Hi! My name is Lillie Murphy and I am a Junior at Barrington High School. There are not many Jewish teens in Barrington. Because of this, I found that if I want to stay involved in my Jewish community I need to do as much as I can!
I am currently president of my USY (United Synagogue Youth) chapter and am very involved in many amazing teen programs including Diller Cohort 5, JCC Seed613, Jewish Teen Alliance of Chicago. One of my close friends is also the president of her temple's youth group chapter, but through a different organization called NFTY (North American Federation of Temple Youth) which is a reform Jewish youth group. She told me that they were having a convention coming up and that I should sign up. I figured I had nothing to lose and so much to gain like making amazing friendships and have a really exciting new experience. Another reason why I loved the idea of participating in this convention was because it would be from a first-timer's view. Most of time, when I participate in USY conventions I participate in a leadership role. Recently I have been leading a lot of the programs, never getting the chance to just sit back and participate.
I have an outgoing personality so I wasn't too nervous about participating in a brand-new experience. That being said, I have to admit it was a little scary because I had no idea what to expect. The moment I got out of my car in front of the buses a bunch of kids came over, including two of the regional board members, and welcomed me. They were so sweet! When we got to Wisconsin, I had already met so many people on the bus that I was not afraid at all. Although many people were there with friends they already knew, everyone was happy to include me and no one cared that I was from a different youth group.
Not only were the people amazing, but the convention itself was eye opening. I found the two different youth group experiences to be both unique and the same. The biggest difference was around conservative services versus reform services at the two conventions. Surprisingly, the structure and most of the programs were very similar.
In the end, I definitely recommend that every Jewish teen consider branching out and trying something new. It's a great way to get involved as much as possible- you may find something new to enjoy or be reminded of the things you appreciate about the community you are already a part of. Being involved in your Jewish community has given me and taught me so much. Throughout this time I have met SO many Jewish teens that I now consider my best friends, and learned more leadership skills than some people learn in a lifetime. From going to a Jewish summer camp to being in different Jewish youth groups or programs, I have found what I love most... my Jewish community. :)