Compiled by Sharon Wisch-Ray
Dallas to USY’s 66th Annual International Convention
From Dec. 25 to 29, nearly 1,000 Jewish teenagers, educators, professionals, and alumni from United Synagogue Youth (USY) will gather in Dallas for five days of Hanukkah celebrations, interactive learning and hands-on social action at USY’s 66th International Convention.
A program of The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism (USCJ), USY is America’s largest Conservative Jewish youth group.
This convention marks several firsts for the organization, from its inaugural Texas location to a new milestone in USY’s partnership with NOAM, its sister youth movement that reaches Masorti teens globally. USY will host young adults from 10 countries including Israel, Argentina, Ukraine, Uganda, and beyond at the convention and kick off a yearlong pairing of NOAM’s global chapters with USY regions. This new program will help foster lasting relationships between Jewish teens from diverse backgrounds, as well as global learning initiatives and social action projects.
“We are excited to bring together our teens to create global connections and discuss their shared future as leaders of Masorti/Conservative Judaism,” said Rabbi David Levy, USCJ’s senior director, Teen Learning.
The convention will focus on the theme Chazak, Chazak, v’Nitchazek, which translates to Be Strong, Be Strong, May We Be Strengthened. Through interactive educational programming, community service, and talks from peers and leading professionals, the convention will build teens’ capacity as Jewish leaders, individuals and advocates.
“USYers will leave feeling empowered to create positive change…and build a stronger future for themselves (and) their communities,” said Teen Co-chairs Noa Rose and Harrison Steier. “We will grow together and learn to overcome modern challenges in a Jewish context.”
Convention guests include keynote speaker, CEO and President of Hillel Eric Fingerhut, a USY alumnus and past Central Region USY (CRUSY) president, and former star wrestler/professional motivational speaker Rohan Murphy. Educational partners include Hillel, KESHET, and Stand With Us with study sessions focusing on topics such as the Holocaust, modern day Judaism in America, Israeli history, politics and culture, Judaism on the college campus, inclusion and the media.
Among the breakout session speakers are Dallasite and Holocaust survivor Jack Repp, who will speak at a 9 a.m. breakout session Dec. 26 to members of the New England Region delegation and others. Other local educators and leaders participating include Aaron Jacobs (former USY international president from Dallas) and Jason Cathcart (education director at Congregation Anshai Torah in Plano). Rabbi Neal Katz will speak to the teens about growing up a Jewish minority in a small town. He is from Tyler.
Local USYers participating at presstime are Lily Shane, Jason Bard, Lilah Harris, Sydney Wigder, Hannah Zhrebker (all of Dallas); Shayna Kisin (Fort Worth); Rebecca Goldstein (Frisco); Allison Eisenberg, Inbal Michaeli and Emma Berlin (all of Plano); and Hadar Bernstein and Jacquie Mitzner, SWUSY president (both of Allen).
These teens are part of the Southwest USY region (SWUSY), which includes Texas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana. They are part of a 46-person delegation representing their home region at the convention.
In conjunction with local agencies, the entire convention body will participate in several hands-on social action projects with partners including Goodwill of Dallas, Hope Farm, ACH Child and Family Services, Congregation Ahavath Sholom, Christian Center of Fort Worth, North Texas Food Bank, Catholic Charities of Ft. Worth, Christian Community Action, Mission Arlington and Mission Metroplex. The teens will also take part in ongoing charitable activities over the course of the convention, collecting donations for local Dallas agencies.
The convention will also expose teens to local Texas culture including visits to the Fort Worth Stockyards, a large-scale kosher barbecue at “the World’s Largest Honkey Tonk,” Billy Bob’s Texas, and a private evening at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science.
This year’s convention is sponsored by Uber, The Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas and the Schultz Family, Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo, North Suburban Synagogue Beth El, Congregation Beth Torah, Congregation B’nai Amoona, Congregation Ahavath Sholom, Congregation Shearith Israel, Congregation Anshai Torah, Congregation Agudas Achim, Butler Motor Transit, Josh Mohrer, Dianne and Martin Newman, and Donna and Herb Weitzman.
Yavneh caps fall semester with lots of good news
As the fall semester came to a close there was plenty of good news heading Yavneh’s way. You probably caught the cover of the TJP a couple of weeks ago, depicting the Yavneh boys’ basketball team capturing first place by going undefeated at the National Weiner Tournament and Shabbaton in Maryland.
Another Yavneh team, the cross-country relay team, had reason to celebrate. The quartet placed 32 out of 115 teams in their division, competing in the Dallas Marathon on Dec. 13. Cross-country relay team. They finished the Dallas Marathon in 3:48:11.
On the academic front, Yavneh was named the eighth best private school to attend in Dallas Fort Worth by Niche.com, a website that helps folks discover the schools and neighborhoods that are right for them.
According to its website, Niche rigorously analyzes “dozens of public data sets and millions of reviews to produce comprehensive rankings, report cards and profiles for every K-12 school, college and neighborhood in the U.S.” Last year Yavneh was ranked ninth.
In the first year of Jewish high school rankings across the country, Niche.com ranked Yavneh eighth among 63 schools across the country.
Ranking factors include SAT/ACT scores, the quality of colleges that students consider, student-teacher ratio, private school ratings and other factors.
As the last week of the semester wound down, Yavneh seniors began to receive acceptance letters to college. Among the top tier universities and programs eager to welcome Bulldogs to campus are Brandeis University, New York University, Stanford University, Stern College, Honors/Yeshiva University, Tulane University, University of Pennsylvania, University of Texas, Plan II and Yale University.
Mazal tov to Elie Allen, who recently graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Social Work from the University of Alabama. In the fall Elie plans to pursue a Master’s in Social Work. Elie is the son of Mona and Artie Allen of Dallas.