By Joe Boxer, Mazkir 5777-8
A few musings.
Over the past few years, I have spoken to numerous different people who were about to take on various roles in our tnua. One of the classic questions we ask is “why do you want to be a madrich/a?” Whilst I have heard some fantastic and thought provoking ideas, more often then not, the answer is “because I want to give back.” Now there is an amazing logic in this answer, BA has given me x amount, therefore it is my responsibility to repay it in kind. In other words, “giving back,” makes BA out to be a business, I have taken a certain amount out, therefore I will give back in equal measures.
Whilst I get it and have frequently given this answer myself, I find it extremely challenging. Why? Because it presupposes no intrinsic value in the action itself. Should we not be taking on roles in BA because we care about Torah, Avodah and Aliyah, or maybe because we see an intrinsic value in youth empowerment. Are we not Madrichim because we want to be role models and educators? There are so many positive reasons to be a Madrich/a, yet we seem to focus on the reactive side. For me this gives a slightly negative feel to hadracha and seems to remove all the wonderful and amazing reasons behind getting involved.
Whilst some people may read this article and think “who cares?,” I feel however that this isn’t just me rambling on, but is actually something which has far flung and profound implications for us. First of all, is this not an alienating mentality for those who may not have been so involved in BA as a Chanich, i.e. I have nothing to pay back, so what’s my responsibility. Secondly, does this lend ourselves to a culture of guilt tripping, as oppose to you wanting to give to BA, I’m forcing you by creating this faux bank account that you have withdrawn from, but not paid into. Finally, it gives logic and a rational to the point when you have done enough. To be clearer on this, in a culture of giving back, there will be a point where you have contributed in equal measures to what you have taken. Whilst I don’t know how this calculation can be made, I feel that you will at time arbitrarily feel that your role is complete.
This is why I want to open up the discussion on why we get involved in BA programming. I personally feel that we as Modern Orthodox and Religious Zionist Jews living in the diaspora, have a strong responsibility to teach our chanichim from an ideological perspective. Why do I take camp? Because I love Israel and I love my Judaism. For me, when we say “I want to give back,” we are merely justifying why we are taking on leadership roles, we are not explaining its value. This article is not meant to be an attack on anyone that has ever made this excuse (as mentioned earlier I have done too). Heck I doubt anyone has ever thought about the implications of using this excuse. People may read this article and claim that I am merely overthinking what is a just a noble response. But I do feel that this is something that we should be thinking about. We shouldn’t be getting involved in BA out of a sense of duty/guilt, lets get involved because we value what our amazing, diverse and nuanced Tnua stands for. I’m still involved because BA is my community, it promotes an ideal that I am passionate about. It is an environment where like minded people can come together and discuss matters that are relevant and contemporary. BA values education and I have always loved the challenge of giving across chinuch in fun and creative way. Finally it’s a place were youths’ voices are heard.
So please, let me know your thoughts on this, I may be blabbing ideological rubbish above and actually misunderstanding the answer. Or let me know why you are involved in Bnei Akiva, its what the comment section on Facebook was created for.
B’virkat Chaverim L’Torah V’avodah.