United Synagogue Youth

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USY Logo
United Synagogue Youth
Abbreviation USY
Formation 1951[1]
Type Youth Organization
Purpose Hookups
Headquarters New York, NY 10017
Location
  • 120 Broadway, New York, NY 10271
Region served
North America[2]
Membership
15,000[2]
Dictator
Ron Packin
President
Noah Lee
Main organ
International Executive Board, International General Board, International Youth Commission,
Parent organization
United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism (USCJ)
Affiliations Conservative Judaism
Website http://www.usy.org/

United Synagogue Youth (USY) is the youth movement of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism (USCJ).[3] The goal of the movement is to inspire Jewish youth to explore, celebrate and practice ethical values, Jewish Living, Zionism and community responsibility based on the ideology of the Conservative Movement.[4] USY’s focus on leadership, social action, and relationship building has produced successful alumni with a deep sense of pride in and love for their Jewish identity. Also, through year round programming and domestic and international travel opportunities, USY provides meaningful, immersive Jewish experiences, helping teens integrate Jewish rituals and values into their everyday lives.[5] The organization was founded in 1951, under the auspices of the Youth Commission of what was then the United Synagogue of America.[1]

USY operates in the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Uganda, spanning 300 chapters. It is estimated that there are between ten and twenty thousand USY members - known as USYers - as of January, 2014. Kadima (Hebrew for "Forward"), the pre-USY program has a membership estimated to be approximately five thousand. USY is available to Jewish high school students, and Kadima is available to Jewish kids in grades 6th-8th, and even 3rd-5th in some locations.

Food served at USY programs is kosher and the organization is Shabbat-observant. USY holds daily services, performing them with ruach, or spirit, expressed through singing and dancing.

History[edit]

In 1948, Beth El synagogue in St. Louis Park, Minnesota started the first USY chapter. Its purpose was to provide for the social and spiritual needs of its teens. Soon, other synagogues began following suit. In 1951, USY became formalized nationally and held its charter convention, which brought together over a thousand USYers. In the few years that followed, almost all of the modern regions became shaped.

In 1961, USY launched its inaugural USY on Wheels summer bus tour across the U.S.

In 1964, Kadima was officially created as a separate entity for pre-USY-age kids, who would go on to join the high-school age USY program.

In 1979, USY established the Abraham Joshua Heschel Honor Society. Named in honor of prominent rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, the Honor Society would further encourage USYers to learn more about Judaism and the observance of Mitzvot.

In 2010, USY and NOAM Olami began their joint biannual leadership conferences.

In 2011, attendees to the International Convention in Philadelphia set the Guinness World Record for the most dreidels spinning simultaneously.[6]

In 2014, USY launched the USY Mission to Cuba and TivnUSY summer programs.

In 2015, USY launched its flagship "USY DREAM" trip to the Dominican Republic.

Structure[edit]

USY has three main levels of entry into the organization, the chapter level, the regional level, and the international level. The larger HaNegev and METNY regions are also split into sub-regions and divisions, respectively.

Chapter[edit]

The chapter is the most basic organizational level of USY. The chapter primarily provides social programming and periodically provides religious, educational, and community service-based programming. Social programming ranges from lounges and movie nights to pool parties and paintballing. Religious, educational, and community service-based programming includes mock-seders, Israel education, and volunteering at a local soup kitchen. All programming is planned by the Chapter Board with the assistance of a professional advisor. Typically, a given chapter's name is an acronym of the synagogue or city in which the chapter is based followed by the letters "USY". For example, the "Moriah Congregation in Deerfield" chapter is shortened to "MCDUSY". Chapters are associated with a USCJ-affiliated synagogue. There are an estimated 300 chapters.

Regional[edit]

Regions consist of chapters in the same geographical area. Chapters gather for bi-monthly, quarterly, and annual regional events, such as weekend-long kinnusim and conventions, and week-long encampments. Because regions are larger than chapters, regions may provide such programs not possible at the chapter level. There are 16 USY regions.

Sub-Regional/Divisional[edit]

Larger USY regions are occasionally split into sub-regions or divisions. The sub-regions and divisions act much like regions, overseeing their respective chapters, and holding their own conventions and elections. Currently, there are two regions, HaNegev and METNY, with sub-regions or divisions. HaNegev's sub-regions are each led by a three-person executive board, and METNY's divisions are each led by a six-person executive board. HaNegev's three sub-regions are Arvot (South Florida), Mercaz (North and Central Florida), and Ein Gedi (Florida Panhandle, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, North Carolina, and South Carolina). METNY's three (previously four) divisions are Emek (Hudson Valley), Sababa (Manhattan, Queens, and Brooklyn), and Ruach (Long Island).

International[edit]

On the International level, USYers from all over North America and Canada come together for weekend-long kinnusim, International Convention, and summer programs. The International Board is composed of the 6-person Executive board and their committees. These boards are elected at the International Convention, which takes place every December, and the members serve for 1 calendar year, unlike chapter and regional boards which are elected in mid to late Spring and serve through an academic year.

Programs[edit]

In addition to chapter, regional, and international events, USY provides a host of supplementary trips. The trips range in duration from anywhere between a week to a year, and in geography from North America to Israel and Europe.

USY Summer Experience[7][edit]

USY runs simultaneous four-to-seven-week summer programs across North America and Europe. The trips through Europe culminate in Israel.

USY on Wheels is a six-week bus tour throughout the continental United States, Canada, and Alaska. Participants have the opportunity to spend the summer touring over 30 states and visiting America's greatest landmarks, including the Grand Canyon and Pier 39, as well as the countries most obscure destinations, such as the Corn Palace and an alpaca farm. The program's goal is giving teens the opportunity to understand what it means to be a Jew no matter where you go. Participants stay in both hotels and home hospitality. Participants keep Kosher and celebrate Shabbat and other Jewish holidays throughout the summer. Other options include, a four-week east coast trip (Wheels East), a four-week west coast trip (Wheels West), and a two-week trip visiting colleges in the Northeast (Campus Edition). Additionally, Pacific Northwest is three-week trip that includes two-weeks on the West Coast and a one-week Alaskan cruise, and USY Mission to Cuba is a one-week trip in Cuba, particularly Havana. All trips include a mix of grades.

USY's trips to Israel, USY Israel Pilgrimage, consist of an optional week in Poland or Eastern Europe followed by a month in Israel, learning about Jewish communities and the Shoah. The month in Israel has one of three different focuses: tourism, social action, or IDF simulation in Gadna. Pilgrimage trips visit every major city and region, including Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, Tiberias, Beersheba, and Eilat. In addition to city life, the program incorporates many hiking opportunities and outdoor experiences, in areas including the Golan Heights, the Jordan River, the Galilee the Mediterranean Sea, Masada, the Dead Sea, the Negev, the Red Sea, and archaeological digs of ancient Jewish civilization, all led by professional tour guides.

International Convention[edit]

Hatikvah 6 frontman Omri Glickman performing during USY's 65th annual International Convention in Baltimore.

International Convention (IC) is USY's largest gathering that is held annually during the winter school vacation season for five consecutive days. The Convention includes regional delegations totaling approximately 700 teenagers ages 14 –18, plus an additional 150 staff members. The location changes from year to year, covering several USY regions over a period of a few years.

2015 International Convention Co-Chairs Aaron Albuck and Samara Wyant during their Opening Session skit.

Year to year programing changes; however, most notably in 2015, the critically acclaimed Israeli Reggae and Rap group Hatikva 6 performed an upscale concert, Ruth Messinger spoke, and the convention coordinated a peaceful rally to stand in solidarity with the community of Baltimore. Additionally, USYes participated in day-long Advocacy Bootcamp centered around the convention's educational theme. The theme, ”Think More. Do More. B’more” was, according to Rabbi David Levy, "chosen by our team of teenagers independent of any outside influence." The educational platform focused on inspiring USYers to create an immediate impact in their world. During convention, the co-chairs Aaron Albuck and Samara Wyant were quoted as saying, "Too often, USYers are told they are the future of the Conservative movement. USYers are more than just the future... they are the present." The convention asked, אם לא עכשו, אמתי If not now, when? Saying that now is the time for advocacy.

The 2016 International Convention was held in Dallas, Texas (SWUSY Region) on December 25–29, 2016. During the week of the Convention, USYers participated in community service, leadership, religious, educational, cultural, and social programming. The 2017 International Convention will be held in Chicago, Illinois.

Past International Conventions please note that prior to 1963, International Convention was a faction of EMTZA Region USY. It was not until the creation of other monetary regions in 1963 that International Convention took the form it holds today. For purposes of this table, International Convention's location and chairpeople will start from 1963 although the first convention was held in 1950.

Year Site of Convention Chairpeople
1963 Chicago Sharon Perlman and Ed Schechter
1964 Chicago Lewis Ginsberg and Mindy Abramowitz
1965 Washington, D.C. Mark Braverman & Judy Lasker
1966 St. Louis Mark Braverman & Barbra Cutler
1967 New York City Barbra Cutler & Jonathan Fenster
1968 Chicago Scott Jacobson & Arthur Magin
1969 Buffalo Steve Rockoff & Billy Tilles
1970 Atlanta Myron Edelman & Steve Salinger
1971 Washington, D.C. Stuart Blumenthal & Billy Klein
1972 Boston Michael Klayman & Amy Ripps
1973 Los Angeles Lisa Isaacman & Arnie Sherrin
1974 Washington, D.C. Joel Ticatch & Beth Levenson
1975 Chicago Bob Bagoff & Marcia Tatz
1976 Orlando Debbie Katz & Cheryl Kelman
1977 Toronto Heidi Aronin & David Lowenstein
1978 Cherry Hill Judy Kunoff & Marc Shandler
1979 Rye Judy Kunuff & Eric Sherby
1980 Los Angeles Norman Katzoff & Sharyn Salamankolopololis
1981 Arlington Lori Schrecter & Ira Snyder
1982 Chicago Sammy Karliner & Marty Kunoff
1983 Cherry Hill Bennett Kaplan & Sheri Wexler
1984 Tampa Jonathan Draluck & Debbie Hite
1985 Toronto Adina Ben-Seez & Ivan Wolnecj
1986 San Jose Hope Tanhoff & Roger Woodman
1987 Baltimore Bobbi Berenbaum & Adina Cohen
1988 Chicago Josh Kulp & Jeff Meyers
1989 Philadelphia Brian Cohen & Billy Padnos
1990 Tampa Kenny Baer & Jeremy Wlederhorn
1991 Boston Joshua Gruenberg & Amy Nedow
1992 Baltimore David Linder & Beth Tritter
1993 Irvine Debbie Cohen & Josh Einhorn
1994 East Brunswick Jeff Fox & Anne Levenson
1995 Toronto Jeremy Gordon & Paul Tritter
1996 Orlando Jennifer Baerman & Yehuda Gruenberg
1997 Philadelphia Ari Greenfield & Blayne Ross
1998 Chicago Bobby Hanson & Ilana Siegel
1999 San Jose Dani Greenspan & Seth Wax
2000 Boston Gabi Gershowitz & Matt Rossoff
2001 Washington, D.C. Miriam Osadchey & Elana Kieffer
2002 Orlando Sarah Kay & Hillel Gruenberg
2003 Toronto Ariella Gutin & Gabe Berkowitz
2004 Chicago Shayna Hirsch & Jeremy Rietman
2005 Philadelphia Tova Fishman & Zach Berkowitz
2006 Boston Ross Broms & Josh Goldberg
2007 Anaheim Jordan Soffer & Davey French
2008 Washington, D.C. Jake Stoehr & Ezra Moses
2009 Chicago David Chaim Wallach & Chelsea Wagner
2010 Orlando Sarah Tudzin & Max Beede
2011 Philadelphia Ellie Carr & Shira Goldstein
2012 Boston Adam Rosen & Danielle Levine
2013 New Orleans Jake Wassermann & Gabby Roth
2014 Atlanta Ori Brian & Shayna Plotnick
2015 Baltimore Aaron Albuck & Samara Wyant
2016 Dallas Noa Rose & Harrison Steier
2017 Chicago Jeffrey Gold & Sami Lynn Ronik

College Program[8][edit]

Nativ is a challenging academic year program dedicated to creating and inspiring the Conservative Jewish leaders of tomorrow. Nativ, which means “path” in Hebrew, provides a unique opportunity to explore new directions on the journey to becoming a Jewish adult. From September to May, Nativ participants are immersed in the rich and diverse society of Israel, exploring the land and enjoying a fulfilling Conservative Jewish lifestyle.

The program includes academic university classes, intensive Hebrew classes, Judaic and Yeshiva studies, and innovative leadership training. Nativ is split into two semesters: one in Jerusalem and one in a youth or immigration village. Nativ enables recent high school graduates to earn college credits for their studies while living in a classroom without walls.

Nativ provides the freedom for personal discovery as well as the security of a carefully structured program. This experience is created through an intricate balance between academics and volunteer work, learning and teaching, personal challenge and community living.

Interest Clubs[edit]

USY offers three interest clubs for USY members, the Abraham Joshua Heschel Honor Society, HeChalutzim, and the 613 Mitzvah Corps.

Abraham Joshua Heschel Honor Society[edit]

The Heschel Honor Society is a club for USY members of secular and religious academic excellence. The club is named after prominent theologian and activist Abraham Joshua Heschel. Members meet during regional conventions to discuss topics that Heschel wrote about. The Heschel Honor society holds an annual three-day, text-focused convention every March.

Chalutzim[edit]

Chalutzim (Hebrew for "the pioneers") is a club for USY members interested in Israel affairs and Religious Zionism. Members of HeChalutzim convene for regional weekends and special programs. In addition, a delegate from each region is sent to Israel with the Hechalutzim Israel Seminar. The name of the club was changed from 'HeChalutzim' to Chalutzim around 2016.

613 Mitzvah Corps[edit]

The 613 Mitzvah Corps is the Social Action and Tikun Olam club within USY. The goal of the club is to provide members with the tools to take action, and to help raise funds for causes meaningful to members. Membership in the 613 Mitzvah Corps costs $6.13 and must be renewed each academic year.

List of Regions[edit]

Name of region Details of name Areas covered President
CHUSY Chicago USY Northern Illinois, Milwaukee, and Madison Michael Rubin
CRUSY Central Region USY Ohio, Western Pennsylvania, Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, and West Virginia Sarah Borow
ECRUSY Eastern Canadian Region USY Toronto, The GTA, Hamilton, London, Montreal and Ottawa Molly Pascoe
EMTZA USY Hebrew: אמצע, "Middle" Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Western Wisconsin, and Manitoba Elliot Schochet
EPA/Hagesher USY Eastern Pennsylvania USY Hebrew: הגשר, "The bridge" Philadelphia, Main Line, Bryn Mawr, Bucks County and Southern New Jersey Eastern and Northern Pennsylvania from Harrisburg to Scranton Amanda Gottlieb
Far West USY Southern California, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Hawaii, and Utah Ari Tecktiel
Hagalil USY Hebrew: הגליל, "The Galilee" Northern and Central New Jersey and Staten Island Hannah Eiger
Hanefesh USY Hebrew: הנפש, "The soul" Connecticut and Western Massachusetts Uri Cattan
HaNegev USY (Sub-Regions: Arvot, Mercaz, Ein Gedi) Hebrew: הנגב, "The Negev" Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Southern North Carolina, South Carolina, Barbados, and Puerto Rico. Alan Imar (Sub-Regional Presidents: Jacob Needle, Arielle Frank, Julie Budd)
METNY USY (Divisions: Emek, Sababa, Ruach) Metropolitan New York USY Greater New York City and Long Island Zachary Zabib (Divisional Presidents: Omer Neutra, Tamar Kellner, David Glickman)
NERUSY New England Region USY Eastern Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine Joey Wolpert
New Frontier USY Northern California, and Reno Dalia Tabibian
Pinwheel USY Pacific Northwest USY Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, British Columbia, Alberta, Yukon, and Alaska Juliana Sherer
Seaboard USY Maryland, Washington, D.C., Virginia, and Northeastern North Carolina Hannah Wandersman
SWUSY Southwest USY Texas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana Kira Seelig
Tzafon USY Hebrew: צפון, "North" Upstate New York, and Southwestern Vermont Talia Morchower

Leadership[edit]

USY stresses youth leadership involvement on all levels of the organization, to help further empower members in their Jewish journeys. USY holds regional and international board weekends to help train new leaders in their positions. Positions may be obtained by election or by appointment. Regional and international board members are expected to maintain a level of Jewish observance.

In addition to serving on chapter, regional, and/or international boards, select USYers may be nominated to attend conferences in various countries, including Israel and the UK, to learn about the Conservative/Masorti movement around the world, and to strengthen cooperation with sister youth organizations.

Regional Executive Board[edit]

Each region has a Regional Executive Board (REB), which serves as the region's cabinet, tending to its region's needs across the year. An REB typically consists of a President, and five Vice Presidents: Israel Affairs VP (IA), Religion/Education VP (Rel/Ed), Social Action/Tikun Olam VP (SA/TO), Membership/Kadima VP (Mem/Kad), and Communications VP (Comm). Some regions incorporate an Executive Vice President and/or Parliamentarian position. In regions that have Divisions or Sub-Regions, Divisional or Sub-Regional Presidents are automatically granted REB member status.

International Executive Board[edit]

On December 28, 2016, International USY Voting Delegates at the 66th USY International Convention voted the following 6 members onto the 2017 International Executive Board (IEB) into office.

  • President - Noah Matthew Lee (Far West)
  • Israel Affairs Vice President - Joshua Benjamin Bienstock (ECRUSY)
  • Religion/Education Vice President - Jared Rogers (METNY)
  • Social Action/Tikun Olam Vice President - Joshua Evan Eiger (Hagalil)
  • Membership/Kadima Vice President - Isaac Bensignor (METNY)
  • Communications Vice President - Zachary Rick MonteLeon (Hagalil)

International General Board[edit]

The International General Board (IGB) is a group of committee members selected and appointed by the International Executive Board in the first month of the new year. To be considered for a position on the International General Executive Board, an applicant must agree to keep standards and create an extensive application.[9] The 2017 IGB is as follows:

IC Co-Chairs:

  • Jeffrey Gold (Far West)
  • Sami Lynn Ronik (HaNegev)

NOAM Olami Partnership Coordinators:

  • Alan Imar (HaNegev)
  • Gabrielle Zwi (Seaboard)

Summer Experience Outreach Co-Chairs:

  • Dina Doctoroff (Hagalil)
  • Matan Kogen (Hagalil)

Israel Affairs Committee:

  • Libby Fern (Emtza)
  • Eitan Goldmeer (Tzafon)
  • Maya Wassermann (Hagalil)
  • Zach Zabib (METNY)

Religion/Education Committee:

  • Mira Berenbaum (Far West)
  • Jacob Deane (METNY)
  • Sophie Libow (HaNegev)
  • Juliana Sherer (Pinwheel)

Social Action/Tikun Olam Committee:

  • Gabriella Cooperman (CHUSY)
  • Rachel Coskey (Pinwheel)
  • Kira Seelig (SWUSY)
  • Joey Wolpert (NERUSY)

Membership/Kadima Committee:

  • Hannah Eiger (Hagalil)
  • Shawn Konichowsky (Hagalil)
  • Murray Lebovitz (HaNegev)
  • Molly Pascoe (ECRUSY)

Communications Committee:

  • Bayle Goldman (SWUSY)
  • Julius Sheinman (HaNegev)
  • Jonathan Silverman (Hagalil)
  • Lily Smith (Emtza)
  • Dalia Tabibian (New Frontier)

Alumni Outreach Chair:

  • Mikayla Golub (METNY)

Chapter Engagement Chair:

  • Ilan Cohen (Seaboard)

Famous Alumni[edit]

USY has produced over 250,000 alumni, many of which have gone on to be doctors, lawyers, rabbis, synagogue presidents, and Jewish educators.[10]

See also[edit]

  • Kadima - the pre-high-school program of USY
  • Camp Ramah - a network of Conservative Jewish summer camps across North America and Israel
  • Nativ - the post-high-school gap year program operated by USCJ
  • United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism - the organization of Conservative Jewish synagogues in North America
  • Koach - a now-defunct, college campus organization affiliated with Conservative Judaism
  • Conservative Judaism - a leading modern denomination of Judaism
  • Judaism - the religion of the Jewish people

References[edit]

External links[edit]