If you polled the average American, I bet you that 75% or more would be able to tell you what the YMCA is and what the acronym represents. The Young Men Christian’s Association, better known for its notorious headline for the Village People’s greatest hit, is probably the most visible nonprofit organization that has existed for almost 160 years.
But what about USY? If you polled the average Jewish American, do you think that they can tell you what USY is and what the acronym represents? Perhaps. What I can tell you is that it is certainly less visible than YMCA, and rightfully so, since the majority of the US population is, well, not Jewish. But just because it is not as visible doesn’t necessarily diminish or discount the meaning of USY.
From April 8th to 10th, I had the honor and privilege of staffing and supervising the culminating USY convention for the CHUSY Region’s 2010-2011 year: Kinnus (key-noose). By definition, Kinnus means “convention,” but it means more than that to the USY community. It is a defining moment in both its signal of the end of a year and a time for both reflection of the past year and anticipation and excitement for the year to come. New leaders emerge, old ones pass their torches, and everyone is reminded of what it is that brought them all together in the first place: Judaism. I was amazed to see how many other USY youth resided in our region and experience their passion for everything Jewish.
I can tell you right now that I could not be prouder to be a part of this amazing experience, and I am so proud of all the SHMUSY (Anshe Emet’s USY Chapter) members and executive board, who literally turned around the chapter by raising more Tikkun Olam and social action money than any other chapter (over $9,000 and more than four times the amount of the next highest chapter). There is something to be said for what these committed and motivated Jewish high school students were able to accomplish. Through their efforts and continued participation, I discovered how vital it is for them to have USY both as an option and an opportunity, to develop new friendships and leadership skills, to reach out to the community as well as their fellow Jewish peers, to make a difference.
I am blessed to have been a part of such an amazing organization as a former member and now as an advisor. I was a SHMUSY member the year our chapter won chapter of the year and although we did not receive that award this year, we are proud to be a part of SHMUSY and of USY. Although I won’t be presiding as Anshe Emet’s Youth Director in the years to come, I am still so fortunate to be able to be in a position to bring the Jewish youth closer together. It’s amazing to know that there is a place for Jewish youngsters to come together and become that community that our forefathers and ancestors prayed would come to pass, a place in our minds and hearts that many people fought and died for and would only exist as a whisper.
Well, the time for whispering is over. Support USY in any way you can. Help develop and nurture our young Jewish generation to become the leaders of our communities and our society. Spread the word about USY and encourage those that qualify to get involved in their local chapters, whether as a member or as part of the executive board. I promise you, if you show them how amazing USY can be for them, they won’t regret it.
Tune in next issue where I jump head first into Chicago’s newest and hottest dining and drinking spots, you definitely do NOT want to miss my thorough and comprehensive reviews for your next exciting outing in Chicago!
Until next time! L’Chaim!