Eastern Canadian Region USYers join over 1,000 teens in Washington for annual international convention.
TORONTO — More than 1,100 teenage members and advisers of United
Synagogue Youth gathered at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in
Washington, D.C., late last month for the 58th annual USY International
USY is the high school affiliate of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism.
Among the attendees were 26 eastern Canadian region USYer’s from Hamilton, Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto. During the convention, which took place Dec. 21 to 25, participants explored the educational theme of Israel at 60 in workshops, informal classes and group activities.
One of the convention’s speakers was Cory Schneider, president of the Women’s League for Conservative Judaism, who received the USY Alumni Award.
Eric Lynn, the top staffer on Jewish affairs for U.S. president-elect Barack Obama’s campaign, addressed the teens about the importance of Israel advocacy.
Mazi Melesa, of the North American Conference on Ethiopian Jewry, also addressed the convention, as part of the induction ceremony for USY’s Abraham Joshua Heschel Honor Society.
“Throughout the past 58 years, USY has provided a positive forum for social, educational and religious programming for thousands of teens,” said Jules Gutin, USY director. “The annual USY International Convention allows nearly 1,000 teenagers at once to share experiences and learn from each other about both the current events of today as well as the events that have shaped the Jewish people.
“Having the educational theme focus on Israel allowed our teenagers to explore a topic which is relevant and evolving, yet was explored in Judaic texts centuries ago.”
Participants spent time on Tuesday, Dec. 23, volunteering with Bears from Bergenfield, a New Jersey-based organization that collects new and gently used stuffed animals and sends them to Israel to comfort children affected by terror.
Convention director Karen Stein said that “part of our objective is to teach the Jewish values of gemilut chasadim, performing acts of loving-kindness for others, and tikkun olam, literally, repairing the world.
“It is also nice to make a positive impact on the community while teaching our youth the importance of helping others, regardless of their faith or race,” she added.
In addition to activities related to the convention theme of Israel at 60, there were leadership workshops and committee meetings dealing with political action programming, chapter and regional communications and social action programming.
Convention delegates elected officers to the 2009 USY International executive board. David Helfand of Leawood, Kan., was elected to the office of president, succeeding Adam Berman of Bexley, Ohio. Maxwell Marmer, of Shaar Shalom Synagogue in Thornhill, Ont., was elected to serve as the international communication vice-president.
Marmer’s region, Eastern Canadian Region United Synagogue Youth, won an award for raising the most money per capita for SATO (Social Action/Tikkun Olam).
“It’s hard to name just one or two highlights,” said Stein. “The whole convention has such a positive energy that comes from all the experiences, ideas and activities.
“The impact can last for months, even after the convention is over. When USYers go back to their regions and chapters, they give a real boost to the level of programming and involvement in USY.”
In keeping with its commitment to outreach, USY holds the convention in a different city each year. In December 2009, the convention will be in Chicago.