Young Judea to become independent
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Young Judea to become independent

Zionist youth organization to end reliance on Hadassah

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This photo was taken in 1982, when Betsy August Gold was head counselor/assistant director at Camp Judaea. photos courtesy Betsy August Gold

Hillsdale resident Betsy Gold has been involved in Young Judaea since she was 12.

At the Zionist youth organization’s Camp Judaea, Camp Tel Yehudah national leadership camp, and Year Course program in Israel, Gold – who met her husband during her gap year in Israel – has come full-circle, sending her own children to Young Judaea camps and Year Course.

A former journalist who runs a small business, Gold – who has remained an active supporter of the camps – spoke with The Jewish Standard about Young Judaea’s future. The youth organization, which has been supported by Hadassah for more than 70 years, is in the process of becoming independent.

Gold serves on the nine-member founding board of the new organization, together with other former youth group leaders, supporters, and Hadassah leaders.

“It’s a very collaborative process,” she said, “not like a ‘takeover.'”

Hadassah national president Nancy Falchuk, quoted in a statement issued by the youth group, noted that her organization “will continue to provide financial support, have board representation, and work collaboratively with the 102-year-old movement.

“For some time, many of us have felt that Young Judaea should stand as an independent entity, giving it the power to reach its full potential,” said Falchuk. “We are so proud and excited that such outstanding alumni and family of the movement have taken the lead on this transition. Who better to take Young Judaea into the future?”

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Betsy Gold

“Everything will be exactly as it is now,” said Gold. “We’re working toward a seamless transition.” She noted that the new group will be funded by Hadassah for a three-year transition period and that the women’s group “will be involved in many different ways.

“Hadassah leaders love Young Judaea and want to be involved. They have a lot of experience and expertise that Young Judaea relies on and welcomes.”

Gold said the change is occurring because “Hadassah has been looking for a viable way to ensure the future of Young Judaea. They’re refocusing their mission and believe very strongly in the importance of a Zionist youth organization. We’re a good partner for them. They realize that they need to make sure that Young Judaea can flourish.”

Falchuk said, “Young Judaea is the gold standard for Jewish youth movements, and as Hadassah increases its focus on health care and other issues, nothing could make us prouder than to have the legacy of being a part of Young Judaea for so many years. To have a self-sustaining Young Judaea, and to have us continue to be a part of that, will be fabulous for both organizations.”

The youth organization, said Gold, has about a dozen partners, including, among other groups, Taglit and the Jewish Agency.

“They are strong partnerships,” she said. “Our goal is, and has been, to reach as many Jewish youths as possible to engage them in Israel. We’ve done it successfully for 102 years. The new founding board and Hadassah want to make sure that it will continue and grow.”

The decision to make Young Judaea an independent entity was made this year, she said, adding that the actual proposal was made jointly by the new founding board and Hadassah.

To guide the transition, “We’re engaging various panels and commissions [involving] alumni and staff as well as current supporters and leaders in the broader Jewish community,” she said.

“We need to figure out what is relevant to today’s youth. We know we have strong programs. This is not about re-creating the same Young Judaea I grew up with.” Programs “evolve,” she added. “It may take a different shape, but what’s running well will become stronger.”

Gold said Young Judaea has touched hundreds of thousands of Jewish youths.

“It’s the strongest Israel-focused camping system in the country,” she said. “We’ve got very strong enrollment at our camps this summer, especially Sprout Lake [in Verbank, N.Y.] and Tel Yehudah [in Barryville, N.Y.]. The staff from Israel offers a high level of informal Jewish education.”

Transition efforts are “in progress,” said Gold, noting that one of the jobs of the founding board is to create a nominating committee to help structure a board of directors to oversee the new organization.

The Young Judaea statement noted that Alan Hoffmann, director general of the Jewish Agency for Israel, said that Jewish community leaders are excited about a reinvigorated youth leadership movement.

“Creating a vibrant, independent Young Judaea will strengthen the bonds between Israel and the next generation of leaders in the American Jewish community,” said Hoffman.

“This is what the broader Jewish community has been looking to us to do,” said Falchuk, adding that the women’s group will not only provide transition funding but will continue to raise scholarships funds for campers.

For more information about Young Judaea, visit www.youngjudaea.org.

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