Dancing, Singing, Hugging, Screaming
A young man reflects on how his USY experience shaped him
by Joshua Ull
It is a feeling I cannot
forget. My heart beats out of my
chest; my feet tap as they anxiously
await the signal; and my ears
explode with the cheers of those
around me. It’s a moment of anticipation
that far surpasses New Year’s Eve
or even a presidential election. It is the
moment when hundreds of Jewish teens
converge in one grand ballroom to dance,
sing, jump, hug, scream, and celebrate our
time as the leaders of tomorrow. It is none
other than USY’s lnternational Convention,
or IC, as it’s popularly known.
I never saw myself as one to love adrenaline.
I am scared of heights, dislike spiders,
and will never ride a crazy rollercoaster.
Yet this one event, this one week and one
family have the ability to instill in me an
amazing rush of enthusiasm, and I love it.
IC is held annually in locations throughout
North America, and with more than
800 attendees, it serves as one of the largest
gatherings of Conservative Jews in the world.
This monumental occasion brings together
our movement’s top educators, leaders and
supporters who work hard to ensure the
future of Conservative Judaism. As an
involved teen who has spent time with so
many young leaders, I can say wholeheartedly
that the coming years look very bright.
I am constantly impressed by the passion
evoked by my peers. Whether they are conversing
in kittot (study sessions) or playing
in our Shacharit Live Band, USYers
are drawn to being Jewish.
My own journey started in the Hagalil
Region, made up of Central and Northern
New Jersey. I attended my first Kadima
event in sixth grade, not knowing what to
expect. I had the time of my life. The Shabbaton
was youthful, filled with ruach, and
loaded with food! I’ll never forget eating
Shabbat dinner surrounded by tons of kids
my age. There were no parents, no phones
and no distractions. For the first time, our
special day of Shabbat came alive from my
Hebrew school textbooks. I walked away
from that weekend with so many new
friends, and the rest is history.
Throughout my tenure in USCJ’s youth
programs, I have been exposed to life changing
opportunities – from travelling the country
on USY on Wheels to exploring Eastern
Europe and Israel with Israel Pilgrimage.
I’ve attended leadership training retreats,
monthly chapter events and regional programming.
All of them bring Jewish teens
together throughout the year.
What makes USY special is the quality of
its programs, and the fact that there is no
single focus. Together we explore a multitude
of Jewish values such as Israel
awareness and advocacy, social action /
tikkun olam, religion,
special, as well, is
the quality of our
and volunteers, many of whom are USY
alumni themselves who continue to support
This school year, I am proud to be a participant
on the 32nd NATIV Leadership
Gap Year Program in Israel offered by the
United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism.
Coming from a public school system, I
am thrilled to have an educational experience
dedicated to Judaic studies. While it is
sad that my USY journey has come to an
end, I believe this is just the beginning. It
is my chance, my time, and the right
moment to start applying everything USY
has taught me. From observing Shabbat
to planning programs, I move on toward
adulthood prepared to tackle any challenge.
As I venture off and continue to explore
my Jewish identity, I will never forget the
feeling I got from USY. I encourage all those
reading this article to take action. Speak
to your children, your grandchildren, and
everyone you know. Get those who are eligible
to join USY and become part of something
special. Sign up for IC Boston 2012,
spend a summer with us, and come find the
moment that you will never forget.
Joshua Ull was the 2012 USY international president. To find out more about USY, or sign up for IC Boston 2012 later this month, go to www.usy.org.