USY’s Social Action, No-Bullying Toleration and Shomer Shabbos Vote Overshadowed by Inter-Dating

These past few weeks and months a serious question has come up in the Conservative  Movement of Judaism. The question of inter-dating is not new but is similar to the question “was Noah truly righteous or only righteous for his time period?”. It is a question that flairs back up every time something changes and usually over long periods of time people’s opinions also change. It was no surprise to me that the question of Regional Board Member’s standards was taken so seriously. I currently serve as the Social Action/ Tikkun Olam VP for the Eastern Pennsylvania Region of USY, and I myself am a part of that percentage of USY leaders that is held to a higher standard than your typical USYers. In my opinion, I understand the importance of people being dugmot (examples/ role models) of what the organization is teaching. I believe that we represent the Conservative Movement and by doing so we must represent to the public what the Conservative Movement believes in, however I am 100% for the change of wording in the recent amendment. I myself would not be Jewish by Halacha if my Mother had not converted before I was born. I always find this funny seeing as though I am now the most religious member of my family. I fought hard to become as involved with the Jewish community as I am, I spent many hours getting myself where I am today as I am currently an enrolled student at a Jewish Day School. I transferred to Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy (fromly known as it’s former name- Akiba Hebrew Academy) my sophomore year, I felt that it was necessary to be in a more Jewish environment because I struggled to keep a connection with Judaism being the only practicing Jew in my school. The Jewish community is my home and the Conservative Movement is my family. The current hate being spread around the internet towards USY because of the amendment change pains me. So many more things happened at IC and have happened in this past year with USY that I believe need to be shared more.

As EPA’s SATO, (Social Action Tikkun Olam VP) watching my region engage in something social action related always brings me a huge amount of happiness, but this IC not only was I happy, I was proud. EPA USY on Abraham Joshua Heschel Day went to a homeless shelter in the city of Atlanta. We walked in and weren’t really sure what to expect. Even I didn’t know what to expect, and as a participant of USY on Wheels Mission Mitzvah (2013), I traveled to homeless shelters all across the country. We sat down at a table and were given a description of the place by a worker. It turns out all the workers there are volunteers, and the money for the shelter’s operating expenses is all from donations. Sometimes the shelter can have up to 1,000 people sleeping there per night. After we wiped down around 300 mattresses, we decided to go on a tour to see the clothing closet. When we arrived, we met Brandon. Brandon had been in and out of this shelter and showed us around the clothing closet and explained the rules to us. After we asked some questions we had extra time and before I knew it our whole region was taking selfies with Brandon, showing him their favorite music, singing with him and having a joke battle. We were genuinely having a good time just hanging out with him. When we left, one of our staff members informed us that Brandon had told him that hanging out with us helped him forget about his troubles and the fact that his grandmother just passed away. All of EPA nearly broke out into tears. When I thought my region couldn’t be any more amazing, two seconds later we were posting, yacking, tweeting and instagramming “#BrandontakesEPA”. Rachel Brynien (USYer), said “We made Brandon’s day, and little does he know… He made ours too.” And this was only 1/17 of the regions’ experiences that day, while every region was doing community service work.1959355_936726236346466_8935531377576222423_n

(EPA USY International Convention Atlanta 2014 delegates with Brandon)

While the inter-dating rule was being voted upon and amendments were being shut down, drawn up, and re-written, one big thing happened that nobody is shining light on: USY added an additional “No-Bullying Policy”. USY has been taking bullying down, and it is something that people should be focusing on much more. Although kids joke about the “YPO”, USY having YPOs (Youth Protection Officers) was and will continue to make USY an amazing organization and a safe place. Not only that, but at IC when just a couple of mean things were posted on Yik-Yak, USY and USYers immediately responded by only putting nice things out there, down-voting anything negative, and starting the trend “#takebacktheyak”. Posts telling others to be nice could be seen with tons of “up-votes”. I am quite frankly unaware of any other youth organization that takes bullying so seriously, and I believe the recent addition to USY standards about Leshon Hara (gossip) and insisting board members follow all of the most ethical standards possible is something that every past, present, and future USYer should be proud of. 

In addition to all of the great things that are being overshined by the Inter-dating amendment change is the Shomer Shabbat and Shomer Chag standard that was also voted upon. If you are unaware, Regional Board Members are required to keep shabbat and all of the Chagim. This is a rule that most Conservative Shuls and organizations don’t require their adult board members to follow. In the time of social media and the generation of technology, our teenagers voted that leaders should follow the rules of Shabbat and Chagim. I believe that this is something USY  and the Conservative Movement should be proud of. Although kids tend to complain about this standard, it is a beautiful way for the youth to show their true commitment to the Conservative Movement. The fact that the teens voted to keep this is something our elders should be proud of.

Through all of this we can see that the week of IC Atlanta 2014 was not just a week the “Conservative movement dropped the inter-dating ban” because 1.) that didn’t happen and 2.) USY, without realizing it made history this year in the Conservative Movement. Years from now when I’m telling my kids about my time in USY, I will be able to tell them why USY is and always will be a true Kehilla (community) and how back at my junior (and third) IC we USYers made the conservative movement proud rather than angry at our “giving up on the Conservative beliefs” because as long as we keep doing what we’re doing now, the Conservative beliefs and morals will always be instilled within USY.