United Synagogue Youth

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USY Logo
United Synagogue Youth
Abbreviation USY
Formation 1951[1]
Type Youth Organization
Purpose Religious
Headquarters New York, NY 10017
Location
  • 820 Second Avenue, New York, NY 10017
Region served
North America[2]
Membership
15,000[2]
Director
Rabbi David Levy
President
Hailee Beth Grey
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 bring Jewish teenagers closer to Judaism and Israel through learning and social interaction. 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. Board members are expected to maintain a level of Jewish observance.

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.[4]

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

Structure[edit]

USY has three main levels of entry into the organization, the chapter level, the regional level, and the international level. The large 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 17 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 lead by a six-person executive board. HaNegev's three sub-regions are Arvot (South Florida), Mercaz (North and Central Florida), and Ein Gedi (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 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]

Summer Programs[edit]

USY runs summer programs across North America and Europe, with all trips through Europe culminating in Israel.

North America[edit]

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 America's greatest landmarks and some obscure locations with the goal of giving teens the opportunity to understand what it means to be Jewish no matter where you go. Participants keep Kosher and celebrate Shabbat and other Jewish holidays throughout the summer. Options range from a classic summer experience, a community service trip, a trip to college campuses, a trip to Cuba, and a shortened trip on the east coast for those entering 8th Grade. Some nights they stay in hotels, while other times they have "home-stays" where they sleep in groups at local Conservative Jews' homes.

Israel and Europe[edit]

USY's trips to Israel, USY Israel Pilgrimage, consist of an optional week in Italy, Poland, or Eastern Europe followed by a month in Israel. The month in Israel has one of three different focuses: tourism, social action, and IDF simulation in Gadna.

International Convention[edit]

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 800 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.

The 2015 International Convention will be held in Baltimore, Maryland (Seaboard Region) on December 27–31, 2015. During the week of the Convention, USYers will participate in community service, leadership, religious, educational, cultural, and social programming.

Past International Conventions have been hosted in Atlanta, New Orleans, Boston, Philadelphia, Orlando, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Anaheim, Toronto, and San Jose, East Brunswick, Irvine, Tampa, Cherry Hill, Arlington, Los Angeles, Rye, Buffalo, New York City, St. Louis, among other cities.[5]

The 2015 IC co-chairs - the USYers selected to plan the bulk of the convention - are Samara Wyant (CRUSY) and Aaron Albuck (Hagesher).

High School Programs[edit]

USY High is an eight-week program in which high schoolers (juniors and seniors) live at the Israel Goldstein Youth Village in Jerusalem, studying and exploring Israel. In the campus classroom, participants are introduced chronologically to each historical period. Campus class time is interspersed with time experiencing the "classroom without walls" - the Land of Israel. Participants learn in an ancient cave, a mountain fortress, an army bunker, riding on a camel, or at the beach. It is the sister program of Tichon Ramah Yerushalaim (TRY), which is done by Ramah. TRY is seventeen weeks long and is for sophomores and juniors.[6]

College Programs[edit]

The Nativ College Leadership Program in Israel is a post-high school gap-year program that draws a lot of its participants from USY and who's alumni often become USY staff. Nativ's mission is to create and inspire the Conservative Jewish leaders of tomorrow. Nativ, which means “path” in Hebrew, aims to provide a unique opportunity to explore new directions on the journey to becoming a Jewish adult. From September to May, Nativ participants are immersed in Israeli society and a Conservative Jewish lifestyle.

The program includes academic university classes, intensive Hebrew classes, Judaic and Yeshiva studies, and leadership training workshops. Nativ enables recent high school graduates to earn college credits for their studies while on the gap-year program.

Interest Clubs[edit]

USY offers three 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 Abraham Joshua Heschel. Members meet during regional conventions to discuss topics that Heschel wrote about. The Heschel Honor society holds an annual convention in March. The 2012 Heschel Kinnus will be held in Washington DC.

HeChalutzim[edit]

HeChalutzim (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.

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.

Regions[edit]

Name of region Details of name Areas covered President
CHUSY Chicago USY Northern Illinois, Milwaukee, and Madison Joey Spellberg
CRUSY Central Region USY Ohio, Western Pennsylvania, Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, and West Virginia Hannah Borow
ECRUSY Eastern Canadian Region USY Southern Ontario, Toronto, Hamilton, London, Richmond Hill, and Ottawa Breanne Bornstein
EMTZA USY Hebrew: אמצע, "Middle" Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Western Wisconsin, and Manitoba Noa Rose
EPA USY Eastern Pennsylvania USY Eastern and Northern Pennsylvania from Harrisburg to Scranton Rachel Brynien
Far West USY Southern California, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Hawaii, and Utah Sam Weiss
Hagalil USY Hebrew: הגליל, "The Galilee" Northern and Central New Jersey Shelly Tsirulik
Hagesher USY Hebrew: הגשר, "The bridge" Philadelphia, Main Line, Bryn Mawr, Bucks County and Southern New Jersey Bennett Decker
Hanefesh USY Hebrew: הנפש, "The soul" Connecticut and Western Massachusetts Michael Stambler
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. Robyn Kast
METNY USY (Divisions: Emek, Sababa, Ruach) Metropolitan New York USY Greater New York City and Long Island Ethan Feuer
NERUSY New England Region USY Eastern Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine Harrison Steier
New Frontier USY Northern California, and Reno Orr Toledano
Pinwheel USY Pacific Northwest USY Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, British Columbia, Alberta, Yukon, and Alaska Sam Sherer
Seaboard USY Maryland, Washington, D.C., Virginia, and Northeastern North Carolina Hannah Smith
SWUSY Southwest USY Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Mexico Rachel Shapiro
Tzafon USY Hebrew: צפון, "North" Upstate New York, Western Massachusetts, and Southwestern Vermont Avi Presberg

Leadership[edit]

USY stresses youth leadership involvement on all levels of the organization, to help further empower members in their Jewish journeys.

Regional Executive Board[edit]

Each region has a Regional Executive Board typically consisting of a President, and five Vice Presidents: Membership/Kadima VP, Religion/Education VP, Communications VP, Social Action/Tikun Olam VP, and Israeli Affairs VP. Some regions incorporate an Executive Vice President and/or Parliamentarian position. In regions that have them, Divisional or Sub-Regional Presidents are automatically granted Regional Board member status.

International Executive Board[edit]

On December 24, 2014, International USY Voting Delegates at the 64th USY International Convention voted the following 6 members of the 2015 International Executive Board into office:[7]

  • President - Hailee Grey (Hanegev)
  • Israel Affairs Vice President - Eli Collin Krule (CHUSY)
  • Religion/Education Vice President - Micah Cowan (Seaboard)
  • Social Action/Tikun Olam Vice President - Jamie Halper (EMTZA)
  • Membership/Kadima Vice President - Marisa Lefton (Hanegev)
  • Communications Vice President - Eduardo Madero (SWUSY)

International General Board[edit]

The International General Board (IGB) is a group of committee members selected and appointed by the International Executive Board.[8] The 2015 IGB is as follows:

International Convention Co-Chairs

  • Aaron Albuck - Hagesher
  • Samara Wyant - CRUSY

Israel Affairs

  • Nathan Bishop - SWUSY
  • Daniela Rojzman - HaNegev
  • Noa Rose - EMTZA
  • Liat Wasserman - CHUSY

Summer Program Outreach Chairs

  • Adina Barg - EMTZA
  • David Rosenstein - METNY

Religion/Education

  • Evan Chansky - NERUSY
  • Cara Kupferman - METNY
  • Evan Shaw - CRUSY
  • Arielle Yacker - Hagesher

Social Action/Tikun Olam

  • Jessie Goldberg - EMTZA
  • Jenny Gurev - New Frontier
  • Sophie Sigel - Far West
  • Hannah Smith - Seaboard
  • Val Weisler - METNY

Membership/Kadima

  • Sami Ronik - HaNegev
  • Shelly Tsirulik - Hagalil
  • Josh Zucker - CHUSY

Communications

  • Eric Bornstein - NERUSY
  • Ben Shapiro - Far West
  • Ilana Weinstein - EMTZA

Masorti Movement[edit]

USY nominates and select USYers 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.

Famous Alumni[edit]

USY has produced over 250,000 alumni, many of which have gone on to be rabbis, synagogue presidents, and Jewish educators.[9]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]