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2008 JFM


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Teen Voice

Uniting Jewish Youth.

-- Chelsea Grossman

Busses pull in to the synagogue parking lot and teenagers flood the entrance way, waiting for opportunities to hug some of their closest friends. Laughter and chatter can be heard at every corner of the flyer-covered building as luggage is dropped off and Shabbat slowly approaches. In their Friday’s best, teens from several counties sit together and prepare to show their ruach as the convention once again begins.

United Synagogue Youth, more commonly known as USY, is a youth group for Jewish teens of the United States and parts of Canada dedicated to creating an educational and entertaining environment. USY is an atmosphere where Jewish teenagers can connect with one another while supporting Israel, combatting assimilation, while performing social action and Tikkun Olam. Although open to all Jewish teenagers (even those not members of a synagogue), this organization mainly includes kids affiliated with the Conservative movement.

The general aim of USY is not only to bring meaning to Judaism through the Jewish people and the synagogue, but also through the Jewish teenager. Through USY, the Jewish teenager experiences the Jewish way of living through action and study, in hopes of reaching fulfillment and growth while reaching a new personal spiritual level. The Jewish teen also gains a sense of duty to his or her synagogue, to the Jewish community, and to the Jewish people worldwide.

The organization of USY is divided into seventeen different regions. The local region, Hagesher USY (meaning “bridge” in Hebrew), includes the Delaware Valley and Greater Philadelphia. Once a year in December, these seventeen separate regions come together as a whole unit for the USY International Convention. This International Convention has been held in a range of states, from California to Massachusetts, and is in a different city each year. Jewish teens from across the country gather for discussions, specialty club meetings, Summer Program reunions, and a great deal of socializing. The atmosphere of this massive convention is even more exciting and inviting than those of the individual regions, allowing teens to make friends from places they may never even had heard of and visit areas they had never experienced.

USYers begin an exciting shabbaton.
Beside conventions, USY also features extraordinary summer programs. “Etgar! Israel Outdoor Adventure: Israel” a five-week Israel program, allows Jewish teenagers to discover the “Israeli side of Israel” through volunteer work and challenging nature hikes. “Israel Pilgrimage/Poland Seminar” is a nine day trip spent touring prominent Jewish locations, former Jewish communities, and concentration camps in Poland before a five week trip in Israel. The Spain/Israel Pilgrimage consists of one week touring historical locations of Spain and five weeks in Israel. The Eastern Europe/ Israel Pilgrimage resembles the Spain Pilgrimage, but two weeks are spent in Europe, and four in Israel. Israel Adventure, a four week trip in Israel, includes three weeks of touring the Jewish homeland and one week in Gadna, mock army training. Each summer, USY also sends thousands of teens on Israel Pilgrimage. This pilgrimage varies in location, mood, and programming each year but teens either stay at or visit Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Eilat, Kibbutz Sa’ad, the Dead Sea, Masada, and Rosh HaNikra. USY on Wheels, on the other hand, is a six week bus trip across America which visits Jewish communities and popular tourist attractions along the journey. Summer in the City, a four week pre-college program, takes place in New York City. Students live at the List College dorms and choose classes to take at Barnard College and at the Jewish Theological Seminary. USY also holds a couple other trips that are longer durations including USY High (a two month program in Israel where students can continue their secular studies while touring Israel) and Nativ. These trips are wonderful ways for students to further their exploration of the Jewish world and their knowledge of Judaism as teenagers.

USY Bowling Trip
In United Synagogue Youth, every Jewish Teenager has a place and a purpose. It is easy in today’s world to become lost in the shuffle of a public high school and a primarily gentile community; USY is a place where Judaism meets the teenager and they create a bond that lasts a lifetime.

If you are interested in joining USY, in going on one of its journey adventures, or in learning more about USY, contact your local chapter at USY’s website.

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