Fall Convention Recaps

Editors’ Note: The 2019-2020 convention year has gotten off to an incredible start! Read below to hear about each region’s Fall convention! Thanks to the Regional Comms for contributing to this article!

Pinwheel – Robbie Baker
In late October, Pinwheelers in grades 6 through 12 met for Fall Kinnus at Camp Solomon Schechter in Olympia, Washington. This was the first time that USY and Kadima held a joint Fall Kinnus. We had an amazing time getting to know each other through our planned activities leveraging our theme of “Around the World”. From Play-Doh Shacharit to Candy Shacharit, we shared new and old tunes as we spent Shabbat together. One of the highlights of the weekend was our Saturday Night social–our own version of “Chopped”. Before we knew it, Sunday morning had arrived and it was time to part ways, but Regional Convention is less than 200 days away! SPIN PINWHEEL SPIN!

Tzafon – Sophie Scheer
Tzafon had such a DINO-mite time at our dinosaur-themed Fall Kallah! We started off the weekend by doing some awesome icebreakers, then followed by welcoming Shabbat. We learned about the creation of the world according to different cultures, and we had a really spirited ruach session. We ended our Friday learning about and discussing interesting topics led by our fellow USYers.

On Saturday, we started the day off with Shabbat services, great ruach, and some relaxing. We participated in a scavenger hunt and brownie decorating during which we met new people and made new friends. Our Social Action program taught us about the food we eat and where it comes from. After that, we were ready to close Shabbat and begin our fun activities for the night! We started off with a carnival that featured fun games such as bobbing for apples, a burlap sack race, and palm readings. Tzafon then welcomed a hypnotist and had so much fun watching our friends get hypnotized. Finally, we said Lilah Tov and went to bed.

On Sunday we started our day off with some spirited Shacharit and learned all about Israeli dancing. It was a blast. Some of our friends talked to us about USY Summer Programs, and got us hyped for IC! Then it was time to say l’hitraot and see you at IC!

CHUSY – Celia Giles
Our last convention was “Under the CHUSea” at Camp Chi’s Perlstein Resort in Lake Delton, Wisconsin from November 8 to 10. It was so much fun! Friday night, we got to see an awesome show from Ben the Bubble Man! It was the coolest thing we have ever seen. Saturday night, we went to Kalahari and had a great time at the indoor water park and amusement park. We cannot wait for our next convention, Kinnus, in the spring!

Far West – Raquel Kelley
Far West held its annual Encampment from November 8 to 10 at Camp Ramah in Ojai, California. CartoonCampment was truly a success! We started Friday with icebreakers led by Mem/Kad Regional General Board, and then we went straight into Kabbalat Shabbat and Maariv. Friday night services were fun and engaging with a lot of egg shakers. After a wonderful Shabbos dinner, we went into sichot in which we discussed the impact social media has on our lives. We then participated in grade bonding, during which each grade performed an activities that created inside jokes. It was then time for late nights and then bed.

We woke up Saturday morning to a wonderful chocolate muffin breakfast and went into Shacharit. We had a unique Torah service, during which we partook in the Sweetness of Torah program – for each trivia question a person gets right from the parsha, they would get a piece of candy. After services, we free time followed by sichot. Then we went to lunch, where the cholent was absolutely delicious! After lunch, we had free time during which you could chill on the hill, play Shabbos ball, or just walk around camp and take a hike. Next, it was time for Mincha, and we all know that Far West Mincha is the MOST hype service of a regional weekend. We then went into Seudah Shlishit, and had Maariv, slowach, and Havdallah. Next it was time for the best part of the night… senior auctions, coin challenge and the night activity!! Senior auctions are always a blast and it raises money for TO, allowing for inter-grade bonding. After auctions, it was time for the night activity, where there was laser tag, a game truck, Just Dance, a cartoon-themed soda bar, snacks, and regalia. Throughout the night the grades collected coins for T.O., and the grade that raised the most money per capita got the chance to pie Cabinet and the CartoonCampment Co-Chairs. After the night activity we went to bed, and woke up for an amazing and spiritual creative Shacharit.

While we walked to the “meditation platform”, we had a silent reflection with guided questions; on the way down we had a meaningful discussion with someone new. It was truly amazing. After breakfast we had the theme of the next Kinnus announced, and we moved over to the SA/TO and Israel programming. After the programs, we all gathered on the hill where we saw the whipped cream. It was time to pie! The seniors won the coin challenge and got to pie the Cabinet and Co-Chairs. It was really, really messy. Finally, it was time for closing circle, and lots of hugs and goodbyes. Everyone had an amazing weekend!

HaNer – Evan Siegel
From November 8 to 10, HaNer USY held their annual Leadership Fall Convention in Palmer, Massachusetts. With over 100 kids and staff, a sense of tradition, determination, and fun was present, making the entire weekend a success. Aside from partaking in traditions like huddling around the candle during Havdallah and shouting during ruach—this convention was special. We started on Friday evening when everyone sat in the chapel chanting and celebrating Judaism through a USY-style Shabbat, followed by a great dinner and a loud ruach session in which everyone was brought together even more. That night, the leadership programs began, with a session led by each board member discussing their goals. On Saturday morning, the traditions continued with another service filled with learning from leaders across the New England region. After more programs and bonding, the day ended at 1 AM with a dodgeball tournament won by the Presidents. On Sunday, there was a general meeting in which the board went over goals and plans for the new and growing region. HaNer USY’s leadership convention was super fun, and taught leadership skills to a lot to kids in all different stages of their USY experience.

HaNegev – Shaina Smith
From November 8 to 10, many of HaNegev’s leaders gathered in Tampa, Florida at the beautiful Kol Ami Congregation for Regional General Board Weekend (RGBW). RGBW is an annual convention where HaNegev REB, SRB (Sub-Regional Board for anyone not in HaNegev), General Boards, Chapter Presidents, and Young Leaders gather for a weekend full of leadership training and fun!

The theme of this year’s RGBW was “The Greatest Region!” The theme was used throughout the weekend with Circus-themed programming and food. On Saturday, after a day full of praying, ruach, and leadership training, we ended with an Un-talented Show. This was a program in which we were paired up and had to teach our partner a talent that we had prepared. After brief lessons with our partner, we performed our new talent!

On Sunday, we closed convention with auditions for the HaNegev Circus show in which the Sub-Regions created a circus act and performed it for the convention. Mercaz swept the judges away and earned points for their sub-region towards HUSY competition (You can read more about HUSY competition here). Overall, RGBW was amazing, you could say The Greatest Weekend of the year!

METNY – Dylan Landman
METNY USY soared to new heights at METNY Air Regional Fall Kinnus. To open up the event, USYers engaged in icebreakers to get to know friends, old and new. USYers then shifted into Shabbat mode. From sundown to sundown, USYers participated in creative Shacharit, a meaningful sicha session about breaking tradition, and a ton of ruach. To end Shabbat, METNY partied all night long at the annual dance. The event wrapped up as METNY USYers colored and decorated pillows for each other. This event was surely one to remember for years to come.

ECRUSY – Sari Weinroth
On November 15, the Torontonian USYers hopped on a train and headed to Ottawa for our annual ECRUSY Fall Convention! The ride was long, but definitely worth the screams and hugs of friends reuniting after not seeing each other all summer. We quickly got changed into our nice clothes for Shabbat and started with our opening skits. Finally, the convention had begun!

After a meaningful Kabbalat Shabbat service, we ate dinner and kicked off with some icebreakers. After getting to know each other a little more, we had fun singing some ruach songs and participating in programs planned by our friends. After a bedtime story read by our REB, it was time for bed.

On Shabbat, we participated in t’fillot in the main sanctuary at Kehilat Beth Israel followed by a kiddush and chofesh! Somehow, all the USYers at convention participated in a giant cuddle puddle for all of our free time. Chofesh was followed by tons of fun programming and a slow ruach session before our Havdallah service. After Shabbat, a mobile escape room came and set up at the synagogue. In three groups, USYers worked through puzzles and problems and made it through the escape rooms. It was TONS of fun! After a long day, it was time to sleep.

Bright and early on Sunday morning, USYers met back at the synagogue for a candy-themed Shacharit service. After eating more Hershey Kisses than anyone should be eating at 9 AM, we went to the Canadian Parliament in Ottawa and Byward Market. The morning was spent walking around, eating a lot, and taking pictures. When we got back to the synagogue, we had one more session of slow ruach and then it was time for hugs and goodbyes. ECRUSY cannot wait for another fun-filled convention and more time with our friends!

Mizrach – Harris Albuck
Mizrach had a blast at our second Fall Kinnus as a region! We started our convention with infectious ruach and maintained our spirit throughout the weekend. During our convention we engaged in meaningful programs and came together as a community to spend a special Shabbat as one. Together, we prayed and shared our love for USY. After Shabbat we spent time at Bounce U hopping around with friends, both old and new. All together, Mizrach’s Fall Kinnus was a success filled with happiness and joy.

Hagalil – Matt Saperstein
Hagalil had an AMAZING time at the Hagalil Safari! We spent a wonderful, ruach-filled Shabbat filled with new friendships and so many memories. After Shabbat ended, we had an epic safari-themed dance (and ate lots of animal crackers)! On Sunday, we had a super chill Shacharit live featuring some new tunes and instruments. We can’t wait for midwinter from January 31 to February 2!

Seaboard – Maddy Pollack
The Seaboard region had our Haunted House Fall Convention the weekend of November 22 to 24 at the ever-beautiful Capital Camps. Soon after all of our buses arrived, we welcomed in Shabbat together as a community. Shabbat with Seaboard is always a wondrous experience, but it’s what’s after Havdallah that USYers really look forward to at Fall.

For years, our regional SA/TO has hosted the exciting Seaboard Sailor talent competition. All of our seniors are introduced to the crowd of cheering USYers, after which they all participate in a choreographed dance medley. Finally, comes the most amazing part of Seaboard Sailor: the talent portion. Every senior gets the opportunity to put on a fun, silly, hilarious, or touching act by themselves or with their friends. Each performer designates a person not participating in the show to hold an envelope to raise money on their behalf. The audience of USYers puts T.O. money into the envelopes of their favorite acts. The senior who raises the most T.O. money for their act wins the competition. This year, our winner sang a PERFECT rendition of Frank Sinatra’s “Fly Me to the Moon”. Everyone was screaming as if Sinatra himself had come to sing to us, and the front row was THE place to be. Some other favorite acts were a water-chugger, a group performing the popular YouTube video “How Animals Eat”, a speed reader of “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie”, and even a food fight canvas masterpiece artist.

We have special traditions at every regional get-together, but Seaboard Sailor is the time when we get to celebrate all of our seniors and the legacies they leave for our region. We’ll miss you, Class of 2020!

Emtza – Emi Stiefel-Alperin
This year, Kinnus was in Annandale, Minnesota and was themed Teenage Mutant Emtza Turtles. At the convention, 139 Emtzaniks enjoyed spending time with their friends, learning about coming out of their shell and being part of the Emtza love. They also did SA/TO projects that impacted the community and had a blast jumping at AirMaxx trampoline park.

On Saturday night, USYers were split into groups for a board game simulation. They were tasked with representing the Israeli government and were given real-life scenarios. This gave Emtzaniks a chance to see the tough decisions Israel has had to make and the outcomes it has for the country in a fun and interactive way.

CRUSY – Sarah Belin
CRUSY’s last convention weekend was quite unconventional. This is because we had not one, but two top-notch Kinnuses at Camp Wise in Chardon, Ohio. CRUSY’s Fall Kinnus drew the region’s high schoolers and Kadima Kinnus was booming with middle schoolers ready for a taste of USY. When buses arrived, the groups were greeted with our signature ruach.

Even while juggling the logistics of two concurrent conventions, we made it a point to start and end Shabbat together. In total, we raised over a thousand dollars for SA/TO through a fabulous fashion show and auctioned off board members for pie-in-the-face-throwing rights to the highest bidder. CRUSY also held a winter drive collecting everything from canned goods to winter clothing to donate to the SHM Family Center. We were so sad to see everyone go, but we can’t wait for IC!

New Frontier – Avi Shapiro
In Petaluma, California, there is a ranch, a ranch completely off the grid from all civilization, and the perfect place for a peaceful convention. This ranch is called Walker Creek Ranch, and from the 22nd of November to the 24th, all of New Frontier USY AND Kadima came together to this remote location for Fall Kinnus.

One of the best aspects of convention was sichot. The first sicha was focused on technology and how our usage of technology can affect those around us. For this sicha, we split off into USY and Kadima, and then each group split into subgroups and went with staff and Regional Board members into different rooms. Once we were into the rooms, we discussed digital impacts and the effect that social media can have both on our lives and other people’s lives. We also talked about the future of technology and social media, and how we as the next generation are going to live in regards to social media. After the sicha, we had chofesh, and you could see the effect the sicha was having on the USYers and the Kadimaniks alike.

Convention was unique this year, as it was a double convention, with the USY Fall Kinnus and the Kadima Convention happening at the same time. This created a fun opportunity for friendships between USYers and Kadimanicks to be formed, and by the closing circle at the end of convention, every Kadimanik had at least one O’gram from a USYer.

SWUSY – Joy Meyers
The weekend before Thanksgiving, SWUSY came together to start off the USY year at Camp Young Judea. The weekend started with an amazing Stranger Things opening skit. For the first time, we had two conventions at once. Fall Kallah for USYers was Stranger Things themed, while Kamp Kadima was Avengers themed. We brought in Shabbat as one big SWUSY family and had some fun sports programs.
On Saturday we all joined together again for services, then went our separate ways. The beginning of the day was filled with Choose Your Own Creative Shacharit. After Chofesh we let the USYers choose their own adventure with 613, Heschel, and Chalutzim. We ended Shabbat SWUSY style and came together for a campfire where we all made s’mores. After the campfire, we all got into groups for color wars by grade. Then came time for the highly anticipated senior auction (You can read more about that here). We also had each chapter make and bring a basket to auction off for T.O.

Sunday was gloomy as the weekend was coming to an end, but we still all had an amazing time. We started off with Dungeons and Dragons Shacharit where we made different characters for different situations. After this, we had a brunch where we made the first-ever SWUSY Tik Tok. We then came together to make a huge spider web with yarn, indicating we are all connected. Everyone got to take home a bit of yarn to make a bracelet to remember. We ended convention with one big friendship circle where we all got together for one last time. It was an amazing way to enter into the 2019-2020 USY year.