1st Look: United Synagogue Youth’s 66th Annual International Convention

Convention co-chairs Harrison Steier (left) and Noa Rose (right) light the menorah with Samson Nsweitu, a representative from NOAM Uganda. Photo by Adrian Baird, Endless Entertainment.

This week, nearly 1,000 Jewish teenagers, educators, professionals, and alumni from United Synagogue Youth (USY) are gathering in Dallas, TX for five days of Hanukkah celebrations, interactive learning, and hands-on social action at USY’s 66th International Convention.

A teen rides the mechanical bull at the USY Texas State Fair. Photo by Adrian Baird, Endless Entertainment.

A program of The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism (USCJ), USY is America’s largest Conservative Jewish youth group.

Guy Lavi (center), a representative of NOAM Olami Israel, dances with Ethan Feuer (right), USY 2016 International President, during Opening Session. Photo by Adrian Baird, Endless Entertainment.

This convention marks several firsts for the organization, from its inaugural Texas location to a new milestone in USY’s partnership with NOAM, its sister youth movement that reaches Masorti teens globally. USY will host young adults from ten countries including Israel, Argentina, Ukraine, Uganda, and beyond at the convention and kick off a year-long pairing of NOAM’s global chapters with USY regions. This new program will help foster lasting relationships between Jewish teens from diverse backgrounds, as well as global learning initiatives and social action projects.

Harry Kelly (left) from NOAM UK, Hannah Weiss (center), USY 2016 International Social Action/Tikun Olam VP and Malka Buchmann (right) from NOAM Brazil, explore at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science. Photo by Adrian Baird, Endless Entertainment.

The convention will focus on the theme Chazak, Chazak, v’Nitchazek, which translates to Be Strong, Be Strong, May We Be Strengthened. Through interactive educational programming, community service, and talks from peers and leading professionals the convention will build teens’ capacity as Jewish leaders, individuals, and advocates.

Rohan Murphy, disabled wrestler and motivational speaker, addresses the convention about the power of perseverance. Photo by Adrian Baird, Endless Entertainment.

Convention guests include keynote speaker, CEO and President of Hillel Eric Fingerhut, a USY alumnus and past Central Region USY (CRUSY) president and former star wrestler/professional motivational speaker Rohan Murphy.

Hundreds of Conservative Jewish Teens from across North America celebrate together at Opening Session. Photo by Adrian Baird, Endless Entertainment.

Educational partners include Hillel, KESHET, and Stand With Us with study sessions focusing on topics such as the Holocaust, modern day Judaism in America, Israeli history, politics, and culture, Judaism on the college campus, inclusion, and the media.

Teens from the HaNegev USY region pose together in downtown Dallas. Photo by Adrian Baird, Endless Entertainment.

“USYers will leave feeling empowered to create positive change … and build a stronger future for themselves [and] their communities,” said teen co-chairs Noa Rose and Harrison Steier. “We will grow together and learn to overcome modern challenges in a Jewish context.”