NEW YORK— Young Judaea took hold of its own future today as its longstanding sponsor, Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization o f America, set it on a celebrated road to independence, the organizations announced jointly.
Last June, the national board of Hadassah voted to turn the 103-year-old Zionist youth movement into an independent, not-for-profit entity so that it could more fully fashion its own destiny in a changing youth landscape. Long regarded for its leadership training, pluralist ideology, and activism, Young Judaea serves 5,000 Jewish children, teens, and young adults annually through U.S. camps and Israel programs.
Hadassah National President Marcie Natan said it took a year to complete the historic separation, and although the timing is notable, it was not planned to coincide with the Fourth of July.
"The fact that this is Independence Week in the United States has not been lost on us and is certainly appropriate in the evolution of Young Judaea," she said. "Like a child leaving the nest, Young Judaea will always be part of the Hadassah family. Hadassah members take tremendous pride in how effective Young Judaea is in creating permanent connections between American youth and Israel."
Young Judaea Board President David Bechhofer said generations of movement graduates offer tremendous appreciation to Hadassah for the opportunities it has given —and will continue to give— American Jewish youth.
"Through Hadassah's passion and guidance, Young Judaea taught each of us that together, we can change the world," said Bechhofer, an alumnus of Young Judaea's Year Course in Israel, the preeminent freshman gap-year program that was also attended by his daughter. "We are not only taking over Young Judaea, we are taking responsibility for it and for the future leadership of the Jewish people as we move forward together."
The new entity will be run by a professional staff under Inaugural Executive Director Simon Klarfeld, who was hired in December to set up operations and envision the next century of youth engagement with Israel. A board of directors is in formation and will be announced in the coming weeks. A smaller Founding Board has been overseeing the changeover. As part of the plan:
Young Judaea will undergo a staff restructuring to enable it to operate as a national organization in its own right.
Hadassah, which has been Young Judaea's sole sponsor since 1967 and supported the movement for more than 25 years before that, will provide transition funding for three years. During that time, Young Judaea will reach out to its vast network of alumni as well as foundations and other major donors to secure funding for growth initiatives, scholarships and grants, and capital improvements and expansion at Tel Yehudah, its national teen leadership camp in New York, as well as Camp Judaea in North Carolina, Camp Young Judaea Midwest in Wisconsin, Camp Young Judaea Sprout Lake in New York, and Camp Young Judaea Texas.
Klarfeld said current camp and Israel program participants can expect a seamless transition.
Hadassah units will continue to raise scholarship funding to make Young Judaea's summer and year-round programs increasingly available to all Jewish children.
Young Judaea is creating a new national database of alumni, friends, and family. Bechhofer encouraged all Young Judaeans worldwide to step up and join the conversation.
Young Judaea will remain based at Hadassah's New York headquarters for several months as it finalizes arrangements for new office space.
The organizations, whose missions are closely linked, plan to stay connected through Hadassah participation on boards and committees of Young Judaea, educational programming, scholarship fundraising, and other initiatives.
"We share the same mission regarding Israel activism and education," Natan said. "Hadassah is excited about continuing its more than 70 years of support of Jewish youth leadership through Young Judaea."
Shalom TV Daily News Reports on Young Judaea's Independence
Founded in 1912, Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America, is celebrating its 100th year. Hadassah is the largest women's Zionist Jewish membership organization in the United States. In Israel, it supports medical care and research, education and youth programs, and reforestation and parks projects. In the United States, Hadassah promotes health education, social action and advocacy, volunteerism, Jewish education and research, Young Judaea and connections with Israel. For more information, visit www.hadassah.org.