Young Judaea, the youth arm of the Zionist women's organization, Hadassah, has a new merchav manager (merchav is Hebrew for district).
Jonathan Emanuel is responsible for youth group events including local meetings, conventions and Shabbatons, in a region that covers Washington State down to the Bay Area, with a focus on the Northwest.
'I also work with the national office that runs Israel and national youth programs,' he explained to me by phone from Portland where he is based, 'and I'm co-director of the camp.'
Camp Young Judaea West recently relocated from Oregon to Ocean Park, on Washington's Long Beach peninsula. One of five YJ camps, it runs from June 18 to July 7 this year (www.cyjwest.org). It's the same camp Emanuel attended as a teen, and he credits that experience as both camper and counselor with his career choice.
'It's one of the things that really shaped me toward Jewish communal work,' he says.
Emanuel emphasizes that the organization and the camp are pluralist ' not affiliated with any branch of Judaism. The camp is kosher and Shabbat observant, 'in order to accommodate a wide variety of Jews. We try to cater to everyone.'
Young Judaea is 'a peer-led movement,' explains Jonathan, 'so I work directly with teens who lead the clubs, as well as with social action and Jewish identity awareness and development.'
YJ builds connections to Israel through the Mahon program for high school and college age students, and the Year Program for college grads.
'I myself went through [the Year Program],' explains Emanuel, noting that there are now 400 alumni, many of whom make aliyah or work in the Jewish community. 'The best way to build support of Israel is to send people there.'
After the Year Course, he stayed in Israel to explore and study, returning home to the Bay Area to be a Hebrew school teacher. He then served as director of teen programs at the Greater East Bay Jewish Federation.
When he heard about this job, 'I jumped on it.' Working for YJ 'completed the circle. It was where a lot of my skills came from.
'However,' he deadpans 'I had to move to Portland.' He and his wife, Cara Buchalter Emanuel, a Hebrew teacher and calligrapher who is originally from New Mexico, are slowly getting used to the cold and damp.
'I do love it here,' he says. He and Cara are immersing themselves in the community.
Jonathan will be in Seattle on March 16 for a camp information meeting. For more information call Asher Hashash at (425) 221-2371.
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The Pacific Northwest region of United Synagogue Youth made an impressive showing at the organization's international convention in January. Seventy-seven delegates and staff joined 1,200 participants in Philadelphia, making it the largest per capita delegation of any region.
One delegate was Seattle native Jacob Slosberg, 18. The Congregation Beth Shalom member was elected the international Social Action-Tikkun Olam Vice President. This is the second year in a row a Northwest region member was elected to international office.
The convention theme was community service and aiding those with disabilities, which dovetails nicely with Slosberg's new post.
'I am the executive officer in charge of all social action projects,' he explains, including fund raising in support of a wide range of charitable projects, and overseeing social and political action projects.
'We raise about $350,000 and donate to Jewish non-profit organizations around the world,' continues the Northwest School senior. 'There are 17 regions and there is a chair for each region. I oversee each chair,' making sure everyone has the right amount of resources.
Slosberg is excited that USY is branching out into political action. He represented the organization on a youth social action council for Mazon: The Jewish Response to Hunger, and he's helping educate USYers about Darfur so they in turn can educate others. He hopes USY will have a delegation at the April 30 Darfur rally in Washington, D.C.
A major project is making sure the organization's social action handbooks get distributed.
'My predecessor did a huge job of updating all the fundraising handbooks from the 1980s,' he points out, noting that the handbooks were considerably out of date. 'Part of my job this year is to get them out to people.'
In addition to all this, Jacob still manages a full schedule of studies. He also works part-time as a bike mechanic at REI and he volunteers at a Columbia City non-profit called Bike Works, where at-risk youth learn bike repair skills.
When he has time, 'I do everything outdoors. I ski and I backpack and climb.'
Following graduation, Jacob, the son of Mark and Carol Slosberg and the brother of Jessica and Leia, plans to attend Nativ, USY's Israel leadership program and study at a Conservative yeshiva there. He will return to school in the States after that, but he's not sure which one.
'I'm looking for a future in journalism and environmental studies,' he says.