WE, THE REPRESENTATIVES of synagogue youth affiliated with the United Synagogue of America, recognizing the fact that youth must perpetuate Judaism, and cognizant of the historical and cultural heritage of our people, do hereby ordain and establish this constitution for the United Synagogue Youth of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism.
Article I – Name
The name of this organization shall be: The United Synagogue Youth of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism.
Article II – Aims and Objectives
The general aim of the United Synagogue Youth program is to bring about a meaningful and fully reciprocal encounter of Judaism, the Jewish people, and the Synagogue on one side, and the Jewish teenager on the other. As a result of this encounter, the Jewish teenager will, firstly, demonstrate and experience how the Jewish way of living, through study, action and fellowship, leads to personal fulfillment and growth while meeting his spiritual and social needs, and secondly, make a significant contribution to his synagogue, community, society and the Jewish people.
- Identity – Young people seek an answer to the question “Who am I?” USY will help young people to find their identity as Jews. To aid in the process of self discovery, USY confronts the teenager with as much of the Jewish world as will fit into the scope of his experience. The Torah, the Jewish world, Israel and the community, and all the issues and problems of which he becomes aware, will serve him as paths to the discovery of his self.
- Belonging – Not satisfied with merely knowing his identity, a young person feels the need of attaching himself to a particular element of his environment, and through this particular attachment, of becoming a significant part of the whole. Membership in USY will give him the reassuring feeling of belonging to a particular group, his chapter, and through it to identify with his synagogue, his movement, his community, the Jewish people and ultimately with the human society in general. He will learn to appreciate the Mitzvot as an expression of belonging to the Jewish community, and his love for Judaism, the Jewish people, the State of Israel and the synagogue as a necessary part of his commitment to ultimate universal values.
- Learning and Growing – Young people naturally love to learn, and want to grow intellectually and emotionally. USY emphasizes, therefore, the opportunities for learning and growing inherent in the study of Torah. USY encourages the study of Torah in a manner relevant to the particular interests of the young people, to the personal commitments they want to make, to the values which they particularly cherish, and to the contemporary problems which arouse their attention.
- The Spirit (or Ethos) of Youth – Young people want to build and live in a world of their own, with its own spirit and mystique. USY fills this need by encouraging young people to establish their own autonomous democratic society, with full political power vested in its members. The young people conduct their own organizational affairs, from chapter level through a congregational, regional and national structure. The spirit of youthful adventure is further advanced by means of regalia and insignia, conventions, encampments, and many other attributes of democratic power and “espirit de corps”.
- Idealism and Service – Young people seek constructive ways of expressing their enthusiastic idealism through opportunities of serve. USY channels this desire into the fields of social action both within and beyond the Jewish community. It adds a new dimension to social action by exploring its religious significance. The concerns of the Jewish community and the needs of the Jewish people receive proper emphasis. The place of Israel as the supreme expression of contemporary Jewish idealism receives special attention.In general, the social action program of USY tries to convey the basic Jewish belief that God is the source of our ideals and idealism and that in being God’s partner in human society the Jew finds his most significant personal fulfillment. Special action through USY also serves to reassure the teenager of his potential constructive role and real importance in Jewish and general society.
- Creativity and Self-Expression – Young people want to express themselves creatively. USY offers many opportunities for such self expression through the media of its organization and its needs. It also encourages creative contributions to the Jewish tradition through innovation and experiment in worship and ritual, as well as self expression in the fields of art, literature, music and drama. The fulfillment of the Mitzvot, in an imaginative and inspired manner, is also to be regarded as an opportunity for the expression of the creative Jewish self, while the study of Torah leads to creative contributions to the world of Jewish learning.
- Fun and Fellowship – Prominent among the needs of the normal teenager is the desire for establishing interpersonal relations, friendship and fellowship with his peers. USY affords wholesome and cheerful opportunities for the fulfillment of these social needs within the setting of the chapter and beyond. It also fosters such values as loyalty to the group and individual self denial for the sake of the collective well being which ultimately leads to loyalty to God, Torah, and the Jewish people.
- Total Commitment – Seen as an educative process, the program of USY will progressively lead from exposure to Judaism through the phases and stages indicated above to a full commitment to the principal values of Judaism: Torah, Mitzvot (including G’milut Chasadim social action), Israel, the Jewish people, and the Synagogue.
Section 3 – To Develop a Strong and Lasting Attachment to the Jewish People and the Land of Israel
Many of the problems that beset North American Jewish Youth can be attributed to our inability to accept our role as a member of Klar Yisrael, and that each Jew is responsible for the future of Judaism. The problem of inter marriage would not be as crucial if North American Jewish youth were more concerned with the survival of their people. USYers should be impressed with the Jewish mystique. The unique aspect of the Jewish tradition embodied in the privileges of membership and its contributions to Jewish civilization must be impressed on the youth of today. This is a difficult idea to propose to liberal thinking American Jewish youth, who will immediately associate chosenness with superiority. But unless they are made to feel that the Jews have a role to fulfill and that group survival is essential, they will not make the necessary effort to accept their responsibility as bulwarks against assimilation. USYers should stand at the forefront of cooperation with other Jewish youth organizations.
Suggested Methods of Implementation:
- Study of Jewish History with emphasis on the question of what made Judaism survive.
- Greater Hebraic emphasis at all USY functions.
- To stress the importance of the Ramah Camps as a spearhead for furthering Jewish ideals and knowledge.
- An all out effort to have as many youngsters as possible visit Israel through USY auspices.
- Importance of oppressed Jewry.
- Correspondence with Jewish youngsters in all parts of the world.
- USY equivalent of the World Council of Synagogues.
- Dissemination of information on opportunities for Aliyah.
- Participation in USY Israel Pilgrimage, USY on Wheels, and East European Pilgrimage and encouragement of a year of study in Israel.
Section 4 – To Develop a Deeper Sense of Loyalty to the Synagogue as the Central Institution of Jewish Life
With increasing mobility of American Jews, the youngster may never return to the community of his origin after leaving High School. An essential aim of USY should be to help instill a sense of loyalty to the Jewish community and the synagogue, so that he will seek out the synagogue and feel a sense of responsibility to enrich its program or provide viable alternatives to it when the program militates against self enrichment.
Suggested Methods of Implementation:
To this end, USY should provide our young people with a model, a blueprint of synagogue life as it should be experienced by an exemplary adult congregation.
- Working toward the formation of youth lounges within each synagogue to established the synagogue as the central institution in teenage life.
- Active participation in the youth and/or adult congregation.
- Active participation in the Hebrew School as well as informal study groups.
- The sanctity of the synagogue should be established and the USYers should take action when they see this sanctity desecrated by any members of the Synagogue “family.”
- Executive and membership meetings should be conducted on the highest level, so that the youngsters will come to expect and insist on the same high level of meetings in his own congregation in later years. USY should be engaged in a constant dialogue with synagogue leaders and the congregation in general about the “state of the school,” such dialogue may be established by having USYers and synagogue leaders serve on each others’ committees, sponsoring USY adult debates and forums, organizing joint social action programs, etc.
- As a model of synagogue organization, social action should play an important role in USY.
In this way only will the youngster have a clear idea of what the adult synagogue should be, thus seeking its implementation in later life. The teenage model of synagogue life can conceivably influence the present adult congregation to seek higher standards of involvement. We should not underestimate the possibility of good ideas “trickling upwards.”
Section 5 – Mitzvot
The organization should provide the opportunity to experience the Mitzvot both as a group and as individuals, in order to help the individual to make an intelligent choice as to the degree of his personal observance in later years. Shabbat, the Holidays, Prayer, Kashrut, Tzedakah, G’milut Chasadim, amongst others, should be stressed as imperatives derived from our tradition. A sense of those moral and ritual imperatives inherent in Judaism should be fostered. USY views the ethical and ritual areas as leading one to the other in thought and deed.
Suggested Methods of Implementation:
- Sponsoring Shabbat and Holiday services and programs, and encouraging members to take part in them, even if they must absent themselves from Public School classes; and encouraging personal Tefillah by members.
- Developing an appreciation for the essential role of Kashrut in their personal lives, and encouraging both an understanding and an observance of the Dietary Laws at all public functions.
- Encouraging projects which carry out the values embodied in Tzedakah, G’milut Chasadim and other Jewish value concepts.
- Encouraging social action not merely for humanitarian reasons, but also because it is a Jewish imperative. Most of the Jews who participated in marches and rallies for Civil Rights were not religiously motivated, so they said. Many of the Christians, however, claimed that they were performing an act of Christian charity.
- An active program of Social Action designed to translate the theory into reality for group participants.
- Cooperating with existing institutions to give service to the community and neighborhood.
- Participation in tutorial projects.
- Aid to the disabled.
- Participation in civic causes.
Section 6 – Study
We consider it a responsibility of each group and individual to confront and internalize our cultural heritage via the study of basic texts, guided discussion and all other effective learning experiences.
The unique and distinctive aspect of our tradition as it relates to other traditions should be stressed. It is the aim of our tradition to motivate towards an understanding that Judaism involves a lifetime of study. We encourage open inquiry, historically oriented on all aspects of the Judaic tradition, using all available resources. The desirability of reading texts in their original language should be stressed.
Suggested Methods of Implementation:
- Encouraging members to attend the Hebrew High School, or the institution of most intensive learning, in his area.
- Encouraging chapters to establish programs for group study.
- Encouraging the reading of Jewish books and understanding of individual study programs.
- Sponsoring programs where the knowledge gained through study can be usefully applied and implemented in programs and projects.
- Disseminating on a yearly basis to all affiliated chapters a copy of the USY Home Study Program in an effort to encourage the individual USYer to participate in this excellent study endeavor.
Section 7 – To Prepare the Youngster for Positive Jewish Living in College and to Fortify His Moral and Religious Faith During His Most Crucial Years Away From Home
USY program should center around the many problems with which USYers will be confronted at college. They should be exposed to authentic Jewish views on situation ethics, civil disobedience, protest, politics, inter marriage, pacifism, premarital sex, drugs, etc., so that they will know, and hopefully remember, that there are Jewish responses to current issues. The USYers should be prepared to discuss and articulate in college years some of the unique features of Judaism and its basic stand on important moral issues. This can only be accomplished through a well developed program of informal education with ample opportunity for discussion and debate. Such programs would require intimate involvement by the rabbi of the congregation.
Suggested Method of Implementation:
Developing programs which enable the participant to anticipate the forthcoming years of his adolescent life on the college campus.
Article III – Membership
The membership of United Synagogue Youth shall be comprised of Jewish adolescents of unlimited number between the ages of thirteen and nineteen.
- The Members of United Synagogue Youth shall be organized in Chapters of unlimited number, sponsored by synagogues retaining affiliation with the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism.
- Each chapter shall have the power to elect its Officers, levy dues upon its Members, and perform any functions necessary and proper for the general good and welfare of its Members.
- Each Region may fix minimum and maximum age qualifications for Membership in United Synagogue Youth, provided they fall within the stipulations of this Constitution, or they may delegate such power to the constituent Chapters.
- The authority to enact procedures providing for the affiliation and organization of Chapters and Regions shall reside jointly with the General Board of United Synagogue Youth and the International Youth Commission of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism.
- The above named authorities may also provide for the affiliation of Chapters and Regions outside the territorial boundaries of the United Synagogue of America.
- Any Chapter or Region may be suspended or expelled from United Synagogue Youth for conduct in violation of this Constitution, or any rules, laws, or regulations of United Synagogue Youth.
- The authority to enact procedures providing for the suspension or expulsion of any Chapter or Region shall reside with the General Board of United Synagogue Youth; but in no case shall a Chapter or Region be expelled or suspended without 30 days to answer to the charges and without concurrence of two thirds of the General Board, and without the approval of the International Youth Commission.
- Any Chapter or Region which has been suspended or expelled may be reinstated before the conclusion of its period of suspension or, in the case of expulsion, at any time, with the concurrence of two thirds of the General Board and the approval of the International Youth Commission.
- A suspension may be extended with the concurrence of two thirds of the Board and the International Youth Commission.
- United Synagogue Youth and the Chapters and Regions affiliated thereof shall practice no form of discrimination or bias in the admission of eligible members.
- Each Chapter and Region shall be required to observe the dietary laws, the Sabbath, and all other applicable Jewish laws in accordance with Conservative Jewish tradition at all its functions.
- Each Chapter shall be required to provide a program of Jewish study for its members on a regular basis.
Article IV – Organization
- The officers of United Synagogue Youth shall be: President, Israel Affairs Vice President, Religion/Education Vice President, Social Action/Tikun Olam Vice President, Membership/Kadima Vice President, and Communications Vice President.
- The aforementioned Officers shall constitute the Executive Board of United Synagogue Youth, which will meet not less than once per year at the direction of the President, and which shall act in both an administrative and in an advisory capacity.
- The Executive Board shall meet, in addition, as soon as possible after the election of the officers who comprise it in order to appoint Chairmen of Committees.
- These Chairmen, in conjunction with the Officers of United Synagogue Youth and the President of each Region, shall comprise the General Board of United Synagogue Youth.
- The Executive Board may, in addition, appoint such committees as it deems necessary. The Chairmen of such Committees shall be members of the General Board only with the express approval of the Executive Board.
- The number and duties of the Chairmen shall be determined by the Executive Board; Chairmen shall serve at the pleasure of the President.
- All former Presidents of United Synagogue Youth Shall be members of the General Board for a period of one year following the conclusion of their tenure in office; all other officers of United Synagogue Youth Shall be honorary members and accredited observers of the General Board for a period of one year following the conclusion of their tenure in office.
- International Officers, Regional Presidents (or their designated surrogates), committee chairmen and the immediate past International President shall have votes at General Board Meetings.
The Powers and Duties of the General Board of United Synagogue Youth shall be:
- To meet not less than once per year at the discretion of the President or by written petition of the majority of its members;
- To serve as the chief legislative and administrative agency of United Synagogue Youth;
- To levy with the concurrence of three fourths of the General Board and the consent of the International Youth Commission, such special assessments as they shall deem necessary, which shall be levied upon the Chapters and Regions on the basis of their Membership; and to provide where necessary for the disposition of funds so obtained and other monies;
- To provide for the proper administration of United Synagogue Youth and, where necessary, to provide for the transaction of its business;
- To provide for the affiliation of Chapters and Regions and to recognize the existence of such bodies, as provided elsewhere in this Constitution;
- To enact procedures to insure compliance with this Constitution and all rules made in the pursuance thereof;
- And to enact such procedures pursuant to this Constitution necessary and proper for carrying the foregoing Powers and Duties into execution and for the general good and welfare of the members of United Synagogue Youth.
Article V – Duties and Powers of Officers
- The President shall serve as the chief administrator, presiding officer, and accredited representative of United Synagogue Youth.
- He shall serve as a member ex-officio of all committees.
- He shall, with the advise and consent of the executive board, determine rules for parliamentary procedure of United Synagogue Youth, and shall be responsible for their enforcement.
- He shall report on the state of United Synagogue Youth to the general Board or to a delegate assembly of United Synagogue Youth not less than once per year.
- The Israel Affairs Vice President shall be responsible for the implementation of all aspects of interaction between United Synagogue Youth and the State and people of Israel, shall promote awareness of and solidarity with the State of Israel, and encourage participation of summer programs in Israel through United Synagogue Youth. In addition to overseeing all standing committees pertaining to the aforementioned areas, he shall also be responsible for overseeing any committee(s) determined by the President in consultation with the Executive Board.
- The Religion/Education Vice President shall be responsible for the implementation of all aspects of religion and education. In addition to overseeing all standing committees pertaining to the aforementioned areas, he shall also be responsible for overseeing any committee(s) determined by the President in consultation with the Executive Board.
- The Social Action/Tikun Olam Vice President shall be responsible for the implementation of all aspects of Social Action and shall serve as the overseeing officer of the Tikun Olam Program. In addition to overseeing all committees pertaining to the aforementioned areas, he shall also be responsible for overseeing any committees as determined by the President in consultation with the Executive Board.
- The Membership/Kadima Vice President shall be responsible for the implementation of all aspects of membership expansion and retention and Kadima related programs. In addition to overseeing all committees pertaining to the aforementioned areas, he shall also be responsible for overseeing any committees as determined by the President in consultation with the Executive Board.
- The Communications Vice-President shall be responsible for the implementation all aspects of Communication. In addition to overseeing all standing committee pertaining to the aforementioned area, he shall also be responsible for overseeing any committee(s) determined by the President in consultation with the Executive Board.
The Officers of United Synagogue Youth shall retain those powers and duties enumerated in this constitution and in addition, shall assume such powers and duties necessary and proper for the execution of their respective offices and the general good and welfare of the members of United Synagogue Youth.
Introduction: As leaders of USY, the Officers serve as accessible Jewish role models (dugmaot) to the USY constituency. In that capacity, they are expected to aspire to become ideal Conservative Jews, reflecting a strong commitment to Jewish survival and the performance of mitzvot. Therefore:
- The Officers of United Synagogue Youth shall observe the Sabbath and Jewish Holidays with regard to the Responsum of the Rabbinical Assembly pertaining to Travel, and by refraining from all school examinations and public functions thereon. (The Jewish Holidays include Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Pesach, Shavuot, Sukkot and Simhat Torah.)
- The Officers shall observe the dietary laws where possible in private and at all times in public.
- The Officers shall participate in some mode of Judaic study for not less than three hours weekly; they shall attend not less than four religious services monthly, three of which must be on the Sabbath.
- It is expected that leaders of the organization will refrain from relationships which can be construed as interdating.
- It is expected that the leaders of the organization refrain from the illegal use of drugs and the illegal use of alcohol.
- The Officers shall participate actively in the affairs of their respective Chapters, and in all of the activities of their respective Regions.
- The provisions contained herein shall also apply to the remainder of the membership of the International General Board of USY as well as all members of Regional USY Executive Boards.
- The International Youth Commission, USY President, Director, all Regional Youth Commissions, Presidents, and Directors shall make every effort to assure that these basic standards are adhered to by our USY leaders.
Article VI – Convention
United Synagogue Youth shall designate not less than one Convention per year for the purpose of electing Officers and transacting business of the United Synagogue Youth.
Each chapter shall be represented at the Convention as follows:
- Each Chapter having less than 25 Members shall be entitled to two delegates.
- Each Chapter having from 25 50 Members shall be entitled to three delegates.
- Each Chapter having from 51 75 shall be entitled to four delegates.
- Each Chapter having from 76 100 Members shall be entitled to five delegates.
- Each Chapter having 101 125 Members shall be entitled to six delegates, with an additional delegate added for every 25 Members.
- The Executive Board shall have the power to increase or decrease representation within the indicated limits on an across the board basis, if it deems necessary.
- All members of the Regional Executive Boards shall attend as delegates.
- All members of the International General Board of United Synagogue Youth shall attend as delegates.
- No person shall have more than one vote at the Convention.
- All members of Regional General Boards shall attend as accredited observers.
A majority of the Convention shall have the power to determine the amount of the yearly dues to be levied upon each Member of United Synagogue Youth.
The fiscal year shall start on July 1 and end on the June 30 following.
All chapters which have not paid dues by November 15 shall be regarded as not in good standing, and may be denied the privileges of membership until the arrears for that year have been paid.
Article VII – Election of Officers
- In order to be eligible to become President of United Synagogue Youth, one must:
- Have been a member in good standing of United Synagogue Youth for at least one year prior to his election, and
- Have served as a regional officer or as a member of the general Board of United Synagogue Youth for a period of at least six month’s duration some time prior to his election.
- In order to be eligible to become an officer of United Synagogue Youth, one must:
- Have been a member in good standing of United Synagogue Youth for at least one year prior to his election, and
- Have served as a regional officer or as a member of the general Board of United Synagogue Youth for a period of at least six month’s duration some time prior to his election, or as a regional general Board member for a period of one year directly prior to the election.
- No person shall be elected to the same office more than twice.
- All candidates shall be matriculated high school students. If a candidate has fulfilled his/her high school requirements at the end of the Eleventh (11th) Grade of high school and decides to undertake appropriate work or internships and does not enroll in college, Nativ, or a program of comparable nature, he/she may still be considered a candidate for office. No candidate for office shall be a matriculated college student.
- Each candidate for office shall be required to submit to the President a petition containing the names of not less that 100 members representing not less than five different chapters, or a petition containing the names of members representing 20% of the candidate’s respective regional members as of July 1 of the election year representing not less than three chapter whichever is less.
- Each candidate shall be required to submit to the President written notice of his intention to be a candidate for a particular office and written notice of his qualifications for that office by December 1.
- To be elected, a Candidate must receive a majority of the votes cast, abstentions excluded.
- If no candidate receives a majority on the first ballot, a run-off election shall be held between the two candidates who have received the highest number of votes.
- In the event that an office has no candidate, the remainder of the newly elected Executive Board shall elect an eligible member to the office within 30 days following the International Convention, provided that a majority of the International Board transmit to the Executive Board its approval within 30 days of said appointment.
- Presidential candidates shall be permitted to be a candidate for no more than two different offices at the election. All Vice presidential candidates shall be permitted to be a candidate for only one office (i.e. Vice-presidential candidates may not “drop down”).
- All voting shall be done by Closed Ballot. But if a candidate is unopposed, he shall be elected by acclamation.
- The order of election shall be: President, Israel Affairs Vice President, Religion/Education Vice President, Social Action/Tikun Olam Vice President, Membership/Kadima Vice President, Communications Vice President.
- A candidate for office may run from the floor only if such said office has no candidate. Nominations shall be seconded by 100 delegates, representing at least five different chapters.
- In the event that elections have not been held within 400 days of the last date designated for elections, the General Board of United Synagogue Youth shall, meeting in special session, elect the Officers of United Synagogue Youth.
- All Officers shall be elected annually and shall hold office until such time as their successors are duly elected and installed. The Officers shall assume their duties following their election.
- The Executive Board of United Synagogue Youth may enact such procedures pursuant to this Constitution as they deem necessary for the purpose of governing the manner in which elections and campaigns are conducted.
- No chapter or Region of United Synagogue Youth shall withdraw funds from its Treasury for the purpose of financing a political campaign.
Article VIII – Impeachment
Any officer of United Synagogue Youth may be impeached for nonfeasance or malfeasance, including conduct unbecoming an officer of United Synagogue Youth.
A petition signed by ten members of the General Board of United Synagogue Youth detailing the charges against the accused Officer must be submitted to the President and the International Youth Commission no fewer than thirty days prior to the trial.
No officer shall be convicted without the concurrence of two thirds of the General Board and without having had an opportunity to personally hear the charges and to present a defense on his own behalf.
When the President is tried, the Israel Affairs Vice President presides.
Punishment shall consist of removal from Office and immediate disqualification from holding office in United Synagogue from that time forward.
Article IX – Vacancy
- In the event of a vacancy in the Presidency, the Officers, excluding the President, shall nominate and elect one current International Officer to fulfill the duties of the absent President for the remainder of the term. If the Officers cannot come to a conclusion, the International General Board will be called upon to vote into office one of the five Executive Officers as President.
- In the event that there exists a vacancy in the office of Israel Affairs Vice President, Religion/Education Vice President, Social Action/Tikun Olam Vice President, Membership Vice President, or Communications Vice President, the President shall appoint a member of the International Board to fill the vacated office, provided that a majority of the International Board transmit to him its approval of the appointment within 30 days.
In the event that an officer is absent or incapacitated for an extended period of time and is, therefore, unable to discharge the duties of his office, the President may appoint a member of United Synagogue Youth to assume the duties of that office until such time as the officer is able to resume his responsibilities.
Article X – Amendment
- This Constitution may be amended by a vote of two thirds of the General Board of United Synagogue Youth or by a majority of any delegate assembly of the United Synagogue Youth, provided that the International Youth Commission consents.
- All amendments must be received by the International President at least 30 days prior to voting, as outlined in Paragraph One above, and must be distributed to all voting delegates at least 20 days prior to voting.
- This Constitution may be ratified through the same procedures by which it may be amended.
In all cases where the business of United Synagogue Youth is transacted, a quorum shall consist of a majority of the members of the body in session.
The authority to interpret this Constitution and all rules, laws, and regulations made in pursuance thereof shall be vested in the Executive Board of United Synagogue Youth.
This Constitution shall become effective immediately upon its ratification. This Constitution and all rules, laws, and regulations made in pursuance thereof shall be the supreme law of United Synagogue Youth and all affiliated Chapters and Regions thereof.