Young Judaea, a peer-led Zionist youth movement that saw the closure of
its West Coast summer camp in 2009, is starting to see a resurgence in
A case in point was the election of El Camino Real Charter High School junior Maccabee Raileanu to Young Judaea’s national teen board on Feb. 18, during the organization’s national midwinter convention in Atlanta. Raileanu’s peers elected him mazkir (president) of the Young Judaea teen board. He will serve for one year.
“I was interested in the role because, ever since getting seriously involved in the movement about three years ago, I have wanted to be the most involved that I possibly could,” Raileanu, 17, said in an email.
Raileanu attended the organization’s national Camp Tel Yehudah in upstate New York from 2014 to 2016 after being awarded a fellowship that subsidized his attendance at the camp and provided training in how to return to his community to build local programming for his peers.
“I have so much love, passion and ideas for Young Judaea,” he said, “and I felt my experience of being the L.A. mazkir has trained me well to move up to the next level and lead the entire movement.”
Founded in 1909, Young Judaea operates year-round programs, an Israel-based gap-year experience for incoming college freshmen, Camp Tel Yehudah, regional camps and other activities.
Los Angeles events are regularly drawing 15 to 20 people, compared with just three people as recently as 2015, Sharon Schoenfeld, Young Judaea’s director of U.S. programs, said in a phone interview.
The organization is spreading the word about renewed local presence by increasing its relationship with The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles.
“I keep in touch with the L.A. Federation and if they’re doing something with teens, I ask them to let us know, so we can be part of it,” Schoenfeld said. “If something’s happening in the community, it’s important our kids know what that is and be involved. … We are trying to be very thoughtful about how we’re building it and what we’re doing. It’s still in its infancy right now.”
Schoenfeld said she hopes people understand that, whatever their views about Israel, the camp is pluralistic and nonpartisan.
Zionism is “a hard word nowadays, but as a pluralistic Zionist youth movement, we don’t necessarily tell people what it means to be a Zionist, we don’t tell kids how to be a Zionist,” she said. “We try to open minds to all sorts of ways of celebrating Israel, learning it and being part of it … going there and being active for it. We don’t tell them this is the way you have to be.”
Young Judaea is currently accepting applications for the latest cohort of its fellowship. The deadline is April 1. For additional information about how to apply, email firstname.lastname@example.org.