For the past four years, United Synagogue Youth has been my home. It has allowed me to make friends from all around the world (especially because for the first time we had a delegation from Noam Olami — the Masorti youth group from everywhere outside the US and Canada), develop my love for Israel, my zeal for wanting to make the world a better place, and has allowed me to assert my view on egalitarianism. USY is the place where I have been able to find my passion through everything I do and educate Conservative Jewish teens on how to find Judaism in their secular lives.
As a delegate from EPA/Hagesher USY, I was proud to attend the 66th Annual International Convention in Dallas, Texas this past week. I was thrilled with the amount of ruach I saw, the passion I saw for tikkun olam, and the friendships I saw reunited or made. To me, this is what IC is all about. Luckily, we also get to elect a new International Executive Board (IEB) on top of it. The people who run for the six highest positions in USY must follow certain qualifications, as seen in Article VII of our Constitution. This year, every candidate was qualified according to these standards and the set representative of the population voted on Wednesday, December 28, 2016, including me.
For the past two years, I have been a member of USY’s Religion/Education International General Board (Rel/Ed IGB). I have had the honor and privilege to educate thousands of Jewish teens in my time and set my legacy for putting more education in the Religion/Education positions of USY. Three years ago, my close friend was the only girl on Rel/Ed IGB, the next year it was the two of us with two other men, and this past year, she led us and three/four chairs were women. We are feminists who want to change the way that Jews view egalitarianism, especially in a Jewish setting. At this year’s election, all six of the positions on IEB were filled by men, and that will not change anything in regards to the work we have done and the strides we have made in the past 66 years.
After the election of the Rel/Ed Vice President, the rest of the candidates were men and the room of 650 delegates began to realize that for the first time in over a decade, the IEB was going to only be men. An anonymous social media platform that we used, Yik Yak, began to become inundated with words saying “great. A board full of white men… Where are the women?… We need a woman on board.” People compared it to the upcoming Trump administration because of the lack of representation. This is absolutely false. These men will in no way stop a woman from practicing Judaism the way she wants to or bar women from running for elected positions. The day that they reject egalitarianism is the day where I will no longer support them. These six people have so much passion for USY and the yearning to make it a more successful organization.
The night just before elections, the regional presidents and the IGB were called by the IEB and the Director of Teen Learning to discuss a change that we may be interested in making to our Constitution. Up until that Tuesday night, the Constitution only referred to board positions as being held by a “he.” With a simple change of a few words, we voted for it to be more inclusive. This simple step towards equality shows just how much we want to move forward in regards to being more inclusive not only to women but all genders. This will not change because of an all-male board and we cannot move backwards.
However, I asked myself, “Why did this happen?” More than 100 people were qualified to run and many of those were women. Why didn’t they do so? If more than three of the fifteen were women, could we have more women on IEB? To the people who said that there should be a woman on board through Yik Yak, that is unfair in of itself. We cannot vote for someone just because of their gender. That is inherently sexist as well. These men did not win because of their gender and women did not run just because they felt they could not win. In USY, we are lucky enough to have equality of opportunity. I could have easily run for IEB this year, but I did not and I am content that all of the positions filled are in good hands. They deserve the world because they want to make strides.
This all being said, people could argue that these men do not show any female role models to future candidates. Therefore, to you reading this, you need to become that role model or convince others to do so. Just because my time in USY is almost over does not mean that I will stop being a mentor to the future leaders of this organization. This is not a setback and it is not destructive to the future of US; it simply calls for a time that these men push to inspire more leadership among everybody.