Expectations are high for the new leader of the largest gap year program in Israel, with some hoping he will reverse the expansionary path of Young Judaea Year Course’s outgoing director.
… In recent months, Hadassah, which counts Young Judaea as its official youth movement, has made massive cuts to the organization’s budget and was forced to sell two buildings – Young Judaea’s new youth hostel in Jerusalem’s Givat Masua neighborhood and Merkaz Hamagshimim, a community center for immigrants in the capital’s German Colony. Both institutions moved to the capital’s Baka neighborhood.
Numbers of participants are down as well: This year, the program has 312 participants signed up, compared to 540 in 2008/2009.
… Berman made several changes to the course’s traditional Zionist gap year feel by offering 12 different specialty tracks, such as athletics, cooking and fashion. The “olami” track – in which participants traveled the globe in search of unique Jewish experiences – was especially controversial.
Critics said these changes demonstrated an increasing focus on the individual as opposed to a collective youth movement experience.