How the young choose party affiliation


Almost every Saturday night, Jewish twentysomethings have their pick of a party - and all in the cause of helping others. Once the preserve of club promoters, the "Jew do" has become the domain of the young charity committee.

Organisations across the board, from UJIA to MDA, have teams of young professionals bringing younger donors into the fold via a profusion of parties, quizzes or networking nights.

With seven committees tailored to different corporate areas, Young Norwood has been running for six years and now boasts a full-time manager. That makes it an old-timer. In the last year, more charities have been getting in on the act.

Joining a committee is often the next natural step after graduation, especially for those who were part of youth movements or campus Jewish societies. Yet until recently, there was "a massive gap in the way that people could stay involved", says Young MDA's Debra Sherman. "There was no next step until you were wealthy enough to attend large charity dinners."

Some have longstanding family connections to the charities. Others just want to "do something productive". Cara Melzack is a member of Y-UJIA, launched recently with a fireworks night bash. She says she decided she should be doing more in terms of charity work and felt that a committee would be "the perfect platform".

The events are the only things that draw the community together

With a growing emphasis on tikkun olam and charity at Jewish schools and youth movements, the recent boom in young do-gooders is hardly surprising. Equally, charities are aware they must look to the future.

"We are an age group that can't be overlooked," says Young Langdon member Hannah Manson. "We are starting to earn and we spend mostly on socialising, rather than on kids and mortgages. But we aren't going to attend expensive dinners or set up annual donations. This model is the obvious solution."

At Norwood, the contribution of the committees is considered "a really important part of fundraising," stresses YN manager Nicola Graham. She says they are "building the next generation of donors, volunteers and ambassadors".

And although some young people might make a contribution anyway, Debra Sherman feels others "might not get round to it" without the push of committees.

"They may not be able to raise funds on the same level that the 'parent' committees raise. But they can still do their bit."

What do young event guests learn about the charities? There are usually appeal videos and, even at clubs, leaflets are handed out showcasing the organising charity's work. Even if partygoers are hazy on the details, increased name recognition can be a benefit, particularly to smaller organisations that rely on their junior supporters to spread the word.

"When we are making serious decisions about who to give money to, we will at least know a bit," Debra adds. "And for the members themselves, the hope is that they will later become patrons and major donors."

Young WJR chair Coral Summers says it is not just the future of the charities that the committees aim to preserve. "Jewish continuity isn't a primary objective, but it's definitely a side effect."

In Manchester, Gary Freeman chairs the UJIA Kef committee, set up a year ago, which recently held a free event.

"Raising money is not the primary objective," he explains. "We are there to spread the name and, more importantly, to get people involved in Jewish life."

Kef's events have attracted support from Leeds and Liverpool and Gary feels it is vital to show that it is possible to enjoy a good Jewish social life in the north. "People used to say that there was nothing going on here, so they had to move to London. The idea is to show that's not true."

For Londoners, it is what Young Afikim chair Rebecca Masri terms the "social element" that brings people to parties week after week.

"The young events are really the only things that draw the community together, where people can meet other like-minded Jews," she says.

Hannah Manson points out that traditional community networks such as synagogues exert less of a pull on her generation. "People know that going [to these events] may result in meeting other Jewish people. That's not embarrassing - it's good."

However, the new Jewish social scene does not come cheap. A bar night might be £15, including one drink; a supper quiz could be £20 and a networking night £50 - and that's before the appeal, raffle and fares. All the committees emphasise that they try to keep prices down and some offer concessions.

Nicola Graham reasons that as events need to be profitable, "we've got to have the ticket price high enough. But we don't want to eliminate people. We have to be very careful striking the balance."

Young Langdon's Dan Rickman says the group tries to come up with "quirky" fundraisers - "at our first event we had a karaoke band playing. Whatever the cause, you have to do something appealing."

WJR avoids clubbing nights, because "not everyone enjoys them". Recent events for other charities have included musical bingo (Young One Family), a silent disco (YMDA) and a football tournament (Kef). But it is a competitive market. "Finding a date when another charity isn't hosting an event is a complete nightmare," Coral Summers admits.

She dismisses fears of market saturation, maintaining: "Throw in a free cocktail, and you're laughing.

"There'll always be people who want something to do on a Saturday or Sunday night."

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