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United Synagogue’s Alumni Association Plans USY 60th Anniversary Celebration for 2011, Announces New Endowments, Honorees

NEW YORK – In 1951, United Synagogue’s leaders, building upon the vibrant programming for teenagers that had taken solid root in Conservative synagogues throughout North America, created the international organization called United Synagogue Youth.

USY is an organization where Jewish teenagers come together to celebrate and learn about Judaism, develop a sense of Jewish identity, acquire leadership skills, and build lifelong friendships. It has become one of the largest and most active Jewish youth groups in the world.

Fifty-nine years after its founding, USY and Kadima, its program for middle school students, continue to play a significant role in shaping the lives of young Conservative Jews and future Jewish leaders. Tens of thousands of young people have been USY members during these nearly sixty years, and USY alumni have taken on significant leadership roles, serving in the United States Congress, as CEOs of major corporations, and presidents of influential Jewish organizations, and prominent universities.

In honor of USY’s upcoming 60th anniversary, the alumni association is planning a yearlong celebration, which will begin in December 2010. USY is looking forward to reconnecting with its alumni around the world as the festivities continue.

“Each generation has had its unique challenges, and for 60 years USY has helped Jewish teenagers define their Jewish identity and shape their Jewish future,” Richard Moline, director of United Synagogue’s Youth and Young Adult Services department, said. “USY is committed to continuing its efforts to help young people make informed Jewish choices that we hope will lead to productive, fulfilling, and active Jewish lives in this ever-changing world.”

To raise awareness of its work and to respond to the diverse needs and interest of teenagers today, this year USY will honor four of its notable alumni and founding synagogues through new initiatives and scholarship programs.

We are pleased to announce the following International Honorees and New Endowment Funds:

  • The Founders USY Scholarship Fund: This fund honors four Conservative synagogues in Minnesota’s Twin Cities – USY’s founding congregations, Adath Jeshurun Congregation, Beth El Synagogue, B’nai Emet Synagogue, and Temple of Aaron – and their rabbis. Rabbi Kassel Abelson, rabbi emeritus of Beth El and past international president of the Rabbinical Assembly, will represent his colleagues in launching this initiative. By honoring our past and celebrating our future, this fund will give teens the opportunity to participate in USY’s transformative programs, including regional conventions, summer programs such as USY on Wheels and Israel Pilgrimage, and Nativ, a yearlong program in Israel for recent high school graduates.
  • The Danny Siegel Mitzvah Heroes Fellowship Program: Danny was USY’s international president in 1962. He became one of the world’s foremost experts in microphilanthropy and through his tireless teaching he has modeled Jewish philanthropy for generations of teenagers. From 1981, when he created it, to 2009, when he closed it, he was the heart and soul of the Ziv Tzedakah fund. He is also a poet as well as the author of many works of prose. The Social Action/Tikun Olam program named for him will train Jewish teens in both the practical and the ethical dimensions of social action work.
  • The Jules Gutin Leaders Fellowship: Jules Gutin has been USY and Kadima’s international director for more than 20 years. His leadership, creativity, and ability to connect with our teenagers is well-known. USY and Kadima have flourished under Jules’s leadership Alumni throughout the world claim him as their mentor, citing his influence in the choices they have made and the success they have achieved in their adult lives. To continue the spirit of the teaching and mentoring provided to the thousands of USYers who have been guided by Jules, the Jules Gutin Leaders Fellowship fund will provide ongoing leadership training to Jewish teens and USY advisors and youth directors throughout North America and Israel.
  • The Jackie Saltz Alumni Fund: More than 12 years ago, Jackie Saltz organized Project Reconnect. Together with a small volunteer committee, she worked to reengage alumni from all the Conservative movement’s youth and young adult programs. Through Project Reconnect, Jackie has brought together alumni from across the movement, focusing particularly on USY, which is at the heart and soul of her vision. Jackie’s tireless work has been invaluable as we approach the celebration of USY’s 60th anniversary and the formation of United Synagogue’s alumni association. Jackie’s ties to USY go way back; she was a synagogue chapter youth director and worked on United Synagogue’s staff as a regional youth director. Later she became chair of the regional youth commission and president of United Synagogue’s Pacific Southwest region, and for many years she has been on United Synagogue’s board of directors. This fund will provide much-needed support for the alumni association and Project Reconnect and scholarships both for USY on Wheels and Pilgrimage summer programs and for future programs for USYers and USY alumni.

There will be a series of events across the continent throughout the year as we remember USY’s glorious past and look forward with great excitement to its bright future. We will let you know as soon as we have more details. Please sign up to get more information. We’d love to see you there celebrating with us.

Please go to projectreconnect.org to sign up and learn more about the upcoming celebrations, and look for us on Facebook and on Twitter.

A program of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, United Synagogue Youth provides a social, religious and educational forum where high-school-aged Jews can explore and celebrate their Judaism, live Jewish lives in accordance with Jewish ethics and values, and become better members of the Jewish and greater communities in which they live, all in the context of the Conservative movement. For more information, go to www.usy.org and www.uscj.org or www.projectreconnect.org.