Editor’s Note: Our next stop on the Achshav Regional Spotlight tour is the region home to the current International Chapter of the Year, the “soul of USY”, Hanefesh USY. Before their exciting merge with NERUSY, sophomore Sam Zuckerman tells us why being in a small region makes his USY experience so much more valuable.
To understand why Hanefesh is special, I think it is important to tell a story about an interaction I had with Sam Bloch over Snapchat. He was upset that he couldn’t stay in Westport with one of his three closest Hanefesh friends when he came down to Connecticut in February. Trying to be a jokester, I answered, “being close to a Hanefesh guy means nothing. There’s like four of us.” I think it’s funny how the butt of almost all the jokes made against us is actually our greatest asset: size.
There is something about being a small fish in the large USY pond that makes this region terrific to be apart of. We all have this sense of comradery that you don’t necessarily find in other regions. It is true that others may know of everyone in there region, but they don’t know each other like we do. They don’t all have those tight-knit relationships throughout their entire region; that type of relationship may only exist with their small group of friends.
This can all be summed up by how we used to act at NERUSY/Hanefesh conventions. For dodgeball on Saturday night at Fall Kinnus, we had our own team. We would conduct our own meetings as well. We did so much together, and I’m going to miss a lot of that when we merge.
But there is one Hanefesh tradition that in my opinion, is above all the others. Every Friday night after Shabbos at Kinnus, we, as a region, all gather in the staff lounge of Ramah Palmer, and we share things about ourselves that may not be known by anyone else in the region, or maybe even in the world. It’s a very sentimental time where we just get to talk about ourselves in ways we usually don’t. I think that this tradition we have is something that is special to our region. It wouldn’t be possible with NERUSY, or with any other region because they are just too big. But because we are so small, we have the ability partake in this experience which I hold so close to my heart. It only adds to the preexisting bond that we already have, and we become even closer as a region, and as friends in general.
As my days as a member of Hanefesh come to a close, I can only think of memories that fill me with joy and make me smile. The days I spent with this region are days I will cherish for the rest of my USY career and the rest of my life. I think that my small region truly lived up to its name– Hanefesh, the soul. This region will always have a place in my soul, and it has taught me so much. So, I want to thank you Hanefesh, for not only adding so much to my life, but also showing me the true meaning of “Big things can come in small packages.”
Sam Zuckerman is a sophomore from Hanefesh USY. He currently serves as Religion/Education Vice President for his chapter Westport USY, the reigning International Chapter of the Year, based out of The Conservative Synagogue in Westport, CT.