For a long time, we have been hearing about “the shrinking of the Conservative movement.” We know there are problems, but as recent high school graduates who are “the future of Conservative Judaism,” we’re ready to do something about them. And we’ll start at the upcoming USY International Convention in New Orleans, or as we like to call it, IC NOLA (#icnola).
Having graduated from high school in June, we fondly recall our seven years as part of United Synagogue Youth and Kadima. As leaders in the organization, our lives were enriched and our connection to Judaism strengthened by the power of USY. We have been to several international conventions and have experienced the energy of being among the 1,000 USYers and staff who each year make up the largest gathering of the Conservative movement.
We’ve felt the ruach of our tefilot, we’ve been inspired to run for leadership positions, we’ve created lifelong connections with other Jewish teens. The experience of the convention is unparalleled, and not just for USYers. It is something all Conservative Jews should be excited about.
In United Synagogue’s centennial year, it’s time to take a look not only at the flaws of the movement but also at its future — the youth. The theme of this year’s convention, slated for Dec. 22-26, is “Rebuild and Rejoice.” We envision it as the start of the next 100 years of Conservative Judaism. We will be laying the foundation for how this next century will look.
We’re cognizant of the foggy future before us. Whether our numbers and traditions will change is unclear. But we know that the creativity and passion of USYers will help our movement to thrive.
We, the youth, have the opportunity to ensure that one thing remains constant: a pride in and love for Judaism. After the convention, we promise that hundreds of USYers will return to their respective
communities, both Jewish and secular, reinvigorated and ready to represent what we stand for. Moreover, when they move on to college campuses, they will bring the energy they feel as USYers to create a kehillah filled with this same passion and love for Judaism.
For five days this month, we’ll rebuild — both a city devastated by the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and an organization that after 62 years is just beginning to share its magic with the world.
As we get ready to head to New Orleans, we’re thinking jambalaya and gumbo (the kosher versions, of course). We’re thinking jazz, creole and Adon Olam to the tune of “When the Saints Go Marching In.”
We’re thinking purple, green and gold, and hundreds of excited teenagers dancing in the French Quarter. We’re thinking an entire day of community service and getting our hands dirty helping to repair the city of New Orleans.
We hope that as you look at the challenges facing Conservative Judaism, you’ll think of us in New Orleans, support USY and see the very real strength and potential we offer the community in the years ahead.
Jake Wassermann of Lansdale and Gaby Roth of North Caldwell, N.J., are both participating this year in United Synagogue’s Nativ College Leadership Program in Israel.