‘I’m Right, You’re Wrong’ – The Great Youth Movement Debate

Written By: Kendyll Jacobson (Mazkirah, National Director)

So if stereotypes were anything to go by, Netzer’s answer to the proposed topic would be something along the lines of ‘we’re all right’ or ‘nobody is really wrong’ but in reality, that’s not happening. Not today, today (and always) Netzer is right and here is why.

Netzer – for those of you who still don’t know – is the Reform Zionist, Progressive Jewish Youth Movement. Adam Klass, that means we are Jewish. We keep Kosher, we keep Shabbos and celebrate all chaggim the way all Progressive Jews and most secular Jews do.

Netzer has a base group of about 100 channichim in our three regions that attend events during the year and our summer machaneh in Cape Town. This group is made up of Progressive Jews, a few Orthodox kids and those in the Conversion process. Some years we also get interest from non-Jewish kids who go to Jewish day schools or who have a Jewish grandparent, some sort of connection; whatever their history we are not the ones to deny them the experiences offered on machaneh. Every applicant knowingly agrees to keeping shabbos and kashrut as well as learning about Zionism, Israel and Judaism. So our channies are the first reason why we are right, so, so right. We live in a modern society which has the need for a place like netzer where Jewish children and children with some pull/draw to Judasim/Zionism are able to come together to, inevitably, be the life and blood of a movement. Where else do you find that?

So okay, we have the best channies, we know this. But there is so much more to Netzer that no one really knows about until you are a part of it.

Netzer’s ideology used to take the form of 14 very long and wordy platform points or principals. As of January 2015, we have reevaluated and restructured it into a user friendly, less wordy document. The three main themes of being Progressive Judaism, Reform Zionism and Olam Metukah (a world which we are perfecting). This ideology firstly serves as our connection. A connection to our peers in Germany, Australia, even Russia. We all know and follow the same ideals thus creating this worldwide family with kilometers between them yet we don’t feel it. These points show us what it means to be a progressive Zionist youth.
This model takes the form of a flow chart with eight annotations. This chart shows we are Jews therefore, we are Zionists. We are Zionists, therefore we are Reform Zionists, therefore we are Progressive Jews. We are Progressive Jews and therefore we strive for Tikkun Olam. We strive for Tikkun Olam and therefore we believe in Olam Metukah.

Basically to summarise all that, each aspect that makes up our Jewish lives is because of something and a reason for something else. All of our parts work symbiotically to make up our whole. Now show me another ideology that can explain our existence and purpose in three points?!

This model also answers the question of why.

We are progressive Jews, why are we progressive? We are progressive because we believe in gender equality, pluralism and find Progressive Judaism to be the most logical extension of Judaism.

We are Reform Zionists, why are we Reform Zionists? Because we believe it to be the most logical extension of Progressive Judaism, we see Israel as the ultimate destination for living a fulfilled Jewish life, we promote Aliyah Nimschechet as a practical way to fulfill our Progressive vision. So why is this Reform Zionism? We believe in Israel, her right to exist and defend, the Israel we support is not necessarily the Israel in terms of the biblical boundaries but rather the Israel as a refuge of peace and safety for Am Yisrael, the Jewish People. By loving, supporting and defending Israel we are in turn accepting the right to criticise her in a hopes to eventually make her perfect.

Netzer Olami is greater than the sum of all its parts, Netzer South Africa is not exception to that. Though we are small in numbers, we are big in Koach. Netzer is right because we get Judaism right by being Jews in the 21st century, Jews who follow Torah and the law and customs yet have balances that with the ever evolving times we live and grow in today. We get Zionism so right by standing with Israel yet not idolizing her to the point beyond reality. We are realistic supporters of Eretz Yisrael, of the Zionist dream, of the family we are a part of. We get living an informed, active Jewish life right by providing for and encouraging our channichim to learn and grow by participation and experience. By truly living out our motto, ‘Nilmad V’an’nah Aseh’, ‘We Will Learn and We Will Do’, we SHOW our channies how to achieve this enlightened Jewish life.

Ideology, beliefs and differences aside, if I was asked to give ONE reason why Netzer is right (and therefore everyone else wrong) it would be this:
At Netzer South Africa we pride ourselves on our human factor. We focus on each and every chanich/a, madrich/a and boger/et. Not  one person isn’t given the time to shine, not one persons’ story goes untold. That’s seems a lot easier when you don’t have 500 channichim to work with, but trust me, even in a group of 20 that is hard. We have found our balance between the Divine, the Torah and all our ideological factors and the Human.
In Pirkei Avot, Hillel says:

“If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, what am I? If not now, when?”

If ever we could be summarized to a Torah quote, this is it.

Yes, Netzer is right and therefore it is highly probable that you are wrong and that is okay. Netzer is for the movers and shakers, the dreamers and believers, for those who dare to be different. We are the chalutzim of Netzer, of inclusivity, of living for today, of our society and we are here to stay.

*Originally written and presented as part of the 2015 Zionist Youth Council Debate in Johannesburg, 16 June 2015.