The Power of Youth Movements
By Hannah Kashman
For the last hundred years Jewish youth movements have existed to empower young people and help shape them into the future leaders of our community. Noam Masorti youth has been doing just that since 1988 and I count myself as very lucky to be one of those young people! Coming from a small Masorti community in Essex, regular Noam Club was integral to shaping my Jewish identity and making me proud to be a Masorti Jew, a fact which makes me all the more excited to announce that we have more programmes scheduled for the next 12 months than ever before! From weekly Club to Winter Camp we have something for everyone!
I often think of what my life would have been like had I not gone to Noam Club as a child and then onto Camp as a teenager…
Somewhere in a parallel universe there is a Hannah who is less engaged with her Judaism. I went to an Orthodox Jewish school and struggled to identify with the Judaism I was taught there. Club and Camp opened my eyes to a Judaism that resonated with me. Noam events were where I first learnt to engage with Masorti Judaism alongside my peers in activities that were tailored exclusively for people my age. It’s where I felt connected to those around me through prayer, where I was empowered by my madrichim (leaders) to take pride in wearing a kippah and tallit in services.
Somewhere in a parallel universe there is a Hannah who is less sure of her own voice. Going on Noam as both a chanicha and madricha taught me that what I have to say matters, that I am important, that I should be proud of who I am. On Noam people listen to and respect one another in a way that we could really do with having more of in the world. Noam is a space where young people can express themselves, figure out who they are and find kindred spirits.
Somewhere in a parallel universe there is a Hannah who isn’t part of such a loving, tight-knit community. The level of care people show one another on Noam is astounding, be they chanichim or madrichim. When I was a chanicha on my first residential Noam trip, three wonderful madrichot took me under their wing and made sure I was ok until I found my feet. Last year I was writing the dissertation for my Masters on Camp. The writing process would have been so much harder if I hadn’t have been surrounded by the many lovely people who helped pick me up whenever I was feeling low. Regardless of age, Noam has always been a place where its members emotional wellbeing is prioritised and cared for.
I know that I am not alone in feeling so welcomed in such a loving community. Every week I have been asking people to summarise in no more than 140 characters why it is that they love Noam so much. Children, leaders and parents have all responded and I have been posting their thoughts on the Noam Twitter account (@NoamUK). One mother who sent her daughter on Camp for the first time this summer said ‘Noam looked after my daughter so unbelievably well in the summer, she had fun and learnt so much. I’m so proud she is now a Noam girl!’ One boy who has been on Camp for three years in a row wrote that he ‘loves Noam because it is an amazing chance to make new friends and to become part of the Noam family.’ A female leader stated that she ‘loves Noam because it’s the only place where a fun, inclusive atmosphere is always present. No matter who you are, you’re loved & accepted.’ The positive impact of Noam is felt by all, no matter their age!
In the next month alone we will be running children services at Masorti shuls around London, relaunching weekly Club and running our half-term day camp, Kaytana. At Club we aim to provide a stimulating and exciting place for your kids to come and be with their friends. We have been planning for months now to make sure Club is the best it can be, with an amazing team of madrichim (leaders) from around the community to help out each week. It is an opportunity to engage with Noam throughout the year on a regular basis and will provide a small taste of our Summer Camp experience! On Kaytana we create a dynamic, child-centred programme with a mix of themed projects and activities in order for your child to discover who they are and begin a relationship with the Noam community. To find out more about how your child can get involved please visit our website www.noam.org.uk.
A Noam event might only last a few hours or weeks at most, but it’s impact can be felt for a lifetime. With the support of your shul I look forward to Noam playing an invaluable part in the nurturing of young people and ensuring the continuity of our Masorti community. We’re ready for a whole year of Noam fun – we hope you are too!
Hannah Kashman is the Mazkira (National Youth Director) of Noam and has been involved with the movement since she was aged 9.