How St. Louis teens are discovering the Israeli Scouts


Ninth graders at the yearly Tzofim camps in Orlando, Fla.

NOAM BUCH, Eighth grade, Saul Mirowitz Jewish Community School

Although small, the Israeli community is rapidly growing across the United States. With hundreds of new Israelis moving to the United States every year, many may feel homesick in a new culture and environment. Even miles from home, the Israeli Scouts offer youth the opportunity to connect with Israel.

 The Israeli Scouts, or Tzofim, is a co-ed youth to youth movement that originated in Israel in the early 20th-century. Today, more than 90,000 kids are enrolled in the Israeli Scouts in Israel. With the rise of the Israeli Diaspora across the United States, the Friends of Israel Scouts (FOIS) was founded in 1995. Today, over 300 kids aged 9-15 are enrolled in the FOIS across the United States and Canada in over 26 cities. 

Ephrat Lichtman, the executive director of the FOIS, explained the Israeli Scouts and its mission. 


“The purpose of the Israeli Scouts is to strengthen ties for Israeli American kids and teenagers to Israel, to strengthen their Hebrew language, Jewish identity and their Zionist identity,” Lichtman said.   

One unique aspect of the Israeli Scouts is that it is a youth-to-youth movement, “meaning the people who lead the activities for the kids are teenagers,” Litchman said.

Lia Lev, a counselor at the Israeli Scouts and a junior at Parkway North High School, reflected on how being an Israeli Scouts counselor helped her gain responsibility and maturity. 

“It has taught me a lot of responsibility because you have to realize that you’re going to see these kids and make an activity that benefits them,” Lev said. 

Ilai Kielmanowicz, a freshman at the University of Missouri, participated in the Israeli Scouts for six years. Kielmanowicz attributed many of his moral values to the Israeli Scouts. 

“It really helped me develop internal motivation and intrinsic values,” Kielmanowicz said. “If I wanted my chanchim (Hebrew for campers) to have a good time, I had to work to make sure it happened. I had to sit down and make the activities, I had to sit and really think [about] what would enrich them, not enrich me,” Kielmanowicz said.

Kielmanowicz is not the only one who believes that the Israeli scouts greatly impacted them. A poll conducted by the FOIS found that over 80% of the counselors in the Israeli Scouts stated that the movement significantly helped improve their leadership skills. 

In the same poll, over 60% of participants expressed how their closest friends come from the Israeli scouts. 

“It showed me a new sense of community,” Lev said. “The people at Tzofim are some of my closest friends.”

Many involved in Tzofim enjoy attending the yearly camps. Counselors from across the East Coast gather for five days and learn how to become better mentors and meet other Israeli American kids from across the country. 

“It was refreshing to meet old friends that you haven’t seen in over a year,” Kielmanowictz said. “It was special to see all 600 people wear their Tzofim uniform and just meeting the wider community.” 

As the Israeli community continues to expand across the country, many wonder what the future of Tzofim is going to look like. 

“I hope to see more communities appear,” Lichtman said.One of the things that we are working on is how we can keep and strengthen the Hebrew language and how we can include kids who are not technically Israeli into the Israeli Scouts.”