I am not a Young Judaean – but it does raise questions

Last Updated on Tuesday, 14 December 2010 07:20 Written by bryfy Friday, 5 February 2010 02:09

I am not a Young Judaean – but I am a supporter of the great work YJ does and I think that the (long term) Israel experience is one of the most vital programs that the Jewish community should be investing in. That is why the news of the last week and months has been troubling for me – even as a relative outsider.

A quick summary:

  • Young Judaea, largely because of its strong connections to Hadassah, has been hit hard by the global economic recession and the Madoff scandal. These financial conditions have forced/prodded/allowed Young Judaea to look at how it can restructure itself moving forward.
  • In recent weeks and months there have been several high profile resignations from senior YJ staff, as well as several YJ staff having their jobs cut.
  • Early this week, Keith Berman, former head of YJ long term Israel programs, established his own long term Israel program – Aardvark Israel

Let me just say much of what has happened has not been pretty – as is evidenced by some of the articles, blog posts and comments that have appeared in recent days. Here is a small sampling:

Key staff resignations at Young Judaea and Hadassah

Former Young Judaea head launches rival year program

Young Judaea head blasts predecessor for launching program day after quitting

Aadvark Israel is launched: What does it mean? (comments are essential reading)

But I don’t want to get into these discussions – even though I do have may questions about what has taken place and how it all got to this stage.

I do want to use this opportunity to ask some more macro questions that I think this recent series of events has brought to our attention – and should be asked of many Jewish organizations and the Jewish community at large. It is my belief that if we don’t find ways to adequately answer these questions then the Jewish community will face even more challenges in the future.

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I Come From a Land Down Under

Last Updated on Saturday, 2 January 2009 03:51 Written by bryfy Thursday, 17 December 2009 08:07

Yesterday I was fortunate enough to meet with a group of talented Jewish-Australian (or is it Australian-Jewish?) students leaders in New York on the AUJS Leadership Development Program (LDP). Full disclosure before I continue – I was a madrich on AUJS LDP a few years ago (ok, quite a few years ago). The group had spent some time in Washington D.C., was just starting a few days in the Big Apple, before heading off to Amsterdam and then Israel.

The discussion began by looking at some of the characteristics that define the Australian Jewish community. Orthodox (and some Conservative and Reform), Anti-Semitism, Israel, Holocaust, Jewish Dayschools, South Africans, Russians, youth movements – were some of the terms they generated.

The list about American Jewry was a bit less interesting, a bit less informed (as expected) and a bit more stereotypical – but that is hardly the point.

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Israel Education: Myth or Reality

Last Updated on Saturday, 5 December 2009 12:11 Written by bryfy Sunday, 8 November 2009 09:28

Teaching about Israel is not as simple as it might first appear. One of the first issues that all educators need to consider is which Israel they want to portray – a mythical image or a realistic one.

On one hand you don’t want to fill people with mythical images of the country that once used to be. Believe me I have seen many activities even today that ask children to pick oranges, make sheep out of cotton wool and milk plastic gloves that barely resemble cows – all in the name of re-creating a classical Israel.

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