USY has shown me an immense, pure joy I didn’t know existed. My three summer programs gave me experiences I couldn’t get anywhere else and gave me opportunities to travel to incredible, strange, exciting places. But USY isn’t really about the where, it’s the who. It’s the staff I call when I need some advice, the best friends who FaceTime me to hear about my day and to talk about theirs. These are the people who will turn a broken-down bus in the middle of Minnesota into a ruach-filled takeover of a gas station, the people who will make a three-hour layover in Poland a way to make life-long friends. This determination to make the most of every moment, to never squander any opportunity, has made me who I am today. The love that has encompassed me the very second I became part of USY is a love that will never leave me, and will forever change my life.
This year has been wild. And it’s not how I thought my time in USY would end. And it’s finally hitting me now that I’m leaving ruach sessions with screaming and jumping and sloach sessions with hugs and tears, and as excited I am for the next phase of my life, I know I will miss USY with all of my heart. But like I said, it’s the people of USY that make it so special, and I know that my USY friendships won’t get left behind the same way I’ll have to leave behind singing too loud on Saturday nights at conventions and staying up too late talking in hotels across the United States. Because of USY, I now know how to lead Kabbalat Shabbat, how to make friends in a day, how to ask to use the bathroom in Polish, and most of all – how to be confident and know my place in the world as a Jewish teenager and as part of close-knit, supportive, unconditionally loving community.
Alana is a proud member of the Millburn USY chapter in Hagalil USY. Alana served as Chapter President during her senior year, and participated in USY on Wheels East 2017, USY on Wheels Classic Bus A 2018, and USY Israel Pilgrimage/Poland Seminar 2019. In the Fall, Alana will enroll in the University of Richmond.