A few short weeks ago, we got back from USY’s International Leadership Training Institute. This marked the very first international USY event since 2019, not including summer programs. As a member of the IEB (International Executive Board), my journey began a day before most people arrived. I came to Chicago a day early with the rest of the board to help with final preparations for the weekend. We spent most of it in the Chicago CHUSY office, ensuring that all materials were in place to have a successful convention.
As a board, we arrived at Camp Nageela just after 11PM on Thursday night. We unpacked and organized a bit before heading to bed. On Friday morning, we finished setting up and prepared for the rest of the USYers to arrive! Finally, around 3PM, it happened. I will never forget the feeling of seeing the buses start to pull in, full of teens waiting with anticipation. Our board had been working for months on end to prepare for this moment, and honestly it always feels surreal to see programs planned on documents turn into real-life experiences. When the buses came to a stop, we bounded up the steps to greet everyone. International President, Leora Frank led the way. As International Comm, I followed closely behind her with my camera, ready to capture everything that would ensue. Every time we stepped onto a bus, we were met with the cheers and ruach (spirit) of the nearly 80 USY leaders from across North America. Each person at LTI was already passionate about USY, and the passion only grew throughout the weekend.
The planned programming at LTI included counterpart leadership sessions for Presidents as well as Religious Education, Israel Affairs, Outreach, MemKads, and Communications Vice Presidents. Everybody at LTI participated in creative and traditional Tefilot, and we had the opportunity to hear guest speaker Pamela Schuller from Jewish Matchmaking. When Shabbat ended, we had a pool and glow foam party followed by an unforgettable Senior Late Night. Believe it or not, these are only some of the programs we got to enjoy together. Beyond what was officially on the schedule, some amazing unplanned “programming” happened naturally: USYers from all regions bonded and shared traditions. We were lucky to learn chants from Emtza, Tisch songs from HaNegev and CHUSY, ruach songs from HaGalil, dances for before meals, and so much more.
By the time the end of LTI arrived, nobody was ready to say goodbye. Many have already made plans to attend conventions in regions other than their own! I look forward to seeing USYers across USY, everywhere. Thank you all for an incredible Shabbat!