FZY is the oldest Zionist youth movement in the United Kingdom, and one of the oldest surviving youth movements in the world. Founded in 1910, the name Federation of Zionist Youth dates back to 1935, when it was used to describe a new body, created to combine the Young Zionist Societies and the University Zionist Federation. The 2500 members were all of what would now be considered bogrim age and included Abba Eban, who went on to become Israel’s Foreign Minister. Many members went to serve in the British army during WWII and after the war, energies were put into the establishment of the Jewish State.
Those who remained in the movement after this event saw the need for close links between Israel and the Diaspora and in the mid 1950s FZY boasted 30 societies across the country, including in Merthyr Tydfil, South Wales!
The early Sixties however saw a period of decline to which the movement responded with a major restructuring. In 1964-65, the first Hafinjan weekly meeting societies were created that are still the backbone of the movement today.
FZY was given a boost by Israel’s triumph in the Six-Day-War in 1967 and Project 500, FZY’s Glasgow society was born at this time. FZY played its own part in the war by giving its offices over to the Jewish Agency with many of its members volunteering in Israel.
The Yom Kippur War saw another regeneration of the movement, which became dominated by the young members of the Hafinjan societies in a time when Anglo-Jewry was rallying in support of Israel.
In the late 1970s FZY began to build links with Young Judaea, its sister movement in America. In 1978, eight FZYniks joined the American’s year course programme in Israel, bringing FZY’s own year course to life.
This period saw a dramatic change in the educational strategy of the movement. Traditional lectures were replaced with activity based learning similar to today’s peulot and Israel programmes became central to the education of the movement.
Activism remained important and found its focus in the campaign for the freedom of Soviet Jewry, establishing defence of Jewish rights a prominent movement aim.
The growth of FZY’s programmes, especially Year Course, pushed further change in the movement. Returning Year Coursers brought back with them the seeds of the movements pluralistic outlook and were the driving force behind the creation of FZY’s first summer camp, Kesher.
Today FZY continues to develop in partnership with Young Judaea and the Israeli Tsofim movement in the context of the Atid framework, set up in 1997. The movement is growing with new programmes and increasing numbers each year whilst remaining loyal to the deep-rooted ideals of Zionism and Judaism. In the summer of 2001 FZY set an example to the whole world by leading nine tours to Israel despite the reluctance of Jews all over the world to go there in the time of the Al Aqsa Intifada; our Israel tours and Year Course programmes continue to grow with record numbers of participants.
For a full overview of FZY’s history, check out this piece that was put together to celebrate FZY’s 100th birthday!