How Good it is to Come Home

By Zachary Zabib, International President

#myUSYsummer was definitely one to remember.

After going on Israel Pilgrimage/Poland Seminar G4 in 2016, this summer I returned to Israel with USY. I was able to witness Pilgrimage groups explore caves, tend to nature, raft down rivers and spend Shabbat together, just as I had done as a participant. More valuable, however, was the time I spent with the groups at HaEvent, a competition between each of the Pilgrimage groups, as each group showed how close they had become through a number of team oriented challenges. They worked together to climb rock walls, build towers, and walk tightropes, all while cheering each other along.  The week I spent in Israel was only a small sample of the adventures our USY Pilgrims had this summer.

Unfortunately, I never had the opportunity to travel with USY on Wheels. That is, until I visited the Wheels buses in LA and spent Shabbat with Wheels East in DC. I took part in crazy bus parties as we sang to our hearts delight, and I experienced the magic of Disneyland with hundreds of Wheelniks. I saw USYers’ faces light up as they went onto the bus, something many teens dread doing. These USYers gained such an appreciation for the world around them as they explored the country, something I envy them for.

Israeli songwriter Arik Einstein once sang, “How good it is to come home, we had the time of our lives, we did so many things.” After a crazy summer visiting USY’s Pilgrimage and Wheels groups, I don’t think there is a better verse to describe the experiences that USY offers. I say that not because I am happy to come home, but because USY gives opportunities to Jewish teenagers to make new moments and homes for themselves.

The groups made homes for themselves in the world they explored. The Pilgrimage groups made themselves at home in Agron and in Poriyah, but they also made connections with Israel, the Jewish homeland. The Wheels buses made themselves at home in cities around the country from Jackson Hole to LA to New Orleans.

More important than making a home out of their surroundings, each USY summer group made a home with each other. The majority of USYers join a summer experience knowing very few people. Not even halfway through their trips, I learned from many participants how close they have gotten with their new communities. I know that each participant from summer 2018, AND every single summer experiences alumni, have so many moments and memories to share about the homes they created through USY.

These summer experiences change lives. Now is the time to start thinking about next summer.  Will you be building a new home on a USY summer experience next summer?