Regional Youth Commission

Perspective from a Parent

By Ed Rochman, Youth Chair

For those of you that don’t know me, this is probably most of you; I am Ed Rochman, SWUSY Youth Commission Chair, but more importantly the father of 3 SWUSY alumni. I’m often asked by my contemporaries why I continue to be involved with our youth now that my kids are grown. Let me share with you why I view this as being critically important for me and especially why it should be critically important for you.

I had the opportunity last month to spend a week in New Orleans at the USY International
Convention with almost 1,000 Conservative Jewish teens, staffers and volunteers. To experience the opening session in a grand ballroom with all of these teens truly celebrating their Judaism, friendships – new and old, by breaking into spontaneous song and dance is remarkable. The ruach fills every corner of the room and for me it seeps into my soul. It inspires me to see their commitment to Tikun Olam and reminds me of how important it is to connect this generation of young people to their Judaism and the world in which they will live.

However, for all of these USY’ers, there are thousands more across the country that do not
attend this annual event. It may be because of other interests, it may be financial, but often times it is because we as parents fail to notice the importance that USY has in the lives of our children – after all, teens are not the best of communicators to their parents! For the vast majority of these kids, they probably will never attend an International Convention, go on a USY Summer Program, or spend a gap year after high school on the Nativ Program in Israel. But as truly wonderful as these experiences can be, I believe that our SWUSY Regional events and local Chapter events are the foundation for the future. Studies have shown that the best way to secure our children’s’ future connection with Judaism, is not through Religious School or synagogue attendance (although I don’t advocate giving that up!) but through Jewish summer camps/programs like USY on Wheels and especially through Jewish youth groups.

I’d like to share a story of one of our “typical” SWUSYites, Susie Ciccone. Susie was a 4 year member of the HOUJEW chapter of USY. She attended many, but not all the events. She was very active in her high school band and had to choose at times between USY regional events and mandatory band events. As a junior Susie served on SWUSY Regional Exec. Board, as Membership/Kadima VP. She chose not to run again her senior year but still came to as many USY events as possible. At her last Regional Convention in Austin in June of 2013, there was discussion amongst the seniors of what they were looking forward to when they went off to college. I remember hearing that conversation and Susie said that she was attending Sam Houston State University and she wanted to find a way to connect with Jewish students because there were not many Jews at SHSU. Well, I am proud to say, that what Susie learned and valued from USY has led her in her first semester of college, to petition and form an official SHSU organization comprised of about 40 students called Jews @ SHSU, and she is currently working on getting it affiliated with Hillel. Yasher Koach, Susie!

We live in a large geographic region for USY that includes all of Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana. It gets expensive to send our children to these regional events, but I can’t encourage you enough to make it a priority. As parents, we all say there is nothing we wouldn’t do for our kids – well this is one of the most important things we can do for them. If your teen has not attended a USY event, give them a gentle push to try it. I can almost guarantee that if they attend one regional event, they will want to attend more. Speak to your Rabbis/Administrators/Board about making Youth Programs a priority for funding and financial aid. SWUSY can provide some help if needed. Do some fundraising for the youth.

SWUSY is the most inclusive Youth organization I have witnessed. It’s for all teens to connect with their heritage. Everyone is truly accepted as themselves. We are also blessed to have the best Regional Youth Director in all of USY – Maury Jacobs, to help guide the kids.

Please contact me if you have any questions, comments or would like to serve on a SWUSY
Youth Commission. I do wonder sometimes why I continue to be involved and then I see these wonderful teens and events and it’s very simple – Our children are the future of Judaism, and who among us don’t wish for a bright future!

Ed Rochman