USY students break dreidel spinning record in Philadelphia

Some 900 Jewish high school students, gathered in Center City Philadelphia from across North America this week for United Synagogue Youth’s annual international convention, appear to have “topped” the official world record for the most Hanukkah dreidels spun simultaneously in the same room.  With so many more present than needed to break the current record of 541, these Jewish teens fully expected to reach their goal and independent observers say preliminarily that they believe 687 of them successfully achieved their goal.

More after the jump.
It takes several months for the Guinness Book of World Records to verify and authenticate such claims, but official observers included the manager and staff of the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown.

The USYers, as they are known, just back from a morning of community service – including some dressed as “mitzvah clowns,” having performed at a nearby children’s hospital – were seated ten-to-a-table, at nearly 100 tables in a large ballroom, screaming and cheering themselves and each other on.  As one observer noted, “The group readied themselves, steadied their hands, and spun without abandon.”

The current Guinness world record of 541 Hanukkah dreidels being spun simultaneously for at least ten seconds was set in 2005 at Temple Emmanuel in Cherry Hill, NJ.  Others have since claimed to top that official record but have yet to be verified.

Dreidel is a popular Yiddish-named children’s game of chance, traditionally played on Hanukkah, which began this year at sundown Tuesday night, December 20.  Players spin tops – in this case, colorful plastic ones with a distinctive shape and slender top – with a Hebrew letter on each side, winning or losing gelt, usually chocolate coins wrapped in foil, with each spin.

The USY convention, the largest annual gathering of Jewish youth, wraps up a year of events marking USY’s 60th anniversary, also includes remarks Thursday by four-star General Norton Schwartz, Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force, the highest ranking Jewish member of the U.S. military.

United Synagogue’s youth organization was established in 1951, and since then it has given Jewish teenagers the opportunity to come together to celebrate and learn about Judaism, develop a sense of Jewish identity, acquire leadership skills, and build lifelong friendships.  It has become one of the largest and most active Jewish youth groups in the world.

According to USY Convention Director Karen Stein:

Part of our objective is to teach the Jewish values of g’milut hasadim (performing acts of loving-kindness for others) and tikkun olam, which is, literally, repairing the world,” .  “We make a positive impact on the surrounding community while teaching our youth the importance of helping others, regardless of faith or race.  It’s amazing how the positive energy generated by students’ experiences at Convention can have an impact for months afterward.  USYers return to their regions and chapters full of new ideas that give a real boost to the level of programming and involvement in USY.