Yesterday, USYers greeted the morning with creative Shacharit (morning services), where they were able to choose from different, unique approaches to prayer including Broadway showtunes, “davening in the dark” blindfolded, yoga, and Zumba.
These creative services helped teens better connect with prayer, making it relevant, fun, and immediately accessible.
Following services, the teens went into their last educational session of the convention, exploring the theme D’ror Yikra: The Road to Freedom. Immersive learning tracks taught by partner organizations and educators including Repair the World, AIPAC, iCenter, and Chicago Jewish Child and Family Services focused on topics such as economic justice, human rights, Israel advocacy, gender, and more.
Through these small group sessions teens learned about the ways in which freedom plays in to the current social and political landscape and what they can do to affect change.
“The biggest takeaway for me, as a person who before coming to this convention wasn’t a huge advocate for Israel because I wasn’t very educated about it, was even if you don’t know that much you can still make a difference. You don’t necessarily need to be at a big march, but you can be an advocate just by being a proud Jew.”
– Austin Kaufman, Far West, On the Israel advocacy educational track
“It made me feel like I belonged because sometimes you feel like you don’t because there aren’t people like you, but when you see that there are 20 other kids that are exactly like you in a group of 700 it makes you feel like you’re meant to be there.”
– Meira Groth, CHUSY, On the sexuality educational track
“It was a lot of fun to be in a session with Americans because, being Canadian, I really didn’t know anything about AIPAC. So learning about the help that is provided by America to Israel was actually kind of heartening; to hear that there’s more support than I thought by looking at the media.
– Eli Rubineau, ECRUSY, On the Israel advocacy educational track
“It really reinforced in my mind the importance of advocating and building relationships. It’s important [to have an educational session on Israel at IC] because we have a large amount of Jewish youth here…so its good to…stress values that are important.”
– Sophia Sloves, Mizrach, On the Israel advocacy educational track
“I think it’s important to talk [economic injustice] here because as Jews we have a responsibility, tikun olam, but also I think we need to learn about the city we’re in and Chicago…the contrast between how people live here in incredible, like it is in a lot of major cities.”
– Elliot Schochet, EMTZA, On the economic justice track
“We got to learn different things about people from all over and we all have different connections to the LGBT community and it was really moving to see all of us together working on these mini-projects.”
– Karizmah Brauner, METNY, On the sexuality educational track
Putting learning into action, the teens next explored their own ‘Freedom to Lead,’ drawing upon different leadership qualities to create social action and advocacy campaigns, which they can bring back to their kehillot.
We can’t wait to see what positive changes our teens are able to make using what they’ve learned here. After a full morning of educational programming, the convention switched gears to something more physical and athletic in the evening.
The night ended with “A Night of Champions,” games and activities honoring Chicago’s sports teams. USYers wore their favorite team jerseys around the convention floor and took part in relay races, bouncing on giant inflatables, and a life-size foosball game.
Check back for more to come USY International Convention tomorrow!