The UK branch of Orthodox youth movement Bnei Akiva has stressed that it will not be affected by a decision of the global organisation to allow non-observant Jews to be madrichim (youth leaders).
World Bnei Akiva made its decision after reflecting on the ongoing secularisation of European Jewish communities.
The change in policy was decided on last month in Manchester, UK during the annual conference of European representatives of World Bnei Akiva.
A large majority of representatives voted to scrap the written commitment that previously was a prerequisite to becoming a madrich or madrichah. It contained a clause demanding signatories observe halacha.
“In some European communities, it became impossible to operate because there were no observant counsellors,” Roi Abecassis, World Bnei Akiva’s secretary general, told the JTA news agency.
“We were faced with a choice: Stop working in large parts of Europe, or continue with the aim of bringing people closer to mitzvahs. We chose to continue.”
However, Hannah Reuben, Mazkira (National Director) of Bnei Akiva UK, told Jewish News: “We would like to stress that this does not affect any of the programming or policies of Bnei Akiva UK.
“All Bnei Akiva UK Madrichim must be observant in accordance with our halachic requirements, as decided by our Rav. We are proud to have a large and established community in the UK, and are heading into our 80th birthday year as the leading youth voice for Religious Zionism.”
World Bnei Akiva said it would continue to require that madrichim lead observant lifestyles in “large, established Jewish communities”.
Meanwhile, World Bnei Akiva said it was expanding its operations in Ethiopia, where the movement said that it currently had hundreds of members.
Eight madrichim from Addis Ababa and Gondar will attend the World Bnei Akiva Convention next year in Jerusalem.
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