In today’s changing world with so much division, we, the young people need to stand together, drawing upon our Jewish pride and traditions in order to face modern challenges. If the future of world’s Conservative Jewry is not interconnected, Conservative Jewry will have no foundation to build a future upon.
That’s why this past December, at United Synagogue Youth’s (USY) 66th annual International Convention in Dallas, TX, we kicked off a new chapter in the partnership between USY, USCJ’s North American youth group, and NOAM Olami, the global Masorti (Conservative) youth movement.
For the first time ever USYers were joined by their global brothers and sisters. The “international” convention truly lived up to its name with representatives from Israel, Australia, Germany, Argentina, France, Uganda, Ukraine, Chile, the United Kingdom, and Brazil in attendance.
It was breathtaking to see 12 country’s flags flying high above hundreds of celebrating teens during the convention’s energetic opening ceremonies. As NOAM Olami representatives introduced themselves on the ballroom stage, you could hear gasps and cheers from USYers beginning to comprehend the magnitude of this alliance. Meanwhile, behind a vibrant mosaic of flags, NOAM representatives were blown away by the instantaneous outpouring of love, making them feel an immediate sense of belonging and setting the tone for the rest of the convention.
From then on USY and NOAM embarked on a week filled with collaborative creativity, learning, and an endless ruach! NOAM representatives led sessions to educate USYers about leadership, culture, and gave a general taste of Masorti Judaism from each of their countries. There was so much to take away from these experiences, but the main lesson was a broadened sense of belonging to a Jewish community that extends way beyond national borders.
USY and NOAM Olami share principles, traditions, and energy; we are sister movements. Both of us strive to create a network of Jewish teen leaders. Both provide opportunities for social action and gimmilut chasadim, acts of loving kindness. Both promote Zionism and proudly support the State of Israel. Both are safe spaces where Jewish teens can express themselves freely and never feel out of place.
But most importantly, both of are programmed for and run by us, the young adults who will lead the charge towards a strong Jewish future. Students, like Dani Goodman Rabner, 18, of Las Vegas, who was instrumental in securing this partnership, are the foundation of these organizations. We lead and inspire our peers towards living meaningful, thoughtful Jewish lives, readying each other to embrace our future with strong values and a support network.
This coming year, USY regions and NOAM Olami sniffim (chapters) will continue what was started at the convention, and participate in collaborative projects—from service learning, pen pal programs, leadership training institutes, and shared ruach song sessions — to build bridges and relationships across continents.
Through what we hope will become an enduring bond, the Jewish teens will write the future of Conservative/Masorti Judaism. And it’s clear from the thoughtfulness and maturity of our youth it will be a strong and fruitful one.
The above was co-authored by Ethan Feuer and Harry Kelly.
Ethan Feuer, 18, is from New York. He was the 2016 USY International President and is currently a freshman at Binghamton University.
Harry Kelly, 20, is from London, England, where he is a member of NOAM UK. He is in his first year at the University of York.