While hundreds of thousands of American teens head for the slopes and seashore this winter holiday break, a committed coterie of Conservative Jewish high school students will make their way to New Orleans to spend several days rebuilding, reflecting and rejoicing at United Synagogue Youth’s International Convention (IC).
The theme of the annual USY gathering, which will take place this week, is Tikun Olam. Over the course of five days, nearly 700 USYers will engage in a variety of projects, meet with local community leaders, study, celebrate, tour and meet with A-list USY alum who have served as changemaker role models, professionally and beyond.
Eight years after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, the leadership of USY was unsettled by the fact that rebuilding of New Orleans was still not complete, said Rabbi Dave Levy, director of teen learning for United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, the parent organization for USY.
“IC is about making inspiring teens to make a quantifiable, positive change within the world,” said Rabbi Levy. “Last year, our rally against gun violence at the IC in Boston could not be more timely. This year, we wanted a chance to use our hands to quite literally shape a better world. In addition, the energy, electricity and excitement of New Orleans is an irresistible lure. This year’s IC will be especially memorable because our theme – Repairing the World – will come to life.”
At the NOLA convention, the teens will have an opportunity to be inspired by two USY alum whose lives have been dedicated to bringing about significant change. Hollywood director and executive Andy Fickman is receiving the USY Alumni of the Year award; NY1 News reporter and social entrepreneur Jessica Abo will deliver the keynote address during the Abraham Joshua Heschel Honor Society inductions.