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Young Judaea Celebrates 100 Years

Alix Fried

Young Judaea Celebrates 100 Years

(New York, NY -- June 09, 2009) -- Six generations of Jewish American youth have become supporters, advocates and lovers of Israel through Young Judaea. Since 1909, the members of this youth movement have been at the forefront of Zionism, social action, Jewish leadership training and communal camaraderie. This June marks Young Judaea’s centennial anniversary, celebrating a century of commitment and a lifetime of connection.

“What started as a small meeting of like-minded young adults in 1909 has evolved into a national, youth-led Zionist movement with an unwavering presence in the United States and Israel,” says Rabbi Ramie Arian, National Director of Young Judaea. “In 100 years, Young Judaea has had a life-changing impact on hundreds of thousands of Jewish children, teens and young adults. We are proud of our history, proud of where we have come in 100 years, and eager to look ahead to the next generation of Young Judaea members and what they will accomplish.”

Young Judaea members, alumni, supporters and their families will celebrate this exciting milestone at Camp Tel Yehudah, Young Judaea’s senior leadership camp near Port Jervis, NY, on Sunday, August 16. Alumni, friends and families from all over the United States and Israel are expected to attend the celebration, which overlaps with the Young Judaea National Summer Convention. This fall, interested alumni, supporters and friends also will celebrate Young Judaea’s centennial on a tour to Israel, October 18-26.

Since its inception, this remarkable organization has fostered a commitment to the State of Israel, encouraged a connection to Judaism, and mentored youth who have become leaders in Jewish communities in both America and Israel.

In the United States, Young Judaea peer leaders pursued social action. In the 1960s, a Young Judaea delegation was the only official Jewish youth group to attend the civil rights march on Washington. During World War I, 20 members of the youth movement joined the Jewish Battalion to fight in Palestine; some stayed behind to establish roots in the country that would one day be Israel. Through the decades, Young Judaeans have advocated for Soviet Jewry, demonstrated to free captured Israeli soldiers, and spoken out for others around the world who needed an active voice in the United States. In recent years, Young Judaea’s members have collected and sent books, toys and food to victims of Hurricane Katrina and advocated for the refugees and victims of the genocide in Darfur, among other projects.

In Israel, Young Judaean alumni founded Kibbutz Ketura in the Negev and created Merkaz Hamagshimim, a community center and residence which benefits the English-speaking population in Jerusalem, notably providing a “soft landing” for those who may be considering (or may recently have made) aliyah. A group of Young Judaeans helped establish Kibbutz Hasolelim in the Galilee in 1948.

Since the 1950s, teens have traveled to Israel on Young Judaea summer programs or on Year Course, the premier gap-year Israel program for Americans, Canadians and British students. Young Judaea was among the first to develop trips to Israel as a means of connecting young people with the nascent State, starting to send summer teen groups in 1951 – only three years after Israel’s independence. Year Course, the premier gap-year program in Israel, has been in continuous operation since 1956, and had a record enrollment of 540 students in the 2008-2009 school year.

Young Judaea’s five junior camps and its senior leadership camp all boast near-record numbers for this summer’s enrollment. Despite recent reorganizations that were brought about by the economy, Young Judaea’s camp programs remain strong and healthy.

“Since Hadassah first became involved with Young Judaea in 1936, we have watched Young Judaea thrive as a Zionist youth movement,” said Nancy Falchuk, National President of Hadassah. “Young Judaea continues to inspire new generations to social action, communal leadership and spiritual growth. In an era when many of America’s youth have become apathetic, Young Judaea still strives to bring change to the world and a promising future to the Jewish people.”

Many national and local events are planned to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Young Judaea. For more information, contact Susan Wilkof at swilkof@youngjudaea.org.

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Founded in 1912, Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America is the largest women's, largest Zionist, and largest Jewish membership organization in the United States. In Israel, it supports medical care and research, education, and youth institutions, and reforestation and parks projects. In the US, Hadassah promotes health education, social action and advocacy, volunteerism, Jewish education and research, Young Judaea and connections with Israel. For more information, please check out our Web site at www.hadassah.org

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