By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, March 6, 2009

Madrich, according to the dictionary means guide, trainer, educator. It can also be a guidebook, or a telephone directory.

In the world of Jewish youth movements, a madrich is a youth leader. The word also has the connotations of role model, inspiration and general font of wisdom.

The madrich not only leads and runs tours, camps and programmes, but also inducts his or her charges (chanichim) into the ideology and mythology of the movement.

The craft of a madrich is known as hadrachah. Literally meaning leadership, this refers to the blend of charisma, educational nous and personal example which make a good madrich. Hadrachah also includes the madrichs repertoire of tools and skills, such as candle-lit sharing circles, and an immense collection of ice-breaking or mood-altering games, most of which seem to involve ping-pong balls.

Good hadrachah requires striking a delicate balance between authority and matiness, knowing when to break up the shaving-foam fight and when to join in.

Madrich and hadrachah both derive from derech, meaning route, path, or way of life, as in You shall teach them the derech in which they shall go (Exodus 18:20). Derech, in turn, comes from the verb darach, meaning to step or tread.

    Last updated: 12:32pm, March 6 2009