With colorful Mardi Gras colors of purple, green and gold and the music of a traditional New Orleans street parade marching band, 700 members of United Synagogue Youth (USY) joined in unison to jump, shout and celebrate the opening ceremonies of the IC NOLA (International Convention, New Orleans, LA).
For more than 20 minutes, the 19 regions represented at the convention streamed into the Grand Ballroom of the New Orleans Hilton Riverside Hotel to the powerful sounds of popular Israeli and Jewish dance music. They danced around the auditorium filling the room with their own brand of ruach, or spirit.
Welcome remarks came first from international president Michael Benjamin Sacks, who took to the stage to introduce convention co-chairs Gaby Roth and Jake Wassermann, both of whom arrived in colorful jester costumes while riding a float with the jazz band leading the way. Roth and Wassermann flew in from Israel, where they are both serving their junior year abroad.
“We are thrilled to be in the Big Easy,” said Wassermann with Roth agreeing. After introducing the members of the international board, the two reviewed the rules of the convention before welcoming Sacks back to the stage to conduct a few games and interview him.
The 19 regional presidents introduced each one of their delegations prior to greetings from United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism (USCJ) president Riechard Skolnik and convention director Lisa Alter Krule.
Rabbi David Levy, the director of USCJ teen learning unveiled the theme to the convention, which is “Tikun Olam,” the term which literally means “repairing the world.” Levy and other USY leaders were moved to organize the IC NOLA, because the recovery from Hurricane Katrina was still going on, some 8 and a half years after the storm had passed.
A banquet followed 19 individual social action sessions broken down by sessions. Rabbi Jim Rogozen, the USCJ chief learning officer, welcomed the attendees and ended by suggesting they have a good time with the popular local Cajun French expression “laissez les bon temps rouler,” which means “let the good times roll.”