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.

Philadelphia Marriott Downtown to host over 900 Jewish teens December 25-29

Over 900 Jewish high school students from across North America will gather in Philadelphia December 25-29 for United Synagogue Youth’s annual international convention.  The convention, the largest annual gathering of Jewish young people, wraps up a year of events marking USY’s 60th anniversary, and will include an attempt – expected to be successful – to achieve the official world record for the most dreidels spun simultaneously in the same room; remarks by Gen. Norton Schwartz, Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force, the highest ranking Jewish member of the U.S. military; and student participation in community service work in Philadelphia.

 
United Synagogue’s organization for middle and high school students 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.

“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,” said Karen Stein, USY Convention Director.  “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.”

This year’s convention will feature volunteer opportunities for participants in community projects all over Philadelphia, including:

  • Stuffing stuffed animals for children in Israeli hospitals
  • Creating greetings to accompany Passover baskets to be sent to families in need
  • Learning to become a mitzvah clown for healing and laughter projects
  • Advocating for Israel
  • Engaging in sensitivity training on disabilities and Judaism
  • Collecting food for donation
  • Spending time with senior citizens
  • Supporting United Synagogue’s lone soldier program for non-Israeli soldiers serving in Israel’s armed forces
  • Collecting blankets for hospitalized children
  • Participating in the Israel Guide Dog Center program which trains seeing eye dogs
  • Bringing at-risk teenagers together in intercultural dialogue through the Camden Love/Hate program

As students come together to share in the traditions of Chanukah, they will endeavor to achieve the official world record for the most dreidels spun simultaneously in the same room.  The current record of 618 was set by Yeshiva University students last year.

“USY provides a positive forum for social, educational and religious programming for thousands of teens,” said Jules Gutin, USY Director.  “The annual USY International Convention allows hundreds of teenagers to come together with staff to share experiences and learn from each other in an environment that celebrates the best of Conservative Judaism – community, social action, learning, and, of course, fun.”

The students who attend also will enjoy:

  • Reunions with fellow summer program and camp participants
  • Celebration of a special musical tribute to USY’s 60th anniversary
  • Developing new friendships across the continent
  • Leadership training
  • Creative and inspiring prayer experiences
  • The election and installation of new international board officers
  • An address to students by Gen. Norton Schwartz, Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force, and the highest ranking Jewish member of the U.S. military

Sixty years after its founding, USY, and Kadima, its program for middle school students, continue to play a significant role in shaping the lives of young Conservative Jews and future Jewish leaders.  Tens of thousands of young people have been USY members, and USY alumni have risen to significant leadership roles, serving in the United States Congress, as CEOs of major corporations, and as presidents of influential Jewish organizations and prominent universities.

“USYers come to the International Convention because it is a tremendous opportunity to see old friends and make new ones from all across North America,” said Daniel (DJ) Kaplan of Orange, Ohio, 2011 USY International President.  “Convention is a great place to exchange ideas – there is a good chance that what works in one place can help another USY chapter’s program somewhere else.”

  • WHAT: USY International Convention
  • WHO: Over 900 Jewish high school students from across North America
  • WHEN: Sunday, December 25, 2011 through Thursday, December 29, 2011
  • WHERE: Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, 1201 Market Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

A program of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, United Synagogue Youth provides a social, religious and educational forum where high school students can explore and celebrate their Judaism, live Jewish lives in accordance with Jewish ethics and values, and become better members of the Jewish and greater communities in which they live, all in the context of the Conservative movement.