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Zionist youth movement

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Title: Zionist youth movement  
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Subject: Young Judaea, Betar, El Rom, Hannah Szenes, Hakhshara
Collection: Jewish Youth Organizations, Zionist Youth Movements
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Zionist youth movement

A Zionist youth movement is an organization formed for Jewish children and adolescents for educational, social, and ideological development, including a belief in Jewish nationalism as represented in the State of Israel. Youth leaders in modern youth movements use informal education approaches to educate toward the movement's ideological goals.


  • History 1
  • Educational methods 2
  • Historical movements 3
  • Modern movements 4
    • List of modern movements 4.1
  • Preparation (Hachshara) 5
  • Fulfillment (Hagshama) 6
  • Service Year (Shnat Sherut) 7
  • See also 8
  • References 9
  • External links 10


Most Zionist youth movements were established in Eastern Europe in the early twentieth century, desiring the national revival of the Jewish people in their own homeland, and soon formed an active and integral part of the Zionist movement. All emphasised aliyah (emigration to the Land of Israel) and community, with many also focussing on a return to nature.

Blau-Weiss is considered to have been the first Zionist youth movement, established in Germany in 1912, and were inspired by the culture of outings and hikes prevalent in the German youth movement. Adopting an official Zionist platform in 1922, the movement stressed an agricultural way of life, leading many of its members to the Kibbutz movement in Mandatory Palestine.

With the upsurge in European nationalism and anti-Semitism, pogroms in Eastern Europe and the barring of Jewish members from German youth groups incubated the Zionist national consciousness of the Jewish youth, appealing to their idealism.

Youth movements played a considerable role in politics, Jewish world wars. Within Europe, they were the nucleus of the Jewish resistance movements in the ghettos and camps of the Holocaust. They also led the escape (Beriha) from Europe following the war, particularly to Palestine, where most surviving members settled.

Many of Eastern Europe's movements established themselves as worldwide organisations, although these were less influential. Alumni in Palestine organised their movements there from the 1920s, with an emphasis on pioneering and personal fulfillment (hagshama atzmit). There they strengthened the Kibbutz movement and most affiliated with or established Israel's political parties.

After Israel's establishment in 1948, some of the movements' roles, such as education, were taken on by the State. With the growth and development of the country, movements' aims have been adjusted, despite a lesser public interest in the pioneering ideals of earlier Zionism.

In the Jewish diaspora, the nature of Zionist youth movements has varied in time and place. During periods when the general Zionist movement has been strong, such as that preceding the Six-Day War, movements have been particularly active. As well as acting towards Zionist causes, the movements have been seen as an important Jewish education and socialisation when it has not been otherwise available. Hence, with the development of stronger community structures, youth movements have often played a lesser role. Many youth, particularly in the large Jewish population of North America, have opted for Jewish social groups without ideological pursuits.

Educational methods

Youth movements employ informal education methods to educate an ideology to their members. This is often achieved through regular meetings that socialise participants within their groups, as well as camps. Particularly on camps, but in all interactions movements create a counter-culture that produces a particular social environment where members can express themselves freely, although with an underlying focus towards the movement's ideology. Recently, there have been suggestion that youth movement counter-culture is waning, and needs to be revived [15]

Activities and camps are essentially peer-led, usually by youth leaders who are often a few years older than the participants. Because of this, a friendly relationship is created between leaders and participants that encourages leadership by personal example (dugma ishit), whereby a leader's method of education is by being a moral, active and ideological member of the movement themself.

Historical movements

  • Avukah:[1] founded 1925 by Rabbi Phineas Smoller[2]
  • Blau Weiss
  • Gordonia: 1925–1951. Associated with Labour Zionism and its namesake A. D. Gordon. Founded in Poland, and active in Palestine from 1925, idealised manual labor, mutual aid and human values. After helping to establish the United Kibbutz Movement, it merged with other youth movements.
  • Hashomer Hadati: Founded in Poland in the 1930's, later established in the United States with groups in New York, Chicago, Cleveland, and other cities. There was a Hachshara in New Jersey, and a Camp Moshava near Liberty, New York. Joined B'nei Akiva in late 1940's. Another group which joined B'nei Akiva was Noar Mizrachi (Mizrachi Youth).

Modern movements

Hebrew Scouts uniform

Zionist youth movements, both in Israel and the diaspora, continue to play a large role in community organisation, Jewish education, welfare, politics and activism. While upholding and adjusting their individual movement ideologies, diaspora movements commonly idealise Jewish continuity and identity in opposition to cultural assimilation, and Zionism in the way of an active community involvement while living in Israel (termed by some as aliyah nimshechet or continuing ascent), with importance placed upon leadership skills and personal development. In some countries, resistance in response to anti-Semitism is also a significant political focus.

Movements generally focus on education for school-age youths, who are known as chanichim (Hebrew for educatees; singular chanich/a), approximately aged 8 to 18. The nucleus of movement leaders (madrichim, singular madrich/a; literally guides) are graduates (bogrim, singular boger/et) of the movement, although it is popular for senior chanichim to also lead junior groups.

Much of a movement's activity is carried out through regular meetings or events, in many countries weekly, as well as camps one or more times a year. Leaders use methods of informal education to inspire and teach chanichim within a particular ideological framework, or to induce discussion and thought. Such events are also highly social and often involve recreational activity., making the educational and ideological pursuits more enjoyable for participating youths.

List of modern movements

  • AJ6: The Association of Jewish Sixthformers, based in the United Kingdom, with a branch in Shelomi, Israel.
  • Ariel: 1980–ongoing. Split from Bnei Akiva in Israel, separating its meetings for males and females, and with each branch having its own rabbi for authority.
  • BBYO: 1923–ongoing. Formerly associated with B'nai B'rith. Active internationally.
  • Beyajad. 1988–ongoing. Active in Monterrey, Mexico. [16]
  • Betar: 1923–ongoing. Associated with Revisionist Zionist movement and Likud party. Its members were heavily involved in Jewish resistance in the ghettos of Nazi Eastern Europe. Active internationally.
  • Bnei Akiva: 1929–ongoing. Associated with Religious Zionism and, in Israel, the National Religious Party (most international branches are apolitical). Ideology of Torah ve'avodah - torah study and contributing to the build-up of the nation. Bnei Akiva claims to be the largest Zionist Youth Movement in the world, with over 50,000, members internationally (35 Countries) with another 100,000 in Israel.
  • Chazit Hanoar: Politically unaffiliated, Jewish and Zionist education. Active in South America. [17]
  • Ezra: 1919–ongoing. Religious movement, originally affiliated with the Agudat Yisrael party in Israel. In Palestine from 1936. Has founded many kibbutzim and moshavim. [18] and now Ezra Olami works in USA Canada Russia Belarus Ukraine England Germany [19]
  • Federation of Zionist Youth (FZY): 1910–ongoing. (As FZY since 1935). Pluralistic - believes in teaching Jewish and Israeli culture, promoting righteousness, defense of Jewish rights and aliyah. [20]
  • Habonim Dror: Merger of Dror (est. 1915) and Habonim Union (1929) in 1980. Associated with Labour Zionism, the United Kibbutz Movement and the Labour party. Dror members were among the leaders of the Warsaw ghetto uprising. Active internationally. A secular youth movement.
  • Haihud Hahaklai (the Agricultural Union): 1978–ongoing. Associated with a union of agricultural villages, but politically non-partisan. Active in Israel. [21]
  • World Maccabi Jewish sports organisation, while the youth movement also promoted aliya and pioneering through rural settlement.
  • HaMahanot HaOlim: 1926–ongoing. Associated with the United Kibbutz Movement. Five principles of pioneering, Zionism, socialism, democracy and humanism. Established originally by Herzlia Gymnasium. Active in Israel. [22]
  • Hanoar Hatzioni: 1926–ongoing. Scouting movement with pluralistic outlook. Active in 16 countries worldwide and has a strong belief in Judaism, Zionism and Pluralism, all of which should be looked at in an holistic framework.
  • Hanoar Haoved Vehalomed: 1924–ongoing. Established as HaNoar HaOved ("the working youth") by the Histadrut (General Federation of Jewish Labor in Palestine) to meet the social, cultural and education needs of working youth. After merging in 1959 with the Habonim Union, the current movement was formed, "the Working and Student Youth". Active in Israel.
  • Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Active internationally.
  • Hebraikeinu: 1990; Affiliated to Maccabi World Union, established in the club A Hebraica de São Paulo Brazil.
  • Hehalutz: 1918–Initially established in Russia under Joseph Trumpeldor to prepare potential olim for labour and pioneering work. Mostly collapsed after World War II (ongoing in South America only). Active in South America.
  • Hineni: 1976–ongoing. Modern Orthodox Judaism, Politically Active, Modern Orthodox, Pluralist Zionist movement. Not associated with particular Zionist ideology or party. Active in Australia. [23]
  • Hatzofim Haivriim (the Hebrew Scouts): 1919–ongoing. Associated with the world Scouting movement, whose ideals it generally shares. Active in Israel. [24]
  • LJY-Netzer: 1947–ongoing. The youth movement of Liberal Judaism in the UK, they operate under the banner of Progressive Zionism and support a Two State Solution. They became affiliated with Netzer Olami in the early 90s.
  • Magshimey Herut: 1999–ongoing. Acitivist movement associated with Revisionist Zionism made up of religious and non-religious young adults. Ideology a combination of retaining the borders of Greater Israel and social activism on behalf of Israel's poor. Affiliated with the Herut party. Active in North America and Israel.
  • Netzer: 1979–ongoing. Associated with the World Union for Progressive Judaism. Central focus on Reform Zionism and social activism through tikkun olam (repairing the world). Netzer Olami also claims to be the largest zionist youth movement in the world with over 30,000 members worldwide. Active internationally.
  • Noam: Associated with the Masorti (Conservative Judaism) movement. Active in Israel, Argentina, Brazil and the UK.
  • Reform Judaism in North America. Affiliated with the Union for Reform Judaism and Netzer Olami.
  • Tzeirei Ami: 1978–ongoing. Chilean pluralistic Zionist scouting movement. Active in South America. Affiliated with HaNoar HaTzioni[25]
  • United Synagogue Youth: 1951–ongoing. The youth movement of the Conservative Judaism. Affiliated with the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism. Active in North America.
  • Young Judaea: 1909–ongoing. Formerly associated with Hadassah Women's Zionist Organization. Focus on Zionist Jewish identity and social action in a pluralist environment. Active as the largest movement in the USA.

Preparation (Hachshara)

Most diaspora movements organise programmes in Israel, aiming for personal and ideological development, experience and training, such that participants would either remain in Israel as a form of ideological fulfillment, or return to their diaspora communities and movements in a leadership capacity. Many of these programs cover most of the year following one's graduation from high school, and are known as shnat hachshara (year of preparation) like their predecessors. Most require of their programmes' participants a two year commitment to their movement on return from the program in Israel.

Many such programmes are coordinated together with the Department for Jewish Zionist Education of the Jewish Agency for Israel, whose Machon L'Madrichei Chutz La'Aretz (Institute for Leaders from Abroad) [26] has been a component in many movements' year programmes since 1946. Year programmes may also include:

  • studying at a Jewish educational institution, such as a yeshiva, or independent study programmes
  • touring Israel
  • volunteer work in a kibbutz; in a Magen David Adom ambulance service; in schools; on Israeli summer camps; with the IDF in Sar-El [27]; at archaeological digs; etc.
  • experience or training with the IDF, such as the 8-week Marva Army Experience Program [28]
  • a historical tour of Poland and the remains of Nazi Europe

Fulfillment (Hagshama)

As well as education, the movement experience is directed towards hagshama atzmit, or personal fulfillment of one's ideology, often closely aligned with that of their movement. Typically, for a diaspora movement member, this involves

  • Articles and resources on Zionist youth movements - World Zionist Organization
  • The World of the Jewish Youth Movement
  • Hanaor Hatzioni UK
  • Bnei Akiva)

External links

  1. ^ Barsky, Robert. 2010. Zellig Harris. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  2. ^ "A Finding Aid to the Phineas Smoller Papers Manuscript Collection No. 108". The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the Jewish American Archives. Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives. Retrieved 14 April 2013. 
  • Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Centenary of Zionism - Youth Movements, 1998.
  • Zvi Lamm, Youth takes the Lead: The Inception of Jewish Youth Movements in Europe, Givat Haviva, Yad Yaari, 2004.
  • Galus Australis, Bring back Jewish Youth Counterculture, Joel Lazar, 2009


See also

In Israel, it is common for active movement participants to commit a year of movement leadership between completing high-school and conscription into the Israel Defense Forces.

)Shnat SherutService Year (
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