Posted by: Sue Blanco - President on Thursday, March 19, 2015 at 12:00:00 am Comments (1)
During the Columbus Day weekend last October, I headed up to Emerson, NJ to get together with thirteen of my USY on Wheels friends. While most of us arrived from our homes in the New York/New Jersey area, one of us had traveled from Florida for the event, and three additional friends joined us virtually via skype from areas as spread across the globe as Seattle, Toronto and Jerusalem. After 34 years, the relationships we developed on that seven week bus ride across the continental United States and back remain so very important to us.
And while my relationship with USY during my high school years was not always a love fest (I admit to sometimes having trouble finding my place), in the end, USY along with my summers at Camp Ramah, solidified my Jewish identity and my commitment to the Jewish community. These experiences shaped me to become the synagogue leader I am today.
So when our effort to rebuild our Kadima (middle school) and USY (high school) chapters stumbled this year, it felt personal. Of all the issues we were facing, this one kept me up at night. It was an important issue to me because I felt a responsibility to our kids, and as silly as it may sound, I felt as if I was letting them down. USY had been there for my kids and me when we needed it. I felt a responsibility to now make sure it is there for everyone else’s kids. Yes, part of my response to the situation was sentimental as a beneficiary of these programs. But it was also a further feeling of responsibility. Not just to our kids, but also to the community at large. First, our Kadima and USY chapters do not just serve the kids of our TBAY members; membership in our chapters is open to any Jewish kids in middle school or high school in the community. In the past our chapter included members who were either unaffiliated or from other shuls. Was I squandering the opportunity to develop a future Jewish leader?
But when you stumble the only thing to do is pick yourself up and regroup. While sadly we had to end our relationship with the Kadima and USY leader before it was ever really able to get started, we are ready to look forward. Leslie Glass has agreed to be our Youth Chair. She has some plans in place to get us on track. Tell your kids to look for an invitation to participate in a focus group after the first of the year. Separate sessions will be held for Kadima and USY. Any adults looking to help Leslie out and be on our Youth Committee please get in touch with either of us.
In the meantime, if there is a teenager in your life who is interested in Kadima or USY, opportunities exist beyond the chapter level. Events are happening on the regional and international level, from summer programs abroad in Israel and Europe to the annual summer retreat for middle schoolers and high schoolers, Kadima/USY Encampment. And yes, USY on Wheels still exists and has expanded to opportunities that include social action. If you are interested in learning more check out http://www.hagalilusy.com or www.usy.org.
And just for fun, I am including pictures of my Wheels group, then and now. Want to discuss with me more? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.