United Synagogue Youth – Pacific Northwest Region
The importance of getting children involved in the community at a young age is paramount as it is a significant predictor of future involvement and a meaningful way to foster community. In past decades, social-cultural groups like United Synagogue Youth (USY) provided a place for Jewish youth who were often excluded from many non-Jewish clubs to integrate their collective Jewish experience together.
USY at Beth Israel has provided after school programs that connect Jewish youth with their peers and build lifelong social connections since 1963. As Mijael Lacher, Director of Youth and Young Adult Outreach at Beth Israel puts it: “If today they participate socially, the ritual participation will be the next natural step.”
Today, as Jewish youth participate in a variety of secular (non-Jewish) clubs and teams, programs like USY are more important than ever in connecting youth with their Jewish peers and their cultural roots, as well as the community. However, it is becoming increasingly challenging for groups like USY to compete with the jam-packed schedules of the modern youth. Today, cultural youth groups are often taking a back seat to sports teams, school clubs and councils, and other social, recreational, and academic priorities of youth.