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Young Judaea

Young Judaea
Formation 1909 (1909)
Purpose Zionist youth movement
Headquarters 575 8th Ave. 11 floor
Region served
United States
Website .org.youngjudaeawww

Young Judaea is a peer-led Zionist youth movement that runs programs throughout the United States for Jewish youth in grades 2–12. In Hebrew, Young Judaea is called Yehudah Hatzair or is sometimes referred to as Hashachar, which means "the dawn." Founded in 1909, it is the oldest Zionist youth movement in the United States


  • History and organization 1
  • Principles 2
  • Leadership 3
    • Young Judea leadership positions 3.1
  • Merchavim and regions 4
  • Programs 5
    • Conventions 5.1
    • Summer camps 5.2
    • Israel programs 5.3
    • Social activism 5.4
  • Songs 6
  • Alumni 7
  • References 8
  • See also 9

History and organization

Founded in 1909, Young Judaea is a peer-led youth movement. Its programs include youth clubs, conventions, camps and Israel programs with an emphasis on social action and Jewish identity. Young Judaea has 15 regions in the United States and is affiliated with the Federation of Zionist Youth (United Kingdom) and Tzofim (Israel). The age levels are Ofarim (Hebrew for "fawns;" grades 2–5), Tsofim ("scouts," grades 6–7), and Bogrim ("elders," grades 8–12). Young Judaea's university arm was formerly called Hamagshimim, meaning "the fulfillers"), now college programs focus primarily on volunteering and interning in Israel as well as Birthright trips.

In 1967, Hadassah became the sponsor of Young Judaea. This relationship continued until 2011, when it was announced that Hadassah would no longer sponsor Young Judaea. This change formally occurred on July 2, 2012.


All Young Judaea programs are centered around the movement's ideology. The

  • Young Judaea is a politically non-partisan and religiously pluralistic organization.
  • Young Judaea is a Zionist youth movement, recognizes the State of Israel as a central part of Jewish life and encourages visiting Israel.
  • As a Jewish youth movement, Young Judea stresses Jewish values, Jewish education, and the preservation of the identity of the Jewish people.
  • Social action is a part of both our Jewish and Zionist identities and as such Young Judea works to help Jews and others in need both local and worldwide.
  • A cohesive community can be built regardless of religious and political affiliations.


Young Judaea is a peer run organization with mazkiriyot (boards) of peer leaders on local, regional, and national levels.

The National Mazkirut is elected at Young Judaea's National Midwinter Convention by a convention body consisting of Bogrim (9th-12th grade members of the movement). The National Mazkirut serves for a one-year period.

The regional Mazkirut level varies throughout the country. Most regions contain at least five of the positions listed below.

The local, or club level also works differently throughout the country as there are many different clubs of different sizes, and often club Mazkirut members fill multiple positions. Clubs will often have an adult advisor.

Young Judea leadership positions

  • Mazkir or Mazkira (literally: secretary) This position is president of the Mazkirut.
  • Merakez/et Irgun V'gius Chanichim (literally: organizational coordinator) This position is the Administrative Vice President (AVP) of the Mazkirut. Responsibilities include finances, membership, and logistics for the national level and overseeing the regional AVPs.
  • Merakzei Chinuch (literally: educational coordinators) These positions create educational programming for each of the different age groups. Prior to the mid-1990s there was one national coordinator for all of the age groups.
    These positions exist on both a national and regional levels with the national level coordinators assisting the regional ones.
    • Bogrim. This position creates curriculum and activities for the Bogrim (8th–12th grade) age group. Responsibilities include programming for the Bogrim National Midwinter Convention and National Summer Convention.
    • Ofarim/Tsofim. This position creates curriculum and activities for the Ofarim and Tsofim (2nd–7th grade) age group. Responsibilities include programming, encouraging members to attend Ofarim/Tsofim regional summer camps and encouraging continuing participation in Young Judea after finishing the Ofarim/Tsofim age level.
  • Merakez/et Tikkun Olam Social Action Programmer (SAP). This position develops social action events and ensures that tikkun olam values are built into all programs at the national level and regional levels. Their educational focus is defined by tikkun groups—different social action groups formed that are focused on five different issues (threats to Israel, pikuach nefesh, environmentalism, human rights, and poverty). They also manage volunteer opportunities for participants.
  • Pirsum (literally: "advertising") This position is responsible for publishing newsletters, informational documents and advertisements for the movement. This includes the national online newsletter (Kol Ha'Tnua; literally "voice of the movement), event promotion, web pages, and press releases.
  • As of 2015, the National Mazkirut is still very active in running this peer-led youth movement. The positions are held by: Ethan Gertzman - Mazkir, Matthew Kreitman - Merakez Irgun, Noa Jett- Merakzet Chinuch l'Bogrim, Antonia Nevias-Ida - Merakzet Chinuch l'Ofarim v'Tsofim, Michaela Davenport - Merakezet Chinuch l’Tikkun Olam, Ben Weinstein - Pirsum

Merchavim and regions

Young Judaea is divided into five units, called Merchavim (the singular: Merchav), which are titled according to their geographical location in the United States (including Puerto Rico). The Merchavim are subdivided into geographical regions. Each region is composed of clubs.

Until the mid-1970s, the regions were referred to using English language names. Currently the regions are referred to using Hebrew language names.

The five Mechavim are:

The Southeast Merchav (known colloquially as "Boom Boom") contains G'lil Yam (Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee. South Carolina, Arkansas, eastern Louisiana, the Florida Panhandle, and western North Carolina)

The Southwest Merchav is a single region, Ookaf Hadarom (Texas, Oklahoma and western Louisiana)

The West Merchav contains Chagurat Hashemesh (Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, and Montana), Ruach Hama'arav (Nevada and California), and Yoreh (Washington state, Oregon and Idaho)

The Midwest Merchav is composed of Pneinu Artza (the Great PlainsNorth Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana), Ayelet Hashachar (the central states – Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky), and Ruach B'Tzion (western Pennsylvania, abbreviated WPA)

The Northeast Merchav contains Ya'ar Penn (eastern Pennsylvania, abbreviated "EPA"), Empiria (English: Empire – New York state, excluding Long Island and New York City, and Fairfield County, Connecticut), Ganei Yehudah (New Jersey), Eeyey Tsiyon (Long Island/New York City abbreviated "LINYC" or "LI/NYC"), and Uri Tsafon (New EnglandMaine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Connecticut, excluding Fairfield County)



workshops called sadnaot, educational activities called peulot, prayers, and plenty of chofesh (free time) for socializing. The National Midwinter convention takes place every year during Presidents' Day weekend. National Summer Convention is held in mid-August at Camp Tel Yehudah. Both of these conventions are open to any member of the movement in 9th through 12th grade. At the Midwinter Convention the movement elects a new National Mazkirut and makes amendments to the Chukah (the movement's constitution). At the Summer Convention, the newly elected members of the National Mazkirut are sworn in and changes are made to the Chukah.

Summer camps

Like many other youth movements, YJ operates summer camps for its members. Ofarim and Tsofim can attend one of four regional camps:

Bogrim (high schoolers) attend Camp Tel Yehudah,[1] the national teen leadership Camp in Barryville, New York. Programs there include Alumim (Jewish/Israeli history and development of a Jewish Identity for entering 9th graders), Yachad (community building for entering 10th graders), Hadracha (leadership and activism for entering 11th graders), and Alternative Summer Break (an immersive community service program open to rising 10th–12th graders). Tel Yehudah has two sessions that are each three and a half weeks long.

The Alumim age group includes two days of hiking, one day of rafting on the Delaware River, and a one day trip to a big city (often either Philadelphia or New York City). The Yachad age group includes the choice of a four-day kayaking, hiking, biking, photography or volunteering trip in Manhattan. The Hadracha age group goes to Washington, D.C. for four days on "Day on the Hill" to meet with national leaders and representatives and discuss specific modern day issues, as well as national advocacy organizations.

Israel programs

As a Zionist movement, Israel trips are a crucial part of the Young Judaea experience. Youth entering 11th–12th grade can spend several weeks in Israel through Machon or Israel Discovery. Both programs include a Special Interest Week, for example a desert trek, a stay on a kibbutz or training with the Israeli army.

Recent high school graduates can also apply to spend 9 months on the Young Judaea Year Course in Israel program. Young Judaeans participating in Young Judaea Year Course are often able to transfer credits received on Year Course to their college. The basic Year Course program is broken up into sections with participants spending four months living in Jerusalem, four months living in the coastal town of Bat Yam with the option to spend two of those months participating in Marva, volunteering, or living in a youth village, and finally one month exploring special interests around the country.[2] Young Judaea Year Course differentiates itself from most other movement freshman year abroad programs by immersing participants in Israeli life. Participants are encouraged to become part of Israeli society for their year in Israel. There are also many specialty tracks catering to participants' hobbies or interests. A few examples include Sports, Medical, Arts, Business, and Activism. Also available are religious-centered tracks (Shevet and Shalem) and travel-intensive tracks (Olami).

Young Judaea alumni founded Kibbutz Ketura together with members of the Israeli scouts in 1973.[3]

Social activism

Young Judaea has been active in social action projects including involvement in bringing constituencies to Darfur rallies and raising funds for victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Young Judaea has raised nearly $30,000 for various causes, including Hadassah Hospital, the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, and Latet, all in Israel. In the fall of 2005, after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast, Young Judaea embarked on a program called Caravan 4 Katrina. The "Caravan" consisted of four truckloads (two from the Northeastern U.S. and two from the Southeastern U.S.) of food, toys, and clothes were collected and delivered to Katrina victims in Jackson, Mississippi in time for Thanksgiving.

Another activism program Young Judaea leads is an annual Alternative Winter Break. Starting in 2007, participants traveled to different regions of the United States to perform community service and learn about the culture of the region. Previous trips have included New Orleans LA; Navajo Nation AZ; New York City, NY; Los Angeles, CA; and southern Florida.


Singing is a large part of Young Judaea camps around America. The official song of Young Judaea is Ani v'Ata by Arik Einstein. At conventions and summer programs, shira (singing) usually takes place Friday night following Shabbat dinner, Saturday following lunch, before Havdalah (this is referred to as "Shira Shketa" or "quiet singing.") Many songs sung in Young Judaea can be found in the Young Judaea shiron (song book). Following are examples of songs from the 1970s.

Yehudah, Yehudah, Yehudah Hatzair. / We don't smoke cigarettes, and we don't drink no beer. / We like ice cream, and we like ice cream cones. / We like bananas, 'cause they don't have no bones.
Forward together, we're building Young Judaea / Hand in hand we'll proudly sing our cheer. / Ruach shall lead us, surging forever forward / Love of Zion lives throughout the years. / We stand ready to serve, each in his own way. / Eretz Yisrael, and the USA. / Shout out our praises, long let our voices ring / Young Judaea, now we cast our lots / Always our spirit serves as an inspiration, / Young Judaea, Chazak, v'Amatz, Judaea is the tops!
I am, you are, we are, Hashachar.
We've got ruach, for every chaver tnu'ah
Singing, dancing, even romancing
But our whole spiel is that we all love our Israel
Israel, Israel, we all love our Israel
Tsuris Naches, we've got tachlis
Too, too, wah, too, too, wah, wah / We are Young Judaea, we have a story to tell/ Too young for Tel Yehudah but Zionist just as well. / We started Young Judaea and we had lots of fun, fun! / But then we heard about CYJ and our fun had just begun, had just begun. / Come on Young Judaea fun fun fun for you. / Come on Young Judaea fun for you and you and your mama too.

Though these songs were very popular previously, only the last one is commonplace now.


A number of Young Judaea alumni groups have been established. There is an online Young Judaea alumni blog, the Chorsha.[4]

One notable alumnus is Yosef Abramowitz, who was honored at Hadassah Centennial in 2012. He is the Co-Founder and President of Arava Power Company, a company which seeks to supply 10% of Israel's electricity needs through solar energy. Another is Alon Tal, a leading Israeli environmental activist, co-founder of the Israel Union for Environmental Defense, the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies and the Green Zionist Alliance and co-chair of the Green Movement political party.


  1. ^ Camp Tel Yehudah website
  2. ^
  3. ^ Kibbutz Ketura
  4. ^ The Chorsha

See also

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