Joe Woolf was Mazkir 2017-19. Here are his final thoughts in the role.
It is now more than seven years since my first experience with FZY, and the time fast approaches for me to step aside. But I still have 24 hours, and I would appreciate it greatly if you could humour me for one last time.
There are some things that I won’t say in this speech, but it doesn’t mean that they’re not important. You can take it as read that FZY was a central part of my teenage years. You can assume that it shaped me as a person, that it gave me a range of skills, and that it shaped my Jewish identity and my relationship with Israel. You know, because I’m standing here now, that I stuck around long enough to become Mazkir, and you know also that I ended up sticking around for a second term. All of that, you know.
Two years ago, I outlined a vision for the movement that we grew up in. We took the reins and we began to enact the changes that we wanted to see. We weren’t always successful, but here are the three goals that stood out.
One. We wanted to strategically reshape the movement. We looked at programming at each age and at each level, and we tried to turn a range of distinct programmes into one, fluid, FZY journey.
Two. We wanted to grow membership of the movement, and we wanted the members to take more ownership over their movement. We talked a lot about ‘your movement’, not ‘our movement’.
Three. We wanted to build upon the work of the previous movement teams. In particular, we wanted to build on the brilliant community partnerships that were being created, and we wanted to place FZY at the forefront of conversations that take place today about what it means to be young, Jewish and Zionist.
Keep these three things in mind, and now I’ll explain how we went about the work of achieving them.
In terms of innovation, we introduced a couple of new programmes. Ofek summer camp has now run for two years, so that we have camp chanichim aged 12, rather than waiting until 14. We also have run the inaugural Kesher USA programme for 15 year-olds. The idea is that our camps follow a progression as our chanichim get older. The other idea is for 15 year-olds to spend time with an ideological youth movement in the summer, rather than on a surf camp abroad. This is growing our membership and it is helping to build an FZY journey.
Then there is Chavurot Seminar. We spell Chavurot with a ‘C-H’ at the beginning, which meant that the nickname for Chavurot Seminar was unfortunately ‘Chav Sem’. One of the best things about Chavurot Seminar is that it was entirely the idea of some of the Bogrim – and it’s brilliant to watch the impact that members are having on the movement itself. This is members taking ownership of their movement.
Not that we were always successful. We also tried to innovate with IBEX, which was supposed to be an Israel Tour for a community that no longer is excited about run-of-the-mill Israel Tour. We struggled to recruit. Even so, we still believed in the principles, and we worked this year to incorporate some IBEX-style programming into Israel Tour.
The next part of the story is less about innovation and more about building on the work of previous teams. Netina – the Ghana programme – has a full cohort for its third year. And the Diller Teen Fellows programme is about to recruit for its fourth full year. Building upon the Hadracha programme, we’ve written full curriculums and we’ve added an overnight Shabbaton. These have also helped cement a more fluid movement journey.
The other things we want to shout about: last year’s Year Course cohort had 19 participants; Bogrim Seminar this year is going to Barcelona, following Rome and Budapest; and Livnot has now finished four successful years over eight different campuses. Veida has had over 50 delegates for two years now, also.
But you’re humouring me, not FZY, so here’s what I’m proudest of… I’m proudest of the two campaigns that our members have run over the last two years. In 2018, over 200 people raised £6000 to recommission the repainting of a part of the Berlin Wall, removing anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist graffiti. We called it Paint Over Prejudice. In 2019, we raised £2000 to help towards the rebuilding of one of Europe’s oldest shuls in Ukraine. We called it Ukonnect. Both campaigns also allowed us to take some members across Europe and engage with Zionism throughout the European diaspora. I learned so much on these experiences, and I know that the members have been energised by them.
So that’s what we did. And I mean ‘we’. All of this couldn’t have been possible however without three groups of people: Our members, the movement and shlichim team and our community partners.
I apologise in advance because I won’t be able to mention everyone. Instead, here are some thank yous…
Thank you Dagan. Dagan has been our central Shlicha for four years. She has worked tirelessly to develop education in the movement. More than that, she has been the rock that has held the movement together at times.
Thank you Omer, even though you’re already back in Israel. Omer was Northern Shlicha for two years. She has been a vital part of our community in Manchester and Leeds, and she has inspired so many people in the movement.
Thank you Jessie. Jessie has done one year of formal movement work, but she has been giving up her time and energy for much longer. She has run summer camps and Netina so, so smoothly, and she is such a role model to so many young people.
Thank you Josh. I beat Josh at tennis this morning. He’s been tour co-ordinator for two years, and he has been passionate about making sure the movement is always striving to be the best it can be.
Thank you Ruth and Naomi. They both have been the backbone of everything that happens behind the scenes at FZY. They both work so hard around the clock – and they should both know that we would be absolutely nothing without them.
And thank you Joel. Joel works literally all hours of the day and night. Joel has helped the team so much, but he also takes a step back to allow us and the movement’s members all to grow and thrive, and we couldn’t be more grateful. The movement is lucky to have Joel.
If you think that’s the end of it, you’re wrong. The last thank you goes to the members, because they are the reason that FZY is the movement that never stops moving. Watching our members grow up has been an honour. Every time that members reach out to us with ideas, or each time they want to chat, or each time they come to seminars or events, they are wildly impressive. They are full of passion and energy, and their beliefs are so energising.
In a piece I wrote a while ago for the Young Zionist, I wrote that my job was to make FZY your movement, their movement. And then they, the members, pass it on to someone else, leaving it in an even better state than the one they found it in. There are two inspirations for this. One is the New Zealand All Blacks rugby team. How do you motivate the best team in the world? Each player is told to leave the shirt in a position more honourable than the one they inherited it in. The second inspiration is the Rabbi Tarfon quote that has been over my desk for two years, from Pirkei Avot. ‘You are not obliged to finish the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.’ You – members – keep doing the work, keep passing it on into the hands of passionate young people.
Imi Wise is Mazkira 2019-20: Here are some of her thoughts as she starts her term.
With our summer programmes finally coming to an end, and (almost) 500 participants safely back in the UK, we can finally reflect on what a successful, challenging, rewarding and jam-packed year its been. Nothing abnormal for a youth movement, but it is important to look back and see all we have achieved, nonetheless.
First things first – the vision. I had been planning on running for Mazkira for a relatively long time, but it was only when I got down to speaking to past movement workers, and current members where I was really able to hone in on my vision for the upcoming year. When doing this, there were three words which kept on coming up; active, engaged, and inquisitive. It is these three words that explain the what, the why and the how; it is only through engaging our members, to question what it is they care about that will get them to be real activists, and truly live out the principle of hagshama.
To me, youth empowerment and activism are two of the most important parts of a youth movement. That is what my vision surrounds; turning FZY into a bunch of empowered, inherently active Zionists. By making members passions at the core of our education, and the centre of our programmes, we can finally tap into the huge potential we have to be real activists on campus, in the community, and in our day to day lives. For me, it only takes a look at the current political climate, both here and abroad to show the necessity for this is far more vital now than ever before. Whether members want to actively help the fight in combatting antisemitism, actively try to preserve and commemorate the heroic stories of Holocaust survivors, or actively try to bring more attention to Israeli fashion designers and artists. If we can harness this mindset to ‘actively do’, we will start to make changes, no matter how small.
We only have to look at the past two years to see that FZY has already made transitions towards this concept. The successful campaigns in both Berlin, and more recently Ukraine show the potential our members have to make remarkable differences. It is this passion and this stimulation that I want to foster more than once a year and make an inherent part of FZY programming and member mentalities.
This year already is set to be a busy, and exciting year. With the continued successes of our original programmes, such as Israel Tour and Year Course and the adoption of newer ones. This summer has seen huge achievements with the running of Ofek; our second ever year 7 and 8 camp, a revival of Kesher; our year 9 camp, with the number of participants more than doubling that of previous years, and our first ever cohort of year 10 students in Kesher USA; out in New York at our Young Judea partners at Tel Yehudah. With the summer just coming to an end, the overwhelmingly positive feedback we’ve had to all these programmes puts us in great stead for next year.
However our successes are not just limited to the summer, our various programmes that occur throughout the year such as Hadracha, and Diller have also been met with immense popularity and seen an inspiring set of young leaders really start to embody FZY’s principles. Its amazing to look down the movement and see so many strong future leaders of the community ready and eager to take the next step in their FZY journey, whether that’s the jump form Hadracha Aleph to Bet, or from being a camp madrich to a tour leader – knowing they all started in the same place, from the same programme is testament to the previous movement teams hard work, love and dedication.
When it comes to seminars, were now in a place where were offering more weekends away than ever before. With the introduction of Hadracha Seminar and Chavorot Seminar and the transition from a national Bogrim Seminar, to a European one, FZY’s seminars are constantly thriving. This year, Bogsem is set to be in Barcelona, where we will tap into themes and education which, I personally have not seen FZY explore before.
This year is also a significant year in FZY’s history, as it marks FZY’s 110th birthday. The comparison of where FZY is now, compared to when it was founded is impeccable, and I as well as the rest of the movement team are already looking forward to celebrating this milestone with our members and community partners. I would just like to take this opportunity to introduce the new team, most of which aren’t here but, Emma who is around somewhere, Jonny who is currently out with our Kesher USA Cohort in New York, and Anna and Ortal who are finalising preparations before flying over from Israel later this week.
To all our amazing madrichim in the room, it goes without saying that the success of FZY is indebted to you and we can’t thank you enough from taking our programmes from strength to strength. FZY is also so proud to be working with such a range of organisations that bring crucial knowledge, expertise and originality to our programmes. To all our partners in the room, I look forward to meeting with you individually and further developing relations between yourself and FZY.