Moving Beyond Logging Hours:
United Synagogue Youth’s Operation 54,000 Initiative Far Surpasses Its Goal
By Joe Goldberg
Too often when performing community service, we focus on just logging hours and forget what the hours actually represent. With “Operation 54,000,” United Synagogue Youth’s (USY) social action campaign, we challenged our members to look past logging hours, and rather, to consider the possibilities for positive human interaction and the potential to change lives. Our initiative asked all teens in the organization (which spans across North America) to collectively pool their volunteer service hours in order to hit a total of 54,000 hours for the 2014 year.
Last week at USY’s 64th International Convention in Atlanta it was my pleasure to announce the final hour tally for this year’s initiative. USYers far surpassed our proposed goal, with a whopping total of 142,887 hours of service logged – that’s more than 70 straight years of work, accomplished in the span of just one year by our USYers. This is the beauty of Operation 54,000, the emphasis it places on the power of the individual and the impact they can make.
Playing a significant role in reaching this number, back in October USY held 54k Day, a day of service across the country designed to challenge USYers and the larger Conservative community to take part in local social action projects. Over 800 USYers participated, logging over 3,200 service hours that day alone.
Our impact was felt across the United States as USYers in Minneapolis, Minnesota made challot and delivered them to a local food bank. USYers in New Jersey participated in a program to help spread awareness about the environment, bullying, poverty, and health, which culminated in the making of PSA videos. Finally, USYers in California made get-well cards for Never Give Up, an organization that sends personalized cards to kids battling cancer, then creating their own campaign called “Operation #KickTuchus” to help support cancer patients by spreading awareness over social media.
On 54k Day, and over the course of the whole year, USYers worked together as a unified community, combining social action and tikun olam, “repairing the world,” to make a difference in the lives of others, and empower their peers to stand up for what they believe. For example, Eliana Kurzrock from Sacramento, California led a discussion on homelessness at her local USY chapter. Afterwards the entire chapter made 250 sandwiches and lunches, which they donated to a local shelter. Across North America thousands of lives have been changed this year through the work of our individual USYers. But Operation 54,000 is just a beginning.
We’ve begun to change the narrative of social action and tikun olam in USY. The next step is utilizing social activism to promote change. We will continue to create accountability and motivate our USYers to be the difference they seek in their communities.
Our hope is that Operation 54,000 has inspired our teens, so that as they move forward they remember, each of us has the power, and furthermore, the responsibility to make a positive difference in our community.
Joe Goldberg is United Synagogue Youth Social Action/Tikun Olam VP (2014).