vote as well as explaining to them who I was voting for and why.

On Saturday, November 3rd, I went and I voted early. Though the process was simple and quick, I walked out feeling like I had made an impact on the future of our country. Days later on election day, I watched the results come in from the news, and I followed my district’s congressional races closely. Knowing that one of those ballots counted was mine gave me a sense of empowerment. It was through Young Judaea that I became interested and educated on the issues facing our country and the Jewish state. YJ also gave me the opportunity to live in a pluralistic environment where I could hear many different opinions and ideas.

CHARLIE DOVER – AUSTIN, TEXAS

This year, as I turned 18 in August, was the first time I was eligible to vote in the Texas 2018 midterms. Living in Austin, a very liberal city, voting craze was rampant. Everyone at my school was urging any person eligible to vote. The younger students were handing out voting guides so that we would know who we would want to vote for. On the second-to-last day of early voting, my music teacher took me and several students to a nearby voting station during lunch. I was in and out within 30 minutes. My friends on the other hand, took about 10 minutes longer, as they were more thorough. My music teacher texted our teacher to ask if it was okay that we were gonna be late. Our teacher responded, “Of course, we need more people going to the polls”.

Even though I am disappointed that Beto O’Rourke lost the election, I am hopeful for the future of our state and country. According to The Medium, the early voting rate among 18-29 year-olds in Texas increased by nearly five times compared to 2014 midterms. This high level of young voter engagement excites me and my friends about the 2020 elections!