Young Judea Celebrates its Independence Today

Young Judaea has taken hold of its own future as its longstanding sponsor, Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, today sets it on the road to independence.

Last June, the national board of Hadassah voted to turn the 103-year-old Zionist youth movement into an independent, not-for-profit entity,  “so that it could more fully fashion its own destiny in a changing youth landscape.” Long regarded for its leadership training, pluralist ideology and activism, Young Judaea serves 5,000 Jewish children, teens and young adults annually through U.S. camps and Israel programs.

Hadassah National President Marcie Natan said it took a year to complete the separation, and although the timing is notable, it was not planned to coincide with the Fourth of July.

Young Judaea Board President David Bechhofer said generations of movement graduates offer tremendous appreciation to Hadassah for the opportunities it has given – and will continue to give – American Jewish youth.

The new entity will be run by a professional staff under Inaugural Executive Director Simon Klarfeld, who was hired in December to set up operations and envision the next century of youth engagement with Israel. A board of directors is in formation and will be announced in the coming weeks. A smaller Founding Board has been overseeing the changeover. As part of the plan:

  • Young Judaea will undergo a staff restructuring to enable it to operate as an independent national organization.
  • Hadassah, which has been Young Judaea’s sole sponsor since 1967, will provide transition funding for three years. During that time, Young Judaea will reach out to its network of alumni as well as foundations and other major donors to secure funding for growth initiatives, scholarships and grants, and capital improvements and expansion at Tel Yehudah, its national teen leadership camp in New York, as well as Camp Judaea in North Carolina, Camp Young Judaea Midwest in Wisconsin, Camp Young Judaea Sprout Lake in New York and Camp Young Judaea Texas.
  • Current camp and Israel program participants can expect a seamless transition.
  • Hadassah units will continue to raise scholarship funding to make Young Judaea’s summer and year-round programs increasingly available to all Jewish children.
  • Young Judaea will remain based at Hadassah’s New York headquarters as it finalizes arrangements for new office space.
  • The organizations, whose missions are closely linked, plan to stay connected through Hadassah participation on boards and committees of Young Judaea, educational programming, scholarship fundraising and other initiatives.