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In 1912, a group of fifteen young men and women in New York City established the first Young Israel organization. Their purpose was to make traditional Judaism attractive to Jewish youth and to increase their Jewish education and awareness. In 1915, Young Israel opened its first model synagogue. The new synagogue featured decorum during services, a sermon in English, and congregational participation and singing. By 1998, Young Israel had some 150 affiliated branches in the U.S., Canada, the Netherlands, and Israel, serving about 25,000 member families. Each Young Israel branch conducts services in its own synagogue, in strict conformance with traditional requirements. All branches offer an educational program for all age groups, placing particular emphasis on traditional Judaism. The National Council of Young Israel maintains the Young Israel Institute for Jewish Studies. Its youth department trains future leaders of the movement and sponsors the Young Israel Boy Scout Troop. Its employment bureau specializes in securing positions for Sabbath observers and part-time or vacation jobs for youngsters in school. Its armed forces division extends material and spiritual aid to Orthodox boys in the U.S. armed services. Young Israel supports major Jewish relief agencies throughout the world and the rebuilding of Israel. The official publication of the organization is the Young Israel Viewpoint.

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