NEW YORK – Young Judaea, the world’s premiere Zionist youth movement, will launch as an independent organization under a bold initiative announced today by Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, which has supported the program for more than 70 years.
A group of former Young Judaea leaders, avid Young Judaea supporters, and Hadassah leaders has been asked to serve on the founding board of the newly independent organization. Hadassah will continue to provide financial support, have board representation, and work collaboratively with the 102-year-old movement, said Hadassah National President Nancy Falchuk.
The founding board, which will create a nominating committee to help structure a board of directors to oversee the new organization, is comprised of the following members: Don Ashkenase of Great Neck, N.Y., Special Advisor to the President at Montefiore Medical Center; David Bechhofer of Newton, Mass., Partner at Bain & Company, Inc., a strategic consulting firm; Michael Berman of Minnetonka, Minn., President of Berman Medical, a medical devices start-up firm; Steve Berman of Atlanta, Ga., President of OA Development, a commercial real estate development firm; Betsy August Gold, of Hillsdale, N.J., a former journalist who now runs a small business; Mike Lasday of North Potomac, Md., former Co-CEO of Envision EMI experiential education company; Hadassah National Vice President Roni Schwartz of Brooklyn, N.Y., a speech pathologist who is the incoming National Young Judaea Coordinator for Hadassah; Michael Sherman of New York, N.Y., attorney and Senior Advisor for Peter J. Solomon Co., an investment banking firm; and incoming Hadassah National Vice President Shelley Sherman of Great Neck, N.Y., a former public service attorney who serves as the current National Young Judaea Coordinator for Hadassah.
Most of the nine have been very active in Young Judaea and Hadassah in recent years, holding lay leadership positions on camp boards as well as task forces, commissions and committees of the organizations.
“The alumni of Young Judaea are proud that Hadassah’s national board voted this week to help the movement become independent,” Michael Berman said. “With the leadership and support of Hadassah, Young Judaea will have the tools it needs to grow and strengthen. Young Judaea will continue to be the go-to group for unparalleled Jewish youth leadership development and Israel engagement.”
Falchuk echoed Berman on the continued close connection between Young Judaea and Hadassah, which became the sole sponsor of the youth movement in 1967.
“For some time, many of us have felt that Young Judaea should stand as an independent entity, giving it the power to reach its full potential,” she said. “We are so proud and excited that such outstanding alumni and family of the movement have taken the lead on this transition. Who better to take Young Judaea into the future?”
Michael Berman said the immediate goals of the revitalized pluralistic youth movement include:
- Creating a cohesive summer camp network and broadening the scope of its Israel offerings, including Year Course in Israel, its preeminent college gap-year program;
- Providing new energy for Young Judaea as a vibrant brand with relevant peer-led opportunities for connecting American youth to Israel and the Jewish people; and
- Reaching out to its vast alumni network and Jewish community leaders worldwide to participate in the re-envisioning process and serve on the new Young Judaea board.
“Our programs, including Year Course and summer camps, will continue as they always have, and the overall transition will be seamless,” Berman said. “We are excited about the prospects of working with Hadassah to further strengthen what Young Judaea is and all that it has to offer.”
Alan Hoffmann, Director General of the Jewish Agency for Israel, said Jewish community leaders are excited about a reinvigorated youth leadership movement. “Creating a vibrant, independent Young Judaea will strengthen the bonds between Israel and the next generation of leaders in the American Jewish community,” he said.
Guiding Young Judaea toward independence has been a Hadassah goal. “This is what the broader Jewish community has been looking to us to do,” Falchuk said. “Young Judaea is the gold standard for Jewish youth movements, and as Hadassah increases its focus on health care and other issues, nothing could make us prouder than to have the legacy of being a part of Young Judaea for so many years. To have a self-sustaining Young Judaea, and to have us continue to be a part of that, will be fabulous for both organizations.
“This is Hadassah’s gift to the Jewish Zionist community. Today, Hadassah enthusiastically proposes the next step for the next century: The re-launch of Young Judaea by the very leaders it trained to make a difference in the world.”
Falchuk said Hadassah is committed to remaining an important partner, providing transition funding, and continuing to raise scholarships to make Young Judaea’s five summer camps, year-round activities, and Israel programs increasingly available to all Jewish youth.
Young Judaea, the Zionist youth movement, challenges young people to become involved in social and educational activities that develop and sharpen their senses of Jewish and Zionist identity. Since 1936, Hadassah has worked to strengthen Young Judaea, a youth movement started in 1909. Through expansions of its national camping system, innovative year-round activities, and prestigious Israel programs, Hadassah strategically placed itself at the forefront of Zionist education and engagement for American Jewish youth.
In addition to Year Course, Young Judaea programs include Camp Tel Yehudah, Camp Judaea, Camp Young Judaea Midwest, Camp Young Judaea Sprout Lake, Camp Young Judaea Texas, Alternative Winter Break, Israel Summer Programs, Taglit-Birthright Israel trips, Amirim and WUJS Israel.
For more information, please visit www.youngjudaea.org.