Hundreds of Conservative Jewish Teens from across North America celebrate together at Opening Session. Photo by Adrian Baird, Endless Entertainment.

This December 25-29, nearly 1,000 Jewish teenagers, educators, professionals, and alumni from United Synagogue Youth (USY) gathered in Dallas, TX for five days of Hanukkah celebrations, interactive learning, and hands-on social action at USY’s 66th International Convention. A program of The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism (USCJ), USY is America’s largest Conservative Jewish youth group.

This convention marks several firsts for the organization, from its inaugural Texas location to a new milestone in USY’s partnership with NOAM, its sister youth movement that reaches Masorti teens globally. USY will host young adults from ten countries including Israel, Argentina, Ukraine, Uganda, and beyond at the convention and kick off a year-long pairing of NOAM’s global chapters with USY regions. This new program will help foster lasting relationships between Jewish teens from diverse backgrounds, as well as global learning initiatives and social action projects.

“We are excited to bring together our teens to create global connections and discuss their shared future as leaders of Masorti/Conservative Judaism,” said Rabbi David Levy, USCJ’s Sr. Director, Teen Learning.

The convention will focus on the theme Chazak, Chazak, v’Nitchazek, which translates to Be Strong, Be Strong, May We Be Strengthened. Through interactive educational programming, community service, and talks from peers and leading professionals the convention will build teens’ capacity as Jewish leaders, individuals, and advocates.

“USYers will leave feeling empowered to create positive change…and build a stronger future for themselves [and] their communities,” said teen co-chairs Noa Rose and Harrison Steier. “We will grow together and learn to overcome modern challenges in a Jewish context.”

Convention guests include keynote speaker, CEO and President of Hillel Eric Fingerhut, a USY alumnus and past Central Region USY (CRUSY) president and former star wrestler/professional motivational speaker Rohan Murphy. Educational partners include Hillel, KESHET, and Stand With Us with study sessions focusing on topics such as the Holocaust, modern day Judaism in America, Israeli history, politics, and culture, Judaism on the college campus, inclusion, and the media.

In conjunction with local agencies, the entire convention body will participate in several hands-on social action projects with partners including Goodwill of Dallas, Hope Farm, ACH Child and Family Services, Congregation Ahavath Sholom, Christian Center of Fort Worth, North Texas Food Bank, Catholic Charities of Ft. Worth, Christian Community Action, Mission Arlington, and Mission Metroplex. The teens will also take part in ongoing charitable activities over the course of the convention, collecting donations for local Dallas agencies.

The convention will also expose teens to local Texas culture including visits to the Fort Worth Stockyards, a large-scale kosher BBQ at “the World’s Largest Honkey Tonk,” Billy Bob’s Texas, and a private evening at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science.