Wannabe football star wants to kick Bnei Akiva into the 21st century

By Adam Cailler

ADAM Waters could have been a footballer. For the 29-year-old Arsenal fan once had a trial at Wycombe Wanderers.

The new chief operations officer for Bnei Akiva said: “I realised very quickly that I was half-decent at football for a Jew, but doing my A-levels and further education was a better option.”

Adam, the son of Vivien and Mancunian Eddie, still has the sporting bug.

He completed Sunday’s London Marathon in four hours and 21 minutes — but he would have liked to have achieved a better time.

But now he has turned to more serious matters, such as bringing Jewish youth movement Bnei Akiva into the 21st century.

He said: “My aim is to make it a more modern and professional organisation. We need to embrace technology in order to help BA grow.

“Since I first became involved in the organisation in my early teens, it has not evolved much, which is part of the issue.

“We have core values and an ideology, and a yearly calendar of events, but it is no longer that exciting to go to a field in North Wales.”

Youth movements, in general, face becoming irrelevant or not needed due to competition from technology, social media and other activities.

But, for Adam, they are still “incredibly” relevant.

The brother of Alex, Shmuel and Naomi explained: “They just need to have a different focus.

“Bnei Akiva inspires and empowers young Jews with a sense of commitment to the Jewish people, the Land of Israel and the Torah. We are always trying to promote Israel.

“In fact, the largest portion of those making aliya comes from BA.

“We are the biggest youth movement in the country and the bridge between the modern world and Orthodox Judaism.”

Adam’s journey with BA was not the most positive one.

As a youngster, he admits he “hated” it because all he wanted to do was play football.

Adam, who read war studies at Birmingham University, said: “At BA, I would have to run away from the leaders to play football.

“One of my friends, Jonathan Sherman — who was best man at my wedding to Sabrina — used to schlep me along to a Shabbaton every year, but apart from that I didn’t have any real involvement until I was 19 at university.

“They needed some male leaders for a winter camp and my friend persuaded me to go along to help.

“I enjoyed it and, two years later, I was on the mazkirut (leadership group).”

But, his pathway to becoming a full-time member of BA took a slight detour . . . through Singapore.

And it was all thanks to Arsenal FC. During his gap year, aged 18, he was a coach for one of Arsenal’s football schools, which involved spending five months in the UK working in schools, teaching and coaching, then another five months in Singapore.

He managed to continue his Judaism while in the Far East, attending a communal seder at the country’s only synagogue.

It was after finishing his role with Arsenal that he became a member of the mazkirut as technical director.

But those positions usually only last one year, as is standard with most youth movements.

He later joined Yavenh College, London, as the assistant co-ordinator of informal Jewish education.

Adam, who plays for Scrabble FC in the Maccabi GB Southern Football League, recalled: “I am very passionate about working with children.

“I like being able to educate and children are great fun. The older you get the more boring education becomes.”

Despite having two teachers as parents, Adam admits he could not become a teacher now because it would be “too rigid”.

His career would return to football in 2014 when, after a brief stint as BA’s campaign manager, he was headhunted by Super Soccer Stars to become regional co-ordinator.

“It is a American company run by an Argentinian Jewish guy,” he explained.

“They coach 20,000 kids a week in America and were looking to start up in London, so they hired me to launch the company.

“I ran the camps, classes, nurseries etc, with coaching available from the age of one. We called it a pre-football movement class.

“There was always an element of kicking, but worked on changing direction, understanding instructions etc.”

His career has come full circle as he is now chief operations officer for Bnei Akiva. The role is a newly created one, which Adam sees as “vital” in ensuring the future of the movement.

He said: “The mazkirut positions are only there for one year.

“This is a problem when, for the winter camp, the person organising it is appointed in September and the camp is eight weeks later.

“My role will now ensure that things are not so rushed, have continuity and will make things easier for the new leaders.”

And, on the topic of new leaders, Adam also had his say on who should take over from Arsene Wenger at his beloved Arsenal.

“I think it should be Patrick Vieira, but I’ll settle for Luis Enrique,” he said.

© 2018 Jewish Telegraph