Young Judaea Makes Massive Funding Cuts

The following is a letter from Rabbi Ramie Arian and Shelley Sherman (both of Hadassah Young Judaea) outlining changes being made due to the current economic climate. It is posted here in full to acquaint our readers with real-time, on the ground facts from Young Judaea as to how programs are currently being effected due to finances – and how deep the current problem runs. Also see our post Hadassah Cuts in Israel for specifics on how Hadassah and Young Judaea’s programs here are potentially facing the axe.

January 13, 2009

Dear Friends:

We are writing to announce some important changes in the operation of Young Judaea which are being rolled out, beginning immediately, and continuing through the coming months. As a key stakeholder in Young Judaea, we wanted you to have this information as quickly and as clearly as it is possible to share it.

These changes are necessitated by the economic pressures exerted on Hadassah, sole sponsor of Young Judaea since 1967, by the current severe financial crisis.

The changes which are outlined below will affect many aspects of Young Judaea’s operation. In many respects, they represent a return to Young Judaea’s roots as a peer-led, volunteer-driven youth movement.

Year-Round Program (Clubs, Regions, Merchavim)

  • Effective immediately year-round activity will be limited to local programs that are entirely volunteer-directed, and conventions/overnights that are entirely financially self-sufficient.
  • The youth leadership of Young Judaea will be encouraged to rise to the challenge of growing Young Judaea as a peer-led and volunteer driven movement, as it did at the movement’s inception, and as it has done at various prior times of financial hardship. Much of the forthcoming Young Judaea National MidWinter Convention will focus on this conversation.
  • Young Judaea will no longer pay Merchav Management Fees to its camps. Camp directors have been notified of the final dates of these payments.
  • All discretionary expenses paid through subventions to the YJ Merchavim are discontinued effective immediately. This includes payments for part-time staff, subsidized convention staff, club staff, senior advisors, travel subsidies, travel expenses, conventions that are not fully self-sufficient, and the like.
  • It has been necessary to lay off all regional staff, including area supervisors and office managers, etc., as well as all staff – both full-time and part-time which is funded through Merchav subventions. With few exceptions, this is effective today.
  • For the summer of 2009 only, Young Judaea will make a one-time payment to each of the camps to compensate for loss of expected senior staff.
  • After the 2009 camping season, each of the YJ camps, including CYJ West, will need to carry the full cost of its own director and other staff from its operating expenses.
  • The Regional Programs department will retain two staff—a departmental director and a coordinator—to supervise the transition and to oversee volunteer-based local activity, and to assist with scholarship arrangements.

Young Judaea Camps

  • As the changes above and below are implemented, it is a priority to minimize the negative impact to Young Judaea’s camps.
  • The Campership Incentive Program, funded through a partnership between Hadassah and the Foundation for Jewish Camp, will continue through the summer of 2009. After that, its continuation will be dependent on finding one or more donors, as was originally envisioned.
  • Young Judaea will maintain travel subsidies for Tel Yehudah, and scholarships for Israelis to attend TY, through the summer of 2009 only.
  • Young Judaea will endeavor to arrange for staffed coordination of the YJ camping system.

Alumni and Centennial Celebrations

  • Cultivation of alumni as a source for volunteer leadership and potential financial support remains a  priority.
  • 100th Anniversary activities will move forward to the extent that donors are identified who are prepared to cover their costs.

YJ Impact

  • The current YJ Impact domestic program, consisting principally of the Israel Fellows program, is funded by a grant, and will continue through the end of the academic year (5/31/09), after which time it will be discontinued.
  • The Israel-based ongoing program of YJ Impact—Merkaz Hamagshimim—will operate with significant program reductions.
  • YJ Impact’s Israel programs (Amirim, Birthright, WUJS) will continue, provided they do not create a drain on Young Judaea’s financial resources.


  • Young Judaea will engage an Education Director who will (a) develop training materials for volunteer-led local, year-round activities, and develop mechanisms for dissemination; (b) work with the shlichim to provide educational support for year-round activities; (c) renew the centralization of the curriculum of the camps.
  • The national senior advisor (currently the “director of youth leadership”) will continue as liaison to the youth leadership of the movement.
  • Young Judaea will continue to participate in the ATID partnership with the Tsofim and the Federation of Zionist Youth (FZY) in Great Britain. Our financial support of Atid qualifies us for subsidies from the Hagshama Department of the WZO which exceed their cost. Young Judaea will notify the American Friends of the Israeli Scouts (Tsabar) that it can no longer provide direct financial support.


  • Young Judaea will reduce its Mishlachat from nine positions to six, effective with the new program year (approximately 8/15/09).
  • During the school year, the shlichim will serve primarily as recruiters for Young Judaea’s Israel programs, and secondarily, will provide educational support to volunteer-led year-round activities, as noted above. They will not serve as club advisors.
  • During the summer, each shaliach will be assigned to one of the Young Judaea camps, where s/he will assume a leadership role in designing and implementing the camp’s educational program.

Israel Programs

  • Many aspects of Young Judaea’s Israel programs will be redesigned, to account for the possibility of reduced registrations in the near term, given the economic constraints on potential constituents.
  • Any changes will be guided by the following principles: The continued primacy of the safety and security of participants; Excellence in all programmatic offerings; Operating programs which are financially self-sufficient or, preferably, which generate modest surpluses that help to make possible programmatic offerings elsewhere in Young Judaea.

Judaean Youth Hostel

Hadassah has been considering the sale of the JYH for over a year, as one option to resolve financial difficulties which have arisen from the operation of the building as a for-profit entity, as required by Israeli law. This consideration is not a reaction to the current world-wide financial crisis, nor to the Madoff situation (though both have exacerbated the urgency of this matter). Rather, it is the result of a thoughtful ongoing process of examining all alternatives.

Any decision on this matter is to be made by Hadassah’s National Board. The Board will address this at its next regularly scheduled meeting in mid- January. It is likely that further information will be available after that meeting. In the interim, the building has been appraised and very preliminary discussions with potential buyers are being held.

Hadassah is committed to Young Judaea’s Israel programs and will not make any decisions which will compromise their quality. Any contemplated sale will be conditioned on timing which permits the orderly transfer of Young Judaea’s programs, as well as its Jerusalem headquarters, to suitable alternative space.

In Conclusion

All change involves a measure of loss, and Young Judaea is acutely aware that these changes will be difficult—even painful—for many people, especially those talented and loyal staff whose jobs have, of necessity, been eliminated.

At the same time, we recognize in our increasing reliance on peer and volunteer leadership a return to our roots as a movement. We are heartened that Judaeans and their friends, allies and supporters have a long history of rising to whatever challenges are demanded by the occasion. We look forward to your help and support in accepting these requisite changes, and in working together to forge an even stronger Young Judaea going forward into our next hundred years.

Rabbi Ramie Arian, National Director

Shelley Sherman, Coordinator Young Judaea Division