Noah Levy was Mazkir 2016-17. Here are his final thoughts in the role.
My very first Shabbat with FZY was around 7 and a half years ago, FZY Israel tour orientation of 2010. I was perplexed, didn’t have much belonging, had very few friends, it’s fair to say it was a puzzling time for me; then I had to choose which service to go to. Rumours going around that the orthodox one is best because you can sit at the back and do nothing, others suggesting the alternative service because they meditate, someone else suggested reform because ‘it’s just a sing along’. Flash forward to last Shabbat, my final FZY Shabbat, Kesher 2017, I was lucky enough to sit in on three fully functioning services led by madrichim whose sole aim was to offer our chanichim different ways to celebrate Shabbat. I danced in a circle in the orthodox explanatory service, I partook in a discussion about feminism within Judaism in the alternative discussion based service, and I harmonised melodies in the reform service, albeit not very well. Then I sat in the dining hall and was simply overwhelmed by the sound of Shabbat songs sung by people from such diverse backgrounds; people from up north, people from London, Essex, Scotland, the south coast, Israel and even the security guard from Hungary sang along. This is what FZY is all about, not necessarily identifying as a type of Jew, but as a Jew.
I’d like to share with you three areas of the movement that I believe we have excelled in over the past year: inclusion, chinuch and new opportunities.
Firstly, inclusion. FZY at its pinnacle is a youth movement, a group of people who come together to celebrate their Jewish and Zionist identities. But this year, we have sought to go beyond that, we have made it a priority to do what we can to ensure we are being as inclusive as possible. Whether that is through training sessions with Keshet UK, or having pre-camp sessions about the language we use, or through the changes we are making to our application forms, we are proactive in seeking to celebrate identities rather than just accept them. One of my fondest memories of the year has got to be Veida; yeah, numbers aren’t quite the same as they were several years ago, but the quality of debate and passion of our members is second to none. But this year we introduced a ‘Veida Buddy System’ to partner experienced members, with the younger members. Because of this, we had every single member participating in debate. But what we should really be proud of, is the fact that one of the youngest members present at Veida put forward a motion to make mental health training mandatory on every pre-camp, it passed unanimously. That is the type of atmosphere we are creating at FZY, one where we empower our youngest to speak, and one where we are starting conversations about things that young people should be talking about.
The second thing that I believe FZY has excelled at this year, is the level of chinuch that we provide. Remembering that FZY is pluralist not only religiously but also politically, this year we have engaged with a number of new practical ways to explore Judaism, Zionism and Israel. On Israel tour, we created a brand-new conflict seminar, where we brought together professionals from Yachad and StandWithUs to provide expert education, which our Madrichim helped to facilitate. For our participants, it was a totally new opportunity to engage with Israel in a challenging and innovative way. At Veida we were also mandated to work with organisations who educate on minorities in Israel and who focus on co-existence projects. And on Kesher – Summer Camp – we transported Chanichim each day to different places in Israel. Over the fortnight, we ran activities that were deeply thoughtful, engaging not just with Israel and Jewish identity, but also with how these themes overlap with social media, selfies, self-esteem, self-image, and growing up as Zionist millennials. These are just a couple of examples of high level education from the past year.
The third area of FZY that has been massively strengthened is our new programmes. Hadracha aleph, for the year group after tour, was totally revamped this year. It now intensely focuses on our movement, and is tailored to educate Madrichim on this day and age. We had almost 100 participants across the country, just one of the many new mini FZY communities that we’ve built. But this year we also offered a new leadership opportunity to the UK community through Diller Teens, something that my successor will speak about later on. This summer however, my focus has been on Netina, our brand new social action project with Tzedek. Acting on Jewish values, 16 fantastic madrichim are running a 2-week summer camp in Nyankpala, northern Ghana. New opportunities such as Netina and Diller are enabling our members to solidify their FZY identity, at the same time as celebrating and acting on Jewish values.
This year has been great fun. For any ex movement workers in the room I’m sure you’ll agree, leaving movement work is not only a huge relief, but one also carries a great deal of pride that you’ve been able to shape the movement that you love in so many different ways. But for me, this wouldn’t have been possible if it wasn’t for those who helped me get here, those at UJS who helped me develop myself on campus, UJIA who provided me with hadracha, and everyone who was a part of my FZY journey. However, I want to make special reference to the outgoing movement team, Leo and Charlie. You both made the decision to dedicate two years of your life to this movement, and there have been challenges, but you’ve made it! On behalf of the movement, a massive thank you and Kol hakavod, and from me, I couldn’t have had a better team! Leo, we go back as mates for many years and we’ve followed the same FZY journey and to be honest, I’m still a bit shocked that we both ended up here, but it has been special. Charlie, you have been an absolute rock in the office, whenever I’ve needed a bit of sense and logic, you’ve slapped it into me, and for that, and everything else, I am incredibly grateful.
Dagan, shlichut is about directly implementing Israel into everything we do, you have done that plus more and you’ve always offered a positive approach and consistent reality checks for when I go off on one. Mor, although you aren’t here, the same goes for you and I know that you are going to work wonders next year as a campus shaliach. Emma Kimche and Emma Nagli, the Emmas, I can’t stress enough how thankful I am for you both, and for the care you have for FZY. And there is one more person who I wold like to thank and that is Joel, I won’t delve into detail, but FZY is incredibly lucky to have you, not only as an employee, but also as a mentor for all movement workers.
I must say, I am a little jealous of next year’s team. Things are really looking up for FZY, and I am fully confident that valuable partnerships will b