When I was discharged from the office of USY Chapter President in June 2008, I could have never imagined writing this bulletin column ten years later, after a decade of working with the amazing youth of Hollis Hills Bayside JC, Hillcrest JC, and ICCJ. This journey started during my first year of college, when I served as a Youth Advisor for both “Hollis Hillcrest” and ICCJ’s separate youth programs, and over the past nine years, I have been privileged to help shape the joint H2I program into a model youth program for USY chapters across the United States and Canada, especially during the past six years during which I served as Youth Director. It is with mixed emotions, therefore, that this will serve as my final bulletin article for H2I Youth Group – something that has become such a huge part of my identity over the past decade.
As I reflect on my past six years as Youth Director in particular, I am proud of all that we have accomplished to provide a more meaningful youth group experience for all of our members. One such accomplishment that I am particularly proud of is our Social Actions Shul-In—an event in which our USYers engage in an all-night learning and mitzvah session in which they focus on making the world a better place. Through the years, we’ve explored homelessness and poverty, disabilities, discrimination, environmentalism, and self-empowerment. In addition to this event, our joint programs with teens from BBYO, in which we’ve explored how Jewish teens with different religious and youth group affiliations are much more similar than different, our countless Shabbaton programs and nights sleeping at our synagogues, and our most recent Tikkun Leyl Shavuot on the #MeToo movement are moments I will cherish forever. Over the past eight years, we have been awarded the METNY Chapter of the Year Award three times – each time we’ve applied—and our members have done incredible things in USY as well – especially Zachary Zabib, a graduating senior who is currently serving as USY’s International President. For these and so many reasons, our shul communities should be proud of all of our young members and what they have accomplished through H2I. I, for one, am grateful to have had the opportunity to come along for the ride over the past decade.
There are so many individuals who have contributed to H2I’s success during my time as Youth Director, and I would need a full bulletin to thank them all. I would be remiss, however, without specifically thanking a few people. Thank you to Lorraine Nachbar, Sheryl Glickman, Dina Yakar, and Rebecca Kane for believing in me and giving me the opportunity to work for our youth programs during their time at the helm, and thank you to Daniela Kogan, Arianne Shapiro, Julia Duze, Diana Kofman, Brianna Manginelli, Sam Katzap, and Danielle Amster, who served as USY Chapter Presidents during my time as Youth Director and were all incredible teen leaders who helped bring greatness to our chapter. Thank you to our current staff – Seth Berkowitz, Ricki Zimmerman, and Melissa Amster – and prior staff members – Alexandra Hasson, Jake Kalbfeld, Melissa Goller, and Andie Amit – for being so dedicated to H2I and such great role models for our youth over the years.
Thank you to Nancy and Lou Ann for handling all of the logistics for our programming, for always responding to my countless e-mails and reimbursement requests, and for all of their work behind the scenes. Hollis Hills Bayside JC is lucky to have such an exceptional office staff, and I have been lucky to have their help at every step along the way! Throughout the years, Rabbi Wise has been one of our biggest advocates and supporters and has joined us for a number of meaningful programs in which our teens have had the benefit of learning from him, and we are all better for those opportunities. To Tony and Richie – without whom our programs would not be possible – thank you certainly doesn’t seem like enough. Hosting programs at Hollis Hills Bayside has always been a pleasure, as Tony and Richie have consistently gone above and beyond in setting up, helping out in the kitchen during regional and divisional events, and doing everything in their power to provide the support we need from a building perspective. Thank you to Melanie Katz, Maddy Kofman and Jenny Teplitskiy for all of their support, guidance, and advice during their terms on the H2I Youth Committee, and to Michael Wolkofsky, Paul Reich, and Arthur Liederman for their support during their terms as President. Finally, thank you to all of the members of Hollis Hills Bayside JC for creating such a welcoming community, and always making me feel at home when I came for Shabbat services to celebrate smachot and other occasions. I always looked forward to such occasions, which speaks volumes about the members of your shul.
To conclude, thank you to all of our H2I families—past and present—for making H2I the incredible program it has become. The hardest part about deciding to step down from this position has been knowing I would have to say goodbye to so many children, teens, and parents who have become such a large part of my life over the past ten years. I will be forever grateful to all of our past and present members for shaping me into the person I have become today, and for enabling me to develop the skill set that has been so useful in my “regular job” as a teacher. Although I will no longer be working with H2I, H2I will always be a part of who I am, and I will forever cherish the decade of memories I have been fortunate enough to share with all of you!