Editor’s Note: With IC SoCal only seven months away, and registration opening on Friday, June 7, it is definitely not too soon to start getting hyped up for the 69th annual International Convention. Today, the blog (and Mizrach’s) own Reena Bromberg Gaber shares with us how her experiences at the past two International Conventions have shaped her as a leader and changed her life for the better.
Imagine the best regional convention of the year. Except instead of just your region, you find yourself surrounded by hundreds of USYers from across North America. Every single person is singing at the top of their lungs, dancing their heart out, and celebrating the pride they have for their Judaism. That is what International Convention is like. It’s like Disney, but better; it’s the happiest place on Earth.
My first IC was IC Chicago 2017. Going in, I was so scared. There were so many people I didn’t know and I had no idea what to expect. But that didn’t matter. Lots of people came up to me and talked to me, and slowly I found myself going to up to new people and feeling more comfortable. The day everyone at convention participates in community service projects, my group was the last group to leave the hotel (hey 16C!!). We made dog toys and blankets and eventually went to serve Christmas lunch. We all had the opportunity to give back to the community and help others around us. But we also had the opportunity to meet people that we may not have known otherwise. To this day, over a year later, I still talk every day to those friends I made, friends that I, at first, hung out with for just a few hours. I even get to work closely with one of those friends in the same International General Board position (hey Jacob!).
Registration for IC 2018 in Orlando began last May, and I’m pretty sure I cried when I signed up. That’s how unbelievably excited I was to go to my second IC. I very clearly remember thinking that there was no way I could actually wait seven months for another IC. Leading up to Winter Break 2018, of course I was excited for a week and a half off from school, but I was even more excited to escape the cold and go to Florida to spend the week with my best friends. I was so excited I couldn’t sleep the night before! And I was even okay with waking up at four in the morning to get to the airport. I flew with two people from Mizrach and some NERUSY kids who had already arrived at the airport, and eventually, we boarded the bus to the hotel for the convention of the year.
The next few hours were a whirlwind, but they were amazing. One of the most beautiful things to witness is seeing people reunite with friends that they haven’t seen in months or years. The hugs and the smiles are better than anything that can be captured by a camera. However, seeing people meeting each other for the first time, whether they introduced themselves or they were introduced by friends, is even better. Making a new friend is probably the easiest when you’re at IC. All you have to do is say “Hi! My name is ______!” and you will almost instantly have a friend.
Although meeting new friends and seeing old ones is one of my favorite things, probably ever, my favorite parts of IC are any times USYers are singing and dancing. Opening Session is nothing like you have ever experienced before or will ever experience again. The ruach of every USYer is infectious. Singing and dancing to all of our favorite ruach songs and Israeli songs was probably the most fun I had all year. There is nothing like being surrounded by hundreds of Jewish teenagers, all of them proud to be Jewish. It’s also incredible to see every region in their own shirts, cheering on their president as their region is introduced, and screaming their regional song at the top of their lungs. The times when the whole convention body comes together are marked by even more singing and dancing and celebrating. But there are other parts of convention that are filled with ruach as well. For instance, on Social Action Day this year, the community service projects were split up by grade. Each grade got a different colored IC shirt and went off to do their service project. The juniors stayed at the hotel again and we put together blankets, dog toys, flower pots. When we were finished, someone started singing ruach songs, and the whole grade joined in. But, we were a little too loud and instead, we sat down and started singing sloach. The entire class of 2020 sat in a huge lopsided circle on the floor, there was one b’kol echad being passed around by a few Rel/Eds in the middle, and everyone was swaying with their arms around their friends and people they had never met before. Many people in my grade have said this was their favorite moment at this year’s IC.
I cannot even begin to describe just how excited I am for IC SoCal 2019. I am counting down the days until I will able to see some of my best friends in the entire world again and until I can experience everything that happens at IC. The International Conventions I have been to are part of who I am. IC has given me friendships that I know will last a lifetime, has contributed to the confidence I have gained through USY, has shown me how amazing other high schoolers from across the continent are, and has given me memories I will never forget. Go to IC SoCal 2019, you will not regret it.
Reena Bromberg Gaber is a junior from Mizrach USY. She is a proud member of Bucks USY (BUSY) in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. She serves as Mizrach’s Regional President and is one of the Achshav Blog Coordinators. She also wrote this bio about herself 🙂