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Young Judea

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Young Judea

Young Judaea
Formation 1909; Template:Years or months ago (1909)
Purpose/focus Zionist youth movement
Headquarters 575 8th Ave. 11 floor
Location New York, New York

40°45′18″N 73°59′30.5″W / 40.75500°N 73.991806°W / 40.75500; -73.991806Coordinates: 40°45′18″N 73°59′30.5″W / 40.75500°N 73.991806°W / 40.75500; -73.991806

Region served United States
Parent organization Hadassah

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

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 is YJ Impact (until 2007 called Hamagshimim).[1]

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 2nd, 2012.


All Young Judaea programs are centered around the movement's ideology. The charter of the organization, officially titled "Yehudah Hatzair Leumi Chukah", outlines the ideology and goals of the organization. Its main points include:

  • 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’guis 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.

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 (North Carolina (minus Hendersonville and Asheville), Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia), Or Hadarom (Florida (minus Panhandle), Puerto Rico), and Lev Hadarom (GA, AL, MS, TN, SC, AR, Eastern Louisiana, Florida Panhandle, Western North Carolina)

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

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

The Midwest Merchav is composed of Pneinu Artza{Great Plains}(North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana), Ayelet Hashachar{Central States}(Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky), and Ruach B'Tzion{WPA}(Western Pennsylvania)

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 England; Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut excluding Fairfield County)



Conventions are central to the Young Judaea experience. They fall into two categories: Merchav/Regional, and National. Merchav/Regional Conventions are organized by the local Regional/Merchav Mazkirut, there are two a year and are held in late fall/early winter and spring. During these conventions, regional Mazkirut are elected. Typical convention programming features educational 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 President's 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:

  • Camp Young Judaea Midwest in Waupaca, WI
  • Camp Young Judaea Texas in Wimberley, TX
  • Camp Young Judaea Sprout Lake in Verbank, NY
  • Camp Judaea in Hendersonville, NC

Bogrim attend Camp Tel Yehudah,[2] the National Leadership Camp in Barryville, NY. Programs there include Alumim (Jewish/Israeli history and development of a Jewish Identity for entering 9th graders), Yachad (community building for entering 10th graders), and Hadracha (leadership and activism for entering 11th graders). Camp sessions range from three and a half to four 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, PA, or New York, NY). The Yachad age group includes the choice of a four-day kayaking, hiking, biking, photography or volunteering trip in Manhattan. The Hadrachah age group goes to Washington, DC, for four days on a lobbying trip.

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 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 2005 after Hurricane Katrina hit, Young Judaea embarked on a program called Caravan 4 Katrina, where two truckloads of food, toys, and clothes were collected and delivered to Katrina victims in Louisiana.

Another activism program Young Judaea leads is an annual Alternative Winter Break. Starting in 2006, 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 Havdallah (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.[4] There is an online Young Judaea alumni newsletter.[5]

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.


See also

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