President’s Column: Young Judaea in V Formation
The teenagers of the Northeast and Southeast Leadership Cabinets of Young Judaea were deeply troubled. How could they celebrate Thanksgiving when three months after Hurricane Katrina evacuees were still living in temporary homes, surviving on the bare minimum? The week before the holiday the Young Judaeans rented four trucks—one leaving from Boston, one from northern New Jersey and two from Atlanta—and made 24 stops in 10 days, picking up nonperishable food, books and toys. The teens themselves were too young to drive rental vehicles, so staff members, most of them former Judaeans, got behind the wheels, traveling day and night, heading south through Judaean strongholds from Massachusetts to the Carolinas to Florida. Everywhere they stopped, other Young Judaeans met them and added to the bounty. In the end, 18 Judaeans, aided along the way by hundreds of others, delivered 800 boxes—gifts of love—to the Noah’s Ark Relief Center in Jackson, Mississippi.
At the same time, in the disadvantaged seaside city of Bat Yam, near Tel Aviv, Young Judaea Year Course members were working in a soup kitchen. The cook for the shelter was so impressed that our diaspora Jewish youngsters had postponed college to volunteer in his town that he offered to prepare a gourmet meal for them and to show them a few cooking tricks. There, too, the Judaeans were troubled. Living for the first time away from home, they appreciated the offer but were uncomfortable being recipients in a needy town without giving something back. So they showed up for dinner with a gift—$1,200 that they raised to help defray the cost of feeding the hungry men and women who eat daily in the soup kitchen.
I’m in awe of these young people. what moves me most is the image of Judaeans on both sides of the ocean deliberating over plans for helping the needy and then acting on them. Where did they learn this when so many of their peers think primarily of themselves? The values come from their homes—your homes. Through word and example we make the effort to instill love of humanity and a spirit of giving. Some knew, for example, that their parents had contributed funds, directed by Hadassah to the United Jewish Communities, to help hurricane evacuees, many of whom had lost homes and were dislocated twice, first from New Orleans, then Houston.
But I believe that the ability to act quickly on an idea, to get organized and to execute bold plans, comes from Young Judaea. By the time Young Judaeans are in high school they have practical experience carrying through programs. They have felt the joy of the special bonding friendships that come from working together for a cause, just as we do in Hadassah.
My heart swells with pride over their good deeds and I’m doubly pleased that we have built a brand new home for Young Judaeans in Israel. The run-in period for their new home on Masuah Hill in Jerusalem begins this month.
Most important, our young people have learned an invaluable lesson: You can accomplish far more working together, as a movement, than you can alone even with personal good intentions. Like Hadassah, our Young Judaea Zionist youth movement reinforces what is best in us and directs our energies to positive action.
I experienced the value of joining forces recently when I was invited to speak at the Hadassah-WIZO Canada convention in Vancouver. In New Jersey, I sometimes see flocks of geese flying to Canada. Did you know that when they fly in a V formation, they get 70 percent more power than flying alone? I feel that way among Zionists, that I’m lifted by the energy and passion of those around me. I was delighted to meet the Zionists to our north who share our values and who, by associating with Hadassah-International, support our projects in Israel. Except for a few vocabulary differences (they use words like “loonie” and “toonie” and frequently say “eh”), we speak the same language in our love for Zion and the Jewish people.
All of this, if you’ll pardon the expression, brings along some June in January. Stay warm!