(JTA) — World Bnei Akiva, an Jewish Orthodox religious youth movement, will no longer require its European counselors to be observant.
Reflecting the ongoing secularization 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 counselor. It contained a clause demanding signatories observe halacha, or Jewish law.
“In some European communities, it became impossible to operate because there were no observant counselors,” Roi Abecassis, World Bnei Akiva’s secretary general, told JTA. “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.“
In a statement, World Bnei Akiva said it will continue to require that counselors lead observant lifestyles in “large, established Jewish communities.”
Separately, World Bnei Akiva said it was expanding its operations in Ethiopia, where the movement said that it currently has hundreds of members. Eight counselors from Addis Ababa and Gondar will attend the World Bnei Akiva Convention next year in Jerusalem.
World Bnei Akiva hosts biweekly meetings and activities in both Ethiopian cities, it said.