|Legal status||501(c)(3) nonprofit organization|
|Purpose||Zionist youth movement|
|Headquarters||575 8th Avenue, 11th floor|
|Subsidiaries||Young Judaea Camp Tel Yehudah Inc, |
Young Judaea Sprout Lake Camp Inc,
Friends of Sprout Lake Inc
Camp Young Judaea Midwest
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 Yehuda Hatzair (יהודה הצעיר) or is sometimes referred to as Hashachar (השחר), lit. "the dawn". Founded in 1909, it is the oldest Zionist youth movement in the United States.
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 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 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.
As of 2022-2023, the National Mazkirut is still very active in running this peer-led youth movement.
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, and the District of Columbia), Or Hadarom (Florida minus the Panhandle and Puerto Rico), and Lev Hadarom (Georgia, 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 Plains – North 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 England – Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and 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 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.
Like many other youth movements, YJ operates summer camps for its members. The age restrictions and age groups and differ by each YJ camp and their different policies/ programming. For example, Camp Judaea in North Carolina starts at Rishonim (Campers going into grades 1, 2, and 3) and goes through Offarim (Campers going into grade 4), Oranim (Campers going into grade 5), Sayarim (Campers going into grade 6), Tsofim (Campers going into grade 7), Kesher (Campers going into grade 8), Bogrim (Campers going into grade 9), and Tikkun Olam/ Chalutzim (Campers going into grade 10.)
Tel Yehudah allows teens going in to the 9th grade, 10th grade, 11th grade, and 12th grade to attend. Although some YJ camps age group programs overlap with the ages at Tel Yehudah. For example, Camp Judaea still has Bogrim and Tilkun Olam/ Chalutzim while TY starts its first 2 years, many campers either choose to waive the first and/or second year of TY to finish their camps programming, or they can choose to go during another session, (bloc at TY).
Camp Tel Yehudah, 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.
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 Gesher Israel.
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 Tel Aviv with the option to spend two of those months participating in Marva, training and serving as a junior medic, volunteering, interning, living on a kibbutz, and finally one month exploring special interests around the country. 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, including fitness and business.
Young Judaea alumni founded Kibbutz Ketura together with members of the Israeli scouts in 1973.
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; Southern Florida; and Puerto Rico.
Singing is a large part of Young Judaea camps around America. The official song of Young Judaea is Ani v'Ata by Arik Einstein. Many songs sung in Young Judaea can be found in the Young Judaea shiron (song book).
A number of Young Judaea alumni groups have been established. There is an online Young Judaea alumni blog, the Chorsha.
Notable alumni who have been honored by Young Judaea at its annual gala are Seth Merrin, Anne Heyman, the Merrin Family, Jennifer Sylvor, Steve Greenberg, Alon Tal, David Rosenblatt, David Ruderman and Sharon Schoenfeld. Each of these honorees are recognized for their work on behalf of Young Judaea and their impact on our world in the spirit of tikuun olam - repairing the world. They stand for their strong values and lifelong commitment to Young Judaea. They make us proud and blaze the path for future Young Judaeans to make positive contributions to our world and Israel.
Four alumni from the camp in Sprout Lake -- MLB.com reporter Jonathan Mayo, Daniel Miller, Jeremy Newberger, and Seth Kramer, of Ironbound Films -- were the producers of Heading Home: The Tale of Team Israel, a 2018 award-winning documentary film about the Israel national baseball team competing for the first time in the World Baseball Classic.