D’ror Yikra, “The road to freedom”
Abbey Finn, sophomore at Buffalo Grove High School, a club leader at her JSC club
This past week, I attended USY’s (United Synagogue Youth) International Convention in Chicago. It was easily one of the most incredible experiences of my life. I’ve been involved in USY since elementary school, but becoming active internationally was unlike anything I’ve ever encountered before.
The theme of the convention was D’ror Yikra, “The road to freedom.” We had many educational sessions and speakers who taught this concept of freedom, but one speech stood out to me. Rabbi Michael Siegel, from Anshe Emet Synagogue, and Pastor Chris Harris, from Bright Star Church, spoke on the importance of connections between the Jewish and African American communities. They stressed the term “better together.” I’m heavily involved in interfaith work, so seeing this clear example of bridging separate identities to initiate freedom was amazing. At the end of the speech, Pastor Harris sang the Israeli national anthem, Hatikvah. Seeing an African American Pastor sing Israel’s national song in front of hundreds of Jewish teens is something I will never forget. On Christmas day, we got to go out into the Chicago community and volunteer for several service projects.
I am currently in a JUF program called VOICES, which is a philanthropy team composed of Jewish teens that work together to grant money to various nonprofits. I personally worked at the Pacific Garden Mission, a charity organization that helps homeless people and people living in poverty in the area. The majority of these individuals are Christian, and we served them a nice meal for Christmas. It made me grateful for everything I have.
Also, while participating in this convention, I made many new friends from all over the country. I showed them around Chicago, and although many of them aren’t used to the cold, it was so much fun. One of my friends helped me wrap tefillin for the first time during Shacharit on the last day. This was a really meaningful experience that allowed me to feel more connected to my Judaism. USY has had a deep impact on my life, and participation in the International Convention has enriched my connection to Judaism. I made amazing friends, celebrated with my chapter Beth Judea, in winning International Chapter of the Year, volunteered, explored my faith, and had one of the best weeks of my life!
Most importantly, I discovered what my road to freedom, D’ror Yikra, means to me.