A Letter from TBE Youth Director Taryn Fink

Dear Temple Beth-El Family,

For those of you that don’t know me, let me introduce myself. My name is Taryn Fink and I am now in my fourth year as TBE’s Youth Director. Over the past three years, I’ve had the privilege of working with our youth in grades 3-12, across three different youth groups, Chaverim (3rd-5th), Kadima (6th-8th), and USY (9th-12th).

When I started in August of 2013, the Youth Program had been mostly dormant for quite some time. As the USY chapter grew, and we attended our first convention at Ramah Darom in the spring of 2014, my members came to me and expressed a desire to eventually host a convention here in Birmingham. We worked hard to plan varied events, increase membership and grow the chapter, and put Birmingham on the map. In the spring of 2016, the hard work paid off, and SHUSY, Sweet Home USY, was awarded the chance to host Ein Gedi’s annual Spring Subregional Convention this March 24-26, 2017.

If you are not familiar with United Synagogue Youth (USY), the Conservative Movement’s youth group, I want to provide you with a little bit of information. USY is comprised of students from the U.S. and Canada, as well as Barbados, and Puerto Rico, with thousands of high schoolers in 350 local chapters spread across 17 regions. Alabama falls into the Hanegev region, the largest region in USY. Hanegev includes Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Tennessee, Florida, South Carolina and the southern half of North Carolina, as well as Barbados and Puerto Rico. Due to the size of our region, we are the only one that is further divided into subregions. All of Hanegev outside of Florida, Puerto Rico and Barbados is in the Ein Gedi subregion. Ein Gedi hosts two subregional conventions a year, giving Jewish youth across the southeast the chance to connect with one another.

In such a large geographic area, where chapters are very spread out, these conventions are invaluable for maintaining a connection to Judaism through developing Jewish friendships. We are honored to have the opportunity to host one of these conventions in our very own synagogue here in the Magic City.

While the process for the USYers, the planning committee and myself have been continuous, we have come to the point where it is necessary to include the congregation as a whole. We’ve been talking a lot about visioning lately and what we want for the future of our shul. It’s important that we consider the future of our youth, the next generation of Conservative Judaism. By helping with our convention, you are helping the youth of TBE and beyond to grow spiritually, and create and maintain a strong connection to Judaism.

We will be hosting approximately 50 kids from around the Southeast, and we need your help in housing them! It doesn’t matter if you have kids of youth group age or no kids at all. This is a wonderful opportunity to assist our community’s youth and help them do something on a bigger stage.

The requirements to house are relatively minimal:

  • Two kids must be housed, at a minimum. We don’t want anyone housed alone, as this defeats the purpose of being together at the convention. We try to offer everyone a bed, but an air mattress is OK!
  • You will need to pick up the kids you are hosting on Friday evening, after all programming is done, around 10 pm. You will be notified in advance of who you are hosting.
  • You will need to provide Saturday morning breakfast to the kids you are hosting. This will be the only meal you are required to provide. We ask that you also provide some snacks Friday and Saturday nights. We will handle everything else food-related!
  • You will need to bring your kids back to shul in time for Saturday morning services at 9:30 am. The kids will remain at the synagogue for the day, so you won’t have any other convention-related responsibilities that day other than to pick up the kids when programming is over, probably around 11 pm.
  • You will need to bring the kids back to shul on Sunday morning for the final day of programming, around 9 am.

And that’s it! Every host family will be provided with a convention schedule prior to the date it begins, so you’ll have plenty of time to determine who is driving, when to leave, etc. If you have any questions about the requirements to be a host family, please don’t hesitate to ask!

Please join SHUSY in helping to create the best possible experience for our visiting teens and show them the southern hospitality for which we are known. Let’s give them a little extra magic in the Magic City.

Taryn Fink

Youth Director, Temple Beth-El

If you are interested in being a host family or in helping out during the weekend of the convention, please contact Taryn.