Participants in the Institute for Youth Leaders from Abroad may only be 18 years old, but they are taking part in an educational program with a tradition that goes back over sixty years. The Institute (known as the "Machon L'Madrichei Chutz La’Aretz" in Hebrew) was established in 1946 by the World Zionist Organization, with the aim of nurturing young leaders drawn from a full spectrum of Zionist movements from all over the world.
Today there are over 12,000 graduates, prominent in Jewish life in Israel and overseas. About a third has made Aliyah and it is not uncommon for young educators within the Institute to be graduates of the program.
Although the values of the Institute remain constant, the program is also marked by an ongoing process of thoughtful innovation.
One significant new development, initiated last year, is the inclusion of a small number of young Israelis from the Galilee region in the program. Last year, there were four. This fall, eight have been enlisted. Their inclusion offers a meaningful opportunity for both overseas participants and Israelis to gain from the experience of shared study and leadership development.
In recent years, the program has also given greater attention to volunteer experiences. Each week, a number of hours (from a half to a full day) are designated for volunteer activities, which range from work with the disabled to assistance for disadvantaged populations.
Over the past two years, the program has also included a week-long journey to Poland, funded through the generous support of the Claims Conference, in which the young participants encounter a world of Judaism through travel that enables them to re-imagine a lost past and preserve an appreciation of their heritage.