More than 700 teenagers from United Synagogue Youth (USY) will gather today in Baltimore, MD to celebrate, learn and give back at USY’s 65th International Convention.
The theme of this year’s convention is “Think More. Do More. B’more.” focusing on teen advocacy with education tracks picked by the USYers themselves, including sessions on combating anti-Semitism, political activism in US/Israel relations, LGBTQ issues and gender equality, race and poverty, mental health awareness and more.
USY will partner with several organizations at the convention to educate and equip the teens to take action including the Anti-Defamation League, Sojourn, KESHET, AVODAH, U Mattr and AIPAC. Throughout, the teens will also hear from and be inspired by leading professionals in the field of social justice including Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel keynote speaker, American Jewish World Service President Dr. Ruth Messinger, renowned “Mitzvah Man” Danny Siegel, Center for Citizen Empowerment and Transformation CEO Sam Daley-Harris, and USY’s 2015 Danny Siegel Changemaker-in-Residence and Cleveland social entrepreneur Matthew Fieldman.
In conjunction with local agencies, the entire convention body will participate in several hands-on social action projects including creating school supply kits, blanket making, food preparation, and compiling winter necessities packages for the homeless. Local Baltimore partners include the Weinberg Housing and Resource Center, various other local shelters, Living Classrooms, several area hospitals, and more. In order to strengthen USY’s partnership with other Jewish youth groups, these projects will be delivered to the Baltimore community by BBYO teens during their February 2016 convention.
The teens will also engage in Israel-related projects in honor of Ezra Schwartz, a former USYer who was recently killed by a terrorist attack in Israel. Schwartz died while delivering food to soldiers in Gush Etzion, so to honor his memory and commitment to Israel the teens will participate in a letter writing campaign for the Israel Defense Forces.