Young people are struggling to afford the cost of Jewish activities

By Simon Rocker, March 13, 2014

Young people are struggling to afford the cost of Jewish activities.

The economic downturn since 2008 had presented an “increasing challenge” for youth organisations, according to a commission set up by the Jewish Leadership Council.

Youngsters interviewed for a report published this week said they wanted reduced fees for the young adult/post-university age group to enable greater participation in community events.

The rise in university fees along with the economic climate had made the £10,000-plus cost of gap years in Israel unaffordable to most.

Around 100 people were due to go on a gap year with a youth movement this year, significantly short of the 150 estimated to be necessary to fill the leadership ranks of youth movements on their return.

While the annual take-up of month-long Israel summer tours at 16 remained high — more than 50 per cent of non-Charedi British Jewish youth — some parents struggled with costs of up to £3,000 . Families who fall just above the level where their children would qualify for tour bursaries were felt to be most affected.

More than one in three organisations said that they had had to cancel an activity at least once in the past five years because of a shortfall of funds available.

Overall, youth organisations were felt to be doing a good job, according to one communal professional.

More than 80 per cent of participants in youth activities found the experience positive. But there were problems in keeping young people involved after Israel tour or after they left university.

“There are few opportunities for continuing involvement in youth provision, especially within the youth movements, after the age of 16, unless young people want to become leaders,” the report stated. Very little was offered for those after university.

The commission, chaired by UJIA trustee Jeremy Isaacs, was set up amid concern from Jewish leaders that “many young people in the UK reach adulthood without a strong Jewish identity and without a relationship with Israel”.

The commission wants to see more professional back-up for youth groups in areas such as marketing and use of social media, along with greater partnership between schools, youth movements and synagogues.

Former UJIA chief executive Lord Kestenbaum has agreed to chair a group to implement its recommendations.

“It was long the assumption of the Jewish community that Jewish identity would be transmitted from one generation to another as a matter of course and that you didn’t need a vision on this issue,” he said. “But unless we place the question of young people at the heart of our community’s concerns, we won’t have a viable community.”

    Last updated: 6:45pm, March 13 2014