My Unusual Approach To USY Leadership

Editors’ Note: When it comes to USY leadership, one of the most commonly thrown around questions is “What position are you?” Frankly, that is not really a good question. Just because a USYer has a position does not mean that they aren’t passionate about other denominations of leadership or programming. HaNegev’s Morgan Isbitts shares with us how she overcame the arbitrary positional divisions of USY, and how her interests in all the different programming categories have made her a better leader.

When you picture yourself running or applying for a leadership position in USY—whether it be in your chapter, sub-region/division, region, or even international USY—what position are you going for? Perhaps you’re a Rel/Ed, since you’ve gone to Jewish day school your entire life, so you know a lot about the Torah. Maybe you’re a Mem/Kad because you’re a little more outgoing than the average teenager. The truth is, it’s not that easy to label your passions. And, if you’re like me, you never want to label your passions. Doing so can make you feel like anything and everything you do must confirm that you are worthy of your title.

My freshman year of USY, I attended Regional General Board Weekend (often referred to as LTI in other regions) as a Young Leader. Basically, this means that I would get to learn about USY leadership for the first time ever, and it was truly an eye-opening experience. I had recently lost chapter board, so I was excited to get to attend this convention and see what it’s like to be a leader. Most of the sophomores, juniors, and seniors at the convention told me that at some point that year, I would figure out what my USY leadership path would be, depending on what kind of programs I liked best. My problem was that I liked everything! I couldn’t possibly picture myself leading only one type of program. And so, I decided to just strive to do what I enjoyed, regardless of which leadership category it fell under.

Sophomore year, I ran for chapter Israel Affairs VP and lost (yes, I lost chapter board two years in a row), and then dropped down to Mem/Kad, and lost that election as well. I finally began my leadership journey when I was accepted to the Rel/Ed Regional General Board. Every single part of my job on Rel/Ed GB has made an impact on my life: Creating programs made me realize how fascinating interactive education can be; leading services, both traditionally and “creatively” has made me appreciate the uniqueness of Conservative Judaism; and writing and delivering Divrei Torah has allowed me to come out of my shell, as well as realize my passion for writing. With only one leadership position, I used my spare time to create playlists for every sub-regional event that year, including our SA/TO Sunday silent disco.

Many people assumed that since I was on Rel/Ed GB, my next step was to run for chapter or regional Rel/Ed. But if you can’t already tell, I refuse to let a leadership title define my entire life. So, for my junior year, I ran for sub-regional vice president, whose main job is to create monthly leadership training programs to be held over video chat for the whole region. Since I didn’t really identify with one specific role, but I loved leadership training, I figured this job would be perfect for me. Shockingly, I lost that election as well. I then ran for chapter Israel Affairs VP again, marking the first election I had won in my entire life. I was also accepted to Israel Affairs RGB, at which point I started to think, I must be an IA. I wrote and led several Israel programs that year and made Israel updates using Canva (perhaps I was a Comm in another life?). I even started making Israel Affairs regalia to raise money for Tikkun Olam and Israeli music playlists for fun, making me realize that IA involves so much more than just Israel. There’s education, food, Hebrew, music, and so much more. And that’s what I love so much about IA—it simply synthesizes elements from every leadership position in USY into one position that also has a historically significant theme to it. For a long time, I feared that I didn’t initially know enough about Israel to be an IA, but I later realized that the job is much more meaningful when you don’t. Leadership positions, to some degree, should always be learning experiences.

This year, I am regional IA VP and I am on IA IGB. And even though I have now been a chapter IA, on IA RGB, a regional IA, and a member of IA IGB, I am not simply “an IA”. I am the product of indecisiveness, overexcitement, and a dash of ADD to top it off. I have come to terms with the fact that I will never be able to choose one path in life. And you know what? It’s an incredible quality to have. I’ll probably always be in a hundred different clubs but as long as I’m enjoying it, there’s no reason not to be.

Never think that just because you didn’t get on a General Board or because you lost an election for the position you were set on, you’ve lost any chance at becoming a leader. I am a huge believer in the idea that everything happens for a reason. I lost an election three out of my four years in USY (and a gazillion other elections throughout my entire life), yet I am more than satisfied with what I’ve been able to contribute to this wonderful organization. And if you focus on doing individual things you enjoy as opposed to just going for the position you want, I promise you will be too. You shouldn’t be asking yourself what you are (a SA/TO, a Mem/Kad, etc.). You should be asking yourself who you are and what you love to do.

Morgan Isbitts is a senior from Hanegev USY. She is a proud member of B’nai Aviv USY (BAUSY) in Weston, Florida. She is currently serving as regional Israel Affairs Vice President and serves on Israel Affairs International General Board.