Alumni Aim to Revitalize and Transform Youth Movement
NEW YORK (August 8, 2012) -- Young Judaea kicks off its independence with an accomplished board of directors, most of them leaders who grew up in the movement and are now returning to help it energize the ties that bind American Jewish youth to each other, the global Jewish community, and Israel.
In announcing the inaugural board of the newly independent youth movement, Board President David Bechhofer said Young Judaea has long filled a gap in American Jewish life with programs that deeply engage and inform thousands of children, teens, and young adults every year regardless of their ideology or level of religious observance -- a mission that is relevant now more than ever.
“Why, after so many years, would 'old' Judaeans step up to serve with such passion and generosity?" asked Bechhofer, a strategy consultant from Newton, MA. "The reason is clear: Young Judaea, through its summer camps and year-round programs here and in Israel, was a key part of our development. It shaped our identities and forged powerful, life-long bonds that continue to connect us to each other and our people.
“We have not forgotten the most important, thrilling experience most of us ever had, and we want to be sure that opportunity will always be there for all Jewish youth."
Historian Gil Troy, the modern-day Zionist thinker who is one of 19 alumni returning to serve on the 24-member board, said that with a growing dilution of Judaism and politicization of ties with Israel, Young Judaea is "critical to building dynamic relationships with Israel that transcend politics."
"Let's face it," said Troy, "Young Judaea is delightfully, proudly counter-cultural, especially in the 21st century. In this self-involved, hyper-individualistic age of video games, Facebook, and the iPad, Young Judaea is about 'us,' building a sustained sense of Jewish community through enduring educational processes and authentic relationships. Judaeans worldwide are uniting around a movement that does not just excite youth, but challenges them to have the kind of world-changing impact that Judaeans are known for."
The new board's priorities include strategic planning, programmatic development, and outreach to alumni and friends around the world to build a new base of moral and philanthropic support for the world's premier Zionist youth movement.
"All of the new board members share a great deal of optimism for what lies ahead," said Bechhofer. "There is an excellent professional leadership team in place and my colleagues on the board have deep experience in management, fundraising, strategic planning, and communications. It's going to be an excellent partnership."
Young Judaea's executive director, Simon Klarfeld, has more than 20 years of experience working with pluralistic Jewish communities around the world. He was hired last December to lead the effort to create a new operational structure and enhance programming for the movement's five summer camps, numerous Israel-based programs for Jewish youth worldwide, and year-round activities.
Last month, as part of an effort to strengthen the 103-year-old movement through deeper alumni engagement and participation, Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America, announced that Young Judaea would become a fully independent, non-profit organization. Hadassah will remain a major partner by providing three years of transition funding and its units are continuing to support scholarship fundraising.
"The talented, respected members of this board are the very people Hadassah nurtured for this type of strategic leadership and re-envisioning role," Hadassah National President Marcie Natan said, referring to Hadassah's more than 70 years of support for Young Judaea. "We played a significant role in developing the Young Judaea leaders now on this board as well as the Hadassah leaders on this board. Nothing could be more important to us than the successful launching of an independent Young Judaea and the ongoing development of exceptional leaders."
Board members reaffirmed their commitment to the ideals of Young Judaea by signing a pledge to uphold the longtime pillars of the movement -- Zionism, Jewish identity, social action, pluralism, and peer leadership.
Young Judaea's national mazkir (president) -- the high school student elected by peers to lead the movement -- will have an ex-officio place on the board. The incoming mazkir is Max Werman of Tenafly, N.J. Two former national mazkirim -- David M. Brand, president and chief executive officer of Alliance for Global Good in Virginia Beach, VA, and New York attorney Oran Ebel -- are also on the new board.
"It should come as no surprise that the accomplishments of this experienced group of alumni and supporters is remarkable," said Alan Hoffmann, Director-General and CEO of the Jewish Agency of Israel and a former director of Young Judaea's renowned freshman gap-year program, Year Course in Israel. "Having witnessed the energy and commitment of Young Judaeans for more than 30 years, I have no doubt that the movement is in the most capable hands."
Bechhofer noted that Young Judaea will reach out to its alumni and supporters to engage them in the movement's future and involve them through participation in various aspects of Young Judaea's renewal. He urged all alumni, community leaders, and parents to connect now by linking to the new international Judaean registry, the new organization's first step to reconnect Young Judaeans to one another and begin the conversation about what the movement is today and what it could become in the future. To access the Judaean registry, please go to https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/YJRestartingTheConversation
In addition to the leadership positions held by the new board members in business, academia, philanthropy, and public service, the first Young Judaea board has a Rhodes scholar, Emmy and Grammy winners, a political party founder, PhDs, cum laude grads, mazkirim, a Hall of Famer, award winners, authors, Wexner fellows, founders of day schools, Hadassah National Presidents, a Jewish federation president, a U.S. Air Force captain, an IDF paratrooper, a volunteer in the Six-Day War, a volunteer in the Yom Kippur War, a Peace Corp volunteer, a U.S. Presidential appointee, a Mideast news bureau chief, an attorney who won a case before the U.S. Supreme Court, a tracker of serial killers, a pirate radio station DJ, two Michaels, two Davids, two Stevens, two Donalds, two Bermans, two Shermans, and possibly the next Theodore Herzl.
Bechhofer, Brand, Ebel, and Troy are joined on the board by:
- Don Ashkenase, hospital and health care executive, Great Neck, NY;
- Michael Berman, medical device entrepreneur and investor, Minneapolis and Tel Aviv;
- Steve Berman, commercial real estate developer, Atlanta;
- Nancy Falchuk, immediate past Hadassah National President, Newton Centre, MA;
- Betsy August Gold, small business owner, Hillsdale, NJ;
- Steve Greenberg, music producer, New York City;
- Donna Rosenblatt Horowitz, human resources executive, Northbrook, IL;
- Joe Kornfeld, attorney, Houston;
- Vally Kovary, international strategic management consultant, Ithaca, NY;
- Marvin Krislov, president, Oberlin College, Oberlin, OH;
- Dan Mogulof, executive director, Office of Public Affairs, University of California, Berkeley, CA;
- Marlene Post, former Hadassah National President, New York City;
- Donald F. Rabinovitch, entrepreneur, New York City;
- Roni Schwartz, Hadassah coordinator of Young Judaea, Brooklyn;
- Michael P. Sherman, business advisor and attorney, New York City;
- Shelley Sherman, Hadassah Executive Division coordinator/past coordinator of Young Judaea, Great Neck, NY;
- Manny Synalovski, architect, Plantation, FL;
- Alon Tal, chair of Israel's Green Party and professor, Modi'in, Israel;
- Melanie Topper, IT executive, Washington, DC; and
- Hal Ungar, attorney, Metairie, LA.
Click here for profiles of our board members.
Click here to read Frequently Asked Questions about Young Judaea.
Young Judaea, the premier Zionist youth movement worldwide, challenges young people from grade school through post-college to become involved in social and educational activities that sharpen their senses of Jewish and Zionist identity. Young Judaea programs include a variety of year-round activities; five summer camps nationwide – Tel Yehudah, the movement’s national teen leadership camp in New York State, Camp Judaea in North Carolina, Camp Young Judaea Midwest in Wisconsin, Camp Young Judaea Sprout Lake in New York State, and Camp Young Judaea Texas; Alternative Winter Break; Year Course in Israel freshman gap-year program, including its Shalem Modern Orthodox initiative; Israel summer programs for teens, including YJ Discovery, YJ Machon, and I Speak Israel; Taglit-Birthright “To Israel Now” trips; Amirim college summer offerings; and WUJS Israel post-college internship and study programs.
For more information, please visit www.youngjudaea.org.