Hal Ungar appointed to new Young Judaea national inaugural board of directors
Hal Ungar, a local attorney, and lifelong member of Young Judaea has been appointed to the national inaugural board of directors, charged with revitalizing the 103-year-old institution. A split with the national Hadassah executive board was announced in early July, making Young Judaea an independent organization for the very first time. “I like to think of this phase as a transition and not a separation because Young Judaea will never truly be separated from Hadassah,” wrote Ungar in response to questions from the CCJN. “We are pleased to have two past national presidents of Hadassah serving on the inaugural board as well as members of Hadassah’s current leadership. Their insight, guidance, and leadership will not disappear,” he noted.
Ungar, the son of Hadassah national board member Roselle Middleberg Ungar, was first exposed to Young Judaea because of her involvement with the parent organization. Like his mother who advanced from local to regional to national involvement with Hadassah, Ungar’s work with Young Judaea chartered a largely parallel course. He began as a member, but later attended Tel Yehuda, the National Teen Leadership Camp and participated in the Year Course in Israel program, a year-long gap program for high school graduates. Local board positions gave rise to regional ones and culminated with a national board positions
Inspired by his mother’s ability to balance a professional career and Jewish-related commitments, Ungar hopes to make a difference on the new board. He is a Kittiwake alumnus as is Alabama’s Melanie Topper, also named to the board.”What once worked is now inadequate,” he continued. “I consider the reinvigoration of New Orleans Young Judaea, historically one of the strongest YJ nucleus’ outside of the Northeast, to be one of my uptmost priorities,” Ungar wrote.
The CCJN followed up with other questions:
CCJN: What do you see the board will be doing to reinvigorate or re-invision YJ?
Ungar: YJ is on the precipice of its new future. As a newly independent entity, YJ has the ability now to regroup, reevaluate and map a plan for the 21st century. Youths today are different than they were 25 years ago. Technology has changed the way people from different states interact. The older youth movement models must be modified to adapt to these changes and this new board is prepared to tackle that task head on. Further, the support, leadership and guidance provided by Hadassah throughout the movement’s history cannot be understated. Moving forward without Hadassah offers challenges both structurally and financially, but there is strong support for Young Judaea from both alumni and major foundations in the Jewish community.
CCJN: What else?
Ungar: The new board is inspired and motivated to reconnect with the movement’s alumni not only to raise funds but to reinvigorate the base, to establish new initiatives for alumni, and to seek the advice of its many accomplished and talented alumni in the communal, academic, and corporate worlds. The alumni can all attest to the significant impact the movement has on the lives of Jewish youth. I know that I can.
CCJN: What do you see as the biggest challenge facing Young Judaea?
Ungar: I think the ultimate challenge is to inspire youths today to get involved in Jewish youth movements, to motivate 16-year-old adolescents to forgo staying at home over the summer for a three-week or six-week or eight-week experience at Camp Tel Yehudah or through a leadership program of Tel Yehudah. Renewing relationships with alumni and marketing the movement are the first steps in this process. YJ is not affiliated with a synagogue or other Jewish organization like NFTY with the Reform movement or USY with the Conservative movement. Today, we are finding that the need for a pluralistic experience for teens is essential and is in demand. People are affiliating less and many teens value interactions with kids from a variety of backgrounds.
CCJN: Do you feel the current environment of anti-Zionism, particularly as expressed in the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS) movement will make recruitment difficult?
Ungar: Young Judaea has always been about education, debate, and leadership. I believe that – in the face of pressures like BDS – the need for positive dialog is even greater. That is one of many reasons why Young Judaea is so important today.