National Council of Young Israel

“The aims and purposes of the organization shall be to foster and maintain a program of spiritual, cultural, social and communal activity towards the advancement and perpetuation of traditional Torah-true Judaism; and to instill into American Jewish youth an understanding and appreciation of the high ethical and spiritual values of Judaism and demonstrate the compatibility of the ancient faith of Israel with good Americanism.

The organization shall promote cooperation among the constituent branches now existing and which may hereafter be formed, establish a close bond of kinship to the end that their individual and common problems may more easily be solved, and act as the federated and central body for the Young Israel Movement so that its influence as a force in Jewry may be felt and recognized in America and the world over.”

To appreciate the role of the Young Israel movement in North America, one must understand the circumstances which led to its creation in 1912 and the forces and events which have influenced its subsequent development. For today’s religious Jews, the conditions under which North American Jewry lived during the early decades of this century are almost unimaginable. Because practically all jobs required work on Saturday, Shabbos observance was rare and typically required extraordinary sacrifice.

The primary aspirations which most Jewish parents held for their children were for economic success and acceptance in American Society, Jewish education was very low on their list of priorities, and as a result, was usually rudimentary, at best. Orthodox synagogues were exclusively Yiddish-speaking and dominated by an Eastern European atmosphere. American-raised Jewish youth who wandered into these synagogues typically found themselves shut out completely. Thus it was not surprising that many Jewish youth of the era generally avoided the synagogue, attending only when required by family custom. Although intermarriage was relatively rare, the loss of young Jewish hearts and minds to Jewish belief and practice as we understand it today was almost universal in that era.