Is the Young Israel Movement No Longer Young? A Thought on the 100th Anniversary

The National Council of Young Israel is celebrating its 100th anniversary this week. But the movement, created to respond to the “new” needs of young American Jews, is now under a cloud because of both management issues and policies which don’t square with many of its members. 

Some of these issues aren’t relevant to me, such as the franchise issue, which raises the question if a synagogue withdraws from the movement, who owns the resources of the synagogue. 

Others are front and center within the Orthodox community, such as whether a convert can serve as a synagogue president. 

But this week, the biggest issue seems to be the extent to which the Young Israel movement is responding to new realities.  As cited in the Jewish Week, there is a fear among the Young Israel leadership that new trends, or for that matter, taking new realities into consideration, will diffuse the commitment to Orthodoxy. 

Well, in looking for a good metaphor for this, I perused the Young Israel movement’s website.  Though I think the site is done nicely, I was surprised to find a button that said “Gilad Shalit.” I was even more surprised to find a counter recording Shalit’s time in captivity on that page that has continued moving forward (today at 1964 days), despite the fact that Shalit was released after 1941 days.  Has the movement simply ignored the new realities?

In anticipation of the hundredth anniversary I would put these questions (which I acknowledge I don’t have any answers to) to the Young Israel movement:  At what point do we have to recognize a new reality, and are we better off just continuing to do the same thing over and over again?    

Hopefully, on its 100th birthday, the Young Israel movement can come up with some answers to these difficult questions. If not, they might not make it to 120.