USY Unveils New Structure and Approach for a Thriving Future


United Synagogue Youth (USY) has re-envisioned its approach to serving thousands of North American Jewish teens and will shift its focus towards hosting multiple international conventions, immersive experiences, virtual offerings, leadership training, and targeted community programming.

These programs will be subsidized so more USYers can attend them and connect with a large network of teens across North America. 

“At moments like these, as our teens confront increased antisemitism and prepare to go off to campuses where the rhetoric is charged, USY has a more important role to play than ever,” said Julie Marder, who was named this week Senior Director of International USY and is also a USY alumna. “We’re taking the things that work—leadership training, Torah learning, and a deep connection to Israel—and transforming them with a new model.”  

The reinvigorated approach was developed through direct discussion with hundreds of teens and their families and by testing a range of pilot programs that have served nearly 5,000 teens over the past year.  Marder and Rabbi Jacob Blumenthal, CEO of United Synagogue for Conservative Judaism (USCJ), announced the changes Wednesday in a letter to the USY community

The updated approach for the Conservative/Masorti movement’s 70-year-old youth group will build on five pillars: creating accessible Judaism, nurturing a spiritual home for life that is also a magnetic core for Jewish experiences, and engaging with a network of advocates and community partners to grow the leaders of tomorrow. 

As part of the restructuring, USY will sunset its regional structure. This structure relied on synagogue-level staffing that no longer exists in many communities, and it has not generated critical masses of teen participation in some areas, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic.

Programming that will anchor the new structure is already underway, with dozens of other initiatives planned for the coming year, including: 

  • Immersive experiences: USY will sponsor at least six conventions for hundreds of teens across North America, providing a “deep dive” into areas like Jewish activism, Israel, and social justice. USY will continue to offer fun and meaningful summer travel across North America and Israel, including USY on Wheels this coming summer.
  • Chapter outreach and support: Synagogues will continue to sponsor chapters, with international USY training advisors, connecting and funding chapters for joint programming opportunities and Shabbatonim and awarding robust local funding.
  • Targeted community programs: In areas with multiple chapters, community directors will foster year-round programs, building off the approach that has been piloted in Chicago and Los Angeles. The success of this programming is based on partnerships between the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism (USCJ), synagogues, and community philanthropy.
  • Leadership training: USY will offer best-in-class leadership training through an annual convention and continue to create opportunities for teens to serve on boards, chair events, and lead their peers.
  • Digital programs and education: USY will expand webinars for studying Jewish texts and deeper conversation in areas such as Israel education and advocacy, standing up to antisemitism, preparing for the college campus, and social activism. 

“USY is unique among Jewish youth groups in our commitment to year-round Torah learning and love for Israel through a religious-egalitarian framework. We offer experiences teens can’t get through other groups,” said Rabbi Blumenthal. “We are excited to launch our new model, which is better aligned with the needs of today’s teens, whose extracurricular options have grown, whose families’ connections to synagogue life have changed, and who want deeper experiences.”

USY will be holding listening sessions over the next two weeks for teens, alumni, and parents. The changes will take effect on July 1. 

About USY

USY is USCJ’s youth movement for Conservative Jewish teens across North America. For more than 70 years, USY has taught young Jews the values and skills they need to become exceptional leaders in their religious and secular communities. USY empowers youth to develop friendships, leadership skills, a sense of belonging to the Jewish People, and a commitment to inspired Jewish living through meaningful and fun experiences rooted in Conservative Judaism’s approach to learning, spiritual expression, and social responsibility. Through year-round programming and domestic and international travel opportunities, USY inspires in teens a deep sense of pride in and love for their Jewish identity.

For more information, please contact Andi Kahclamat, USCJ Director of Marketing.

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