Leading questions facing movement heads

By Jennifer Lipman, September 15, 2011
Annabel Green

Annabel Green

Many youth movements will be showing more of their feminine side this year.

Habonim Dror, Noam Masorti Youth and BBYO are being led by women, while two other movements have scrapped the single director system in favour of leadership teams.

The new directors include two philosophy graduates, two former Cambridge students and an ex-university level netball player.

Taking charge at socialist Zionist organisation Habonim is Cassie Matus, 23. Like a good many Habonim members, she hails from Manchester and has been involved since her pre-teens.

In common with other movements, Habonim's Israel gap year scheme has suffered as teenagers opted to start university before the tuition fees' rise. Recruiting for the next scheme will be among her priorities.

Annabel Green has taken charge at Noam. After 14 years in the movement, the New North London Synagogue congregant and former Birmingham University netball star has a more than decent idea of what members want.

We are constantly looking to add new BA events

"We've set ourselves some ambitious aims for the year," she said. "As the Masorti youth movement, we'll be building stronger connections with Noam and Masorti youth around the world and boosting the involvement in Noam of our inspirational rabbis.

"We'll also be working hard to integrate with Marom - Masorti students and young adults - to create a pathway from Noam to involvement with the wider Jewish community."

Other new initiatives for Noam include the launch of a six-month gap year programme, Drachim, and running Shabbat activities at two more Masorti communities.

Joshua Marks, 23, will spend the year at the helm of the Federation of Zionist Youth and has set the tone by slashing the price of the year programme in Israel to under £10,000. "We really want to push this," he said. "We want to show that FZY stands completely behind gap years." The former politics student began his FZY involvement at the regular local Sunday night meetings and has missed just one camp since.

His formative movement experiences have inspired him to plan more activities for younger members - last year, FZY admitted 12-to-14-year-olds for the first time.

After nearly 16 years in the movement, Bnei Akiva mazkir Alex Cohen, 22, appreciates the importance of Shabbat programming. The Cambridge graduate is committed to improving these weekly meetings as part of maintaining BA's stong educational focus. His "to-do" list includes a student tefillah service for Yom Kippur, an expansion of social action projects and an aliyah preparatory trip. "We are constantly looking to add new events to the packed Bnei Akiva calendar," he said.

New RSY director Josh Moritz brings to the role a year's experience as a development worker for the Union of Jewish Students. His time at UJS taught him the importance of developing strong links with the wider community, and one of his first moves was arranging a seminar with Reform synagogue community workers from across the country.

RSY's older members can look forward to a heritage trip to Prague, while there are plans for social action activities for Mitzvah Day in November.

Hanoar and LJY-Netzer have opted not to employ a director but to be led by teams with different but equal responsibilities. Hanoar previously had two full-time office workers, but will now be run by five part-time leaders, who are either at university or working. "This dynamic breakaway from the old model has allowed us to create far more specific roles," explained Ed Nyman, who will divide his time between Hanoar and his philosophy degree at Nottingham University. In order to ensure the smooth operation of the new system, he'll be working as the "movement co-ordinator". It's a model which has worked well for LJY-Netzer over the past year and the organisation will once again be in the hands of a team of four.

Last updated: 4:41pm, September 21 2011