USY expects nearly 1,000 at convention in San Jose

Convention participants will explore the theme of "community and responsibility in the Jewish tradition" through workshops, informal classes and group endeavors.

A "walk for homelessness and hunger" will be held Wednesday morning, Dec. 29, following an "interactive breakfast" and discussion groups with some of San Jose's homeless people. The entire convention body of students plus advisers is expected to walk through the streets of San Jose in an effort to raise awareness and funds for homelessness and hunger.

"One of the most important things that we can teach our youth is that they can make a difference," said Jules Gutin, USY director.

"Part of our objective is to teach the Jewish values of g'milut hasadim, performing acts of loving kindness for others, and tikkun olam, repairing the world. It is also nice to make a positive impact on the surrounding community while teaching our youth the importance of helping others, regardless of their faith or race."

On Tuesday, Dec. 28, convention delegates will be addressed by Jeffrey Swartz, CEO of Timberland and a member of Temple Emanuel in Newton, Mass.

Swartz will speak about his personal commitment to community service and the strides he has taken to make social action a priority at his company. His talk will be part of an induction ceremony for the Abraham Joshua Heschel Honor Society, which pays tribute to USYers who have demonstrated a commitment to social action and study.

Others who will address the teens are Stephen S. Wolnek of Port Washington, N.Y., international president of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism; Marshall Baltuch of North Miami Beach, Fla. and Dr. Marilyn Lishnoff Wind of Bethesda, Md., co-chairs of the National Youth Commission; and Rabbi Jerome M. Epstein of New Rochelle, N.Y, executive vice president of the United Synagogue.

There will be leadership workshops and committee meetings dealing with a variety of topics including political action, Israel, chapter and regional communication, programming, teens in crisis and spirituality.

"USYers come to the International Convention because it's a tremendous opportunity to see old friends and make new ones from all over North America," said International USY president Aviva Kieffer of Weston, Fla. "It's also a great place to exchange ideas about successful USY programs. There's a good chance that what works in Toronto can help someone's program in Dallas."

Gila Hadani Ward, USY convention director, said, "The whole convention has such a positive energy…The impact can last for months, even after the convention is over. When USYers go back to their regions and chapters, they give a real boost to the level or programming and involvement in USY."

As part of its outreach, USY holds the convention in a different city each year. In December 2000, the 50th annual convention will be held in Boston.