Teen Engagement and the Great Shabbat


For more than 60 years, USY has been at the forefront for teen engagement in Jewish society throughout all of North America. USY has brought the joy of Judaism to life for teens, inspiring them to deepen their Jewish practice, become leaders, make a positive impact on the world, and develop lasting connections to their Jewish identities.

Like thousands of their peers across the country, the USY community was profoundly impacted by the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL on February 14, 2018, especially as many current USYers and alumni (now teachers) were there that day. They immediately expressed interest in participating in March for Our Lives rallies around the country on March 24, a Saturday.

USCJ and USY leadership spent a significant amount of time thinking through this issue and ultimately decided that it was critical to both support our teens’ desire to take action to engage with the community in D.C. and our movement’s commitment to religious observance, which speaks directly to our value of thriving in the tension of old and new.

USCJ planned a Shabbat experience in D.C., within walking distance of the main rally (USCJ also provided pre-paid metro cards for those who didn’t want to – or couldn’t – walk). Teens prayed and studied relevant texts the night before and met up afterward to process the experience, before davening Maariv and Havadallah. At sibling marches across the country, teens were encouraged to attend according to their personal observance.

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