Editor’s Note: In between the East and West Coast regions, in the middle of the country, the Emtza region reigns. Passing cornfields on the way to a convention is not uncommon, and farmer jokes are constantly made. The region that started it all is the next stop on our regional spotlight tour, and their very own Emi Stiefel Alperin brings us there!
A Christian retreat center in the middle of Iowa? Is that really a place you, as a Jewish teen, want to spend your weekend? Well, in Emtza it certainly is! Two conventions a year are held at the glorious Sunstream Retreat Center in Ogden, IA: Kadima Kinnus and Spring Kallah. (In five years, I have attended seven conventions there!) This place becomes familiar for most Emtzaniks. One of the unique aspects of Emtza Region is that it is the largest geographically, therefore we always have at least a two-hour bus ride or have to take a plane to every convention unless hosted in our city.
During chofesh (free time) at Spring Kallah, Emtzaniks are allowed to attend a program called Senior Moments. This is a chance for the seniors to tell funny stories about their time in USY. It could be stories from Kinnus to Pilgrimage and anything in between. It’s always a good time especially when the whole room cracks up laughing. These stories get Emtzaniks thinking about what they want to say when they become seniors.
At every convention at Sunstream, there is this certain vibe you get Saturday night. We have a dinner of the delicious Sunstream Pizza and vanilla ice cream. After Slowach (slow ruach), we end Shabbat with Havdalah outside surrounding a big fire. After all our “Shavuah Tov”s, we go back to our cabins to change and get ready for our black light dance party. There’s just something about walking into a dark room and glowing that is magical. You can dance like nobody’s watching, and we all do. By the end, we are all hot and sweaty but we come together for the last song, “Lean On Me”, which can be very emotional for the seniors. It’s a little thing we do that makes us feel big inside.
We started a new tradition this year in Emtza which is called Closing Circle. We join together for the last time as a region and sing a song. The convention chairpeople and a few Emtzaniks from different grades walk around the circle and say their favorite part of the convention. This is a good way to reflect on the weekend as a whole. We may all live far from each other, but we all come together as Emtza.
“We’re Emtza and we’re on the ball, we’re the region that started it all!” Emtza is the first region ever to exist in USY. There are many other regions but it’s hard to believe that they could have existed without us. We are the foundation of USY. Next time you are at IC or are on a Summer Program with an Emtzanik, think past the idea of a middle of nowhere, corn-shucking-tractor-driving teenager and thank them – without our region, our love for Judaism, our perseverance, our creation of USY, you probably wouldn’t be reading this and also be a USYer.
Emi Stiefel Alperin is a junior from Emtza USY. She is a proud member of BJUSY in Mendota Heights, Minnesota. She is currently serving as regional Communications Vice President for the 2019-2020 programming year.