Humans of Beth Am Blog

Noah Lee: Service Without Love and Joy Becomes Meaningless
My family has a long history at Temple Beth Am: my great grandmother and great grandfather were members of Olympic Jewish Center, and Rabbi Pressman officiated the bar mitzvah of my grandfather and the wedding of my grandparents. Rabbi Perry Netter officiated the wedding of my parents. My brother and I both had our bar mitzvahs at Beth Am. I attended Pressman Academy from ECC through 8th grade, and I am currently a senior at Beverly Hills High School.

USY has been an important part of my life since my last year at Pressman. I attended a Shabbaton at Camp Alonim, where I made friends with whom I'm still very close. I loved the Judaism, the programming, the ruach, and the meaningful conversations I had with the other USYers. Everyone was fully focused on being there and having the best experience possible.

A few months after that Shabbaton, I attended the regional convention, also at Alonim. It was large and a bit overwhelming, but I soon felt comfortable. I looked up to the leaders of my region, and thought that maybe I, too, would one day be a USY leader.

For ten years I have attended Camp Ramah in Ojai. After Machon - the last year of my camper experience - I went on Ramah Israel Seminar. I loved getting to know a diverse group of Ramahniks, who grew up in a similar environment to the one I was raised in but whom I never would have met if not for seminar. This past summer was my first year as a Ramah counselor. I had quite the learning experience. I especially enjoyed having many Pressman students as my campers during second session.

When I started Beverly Hills High in 9th grade, it was difficult at first because I didn't know anybody. As I got involved in school activities, though, I started to become comfortable there. I joined the basketball and cross country teams, and I ran track and field from 9th grade to the first semester of 12th grade.

This year I am proud to be co-President of the student body. My responsibilities include running meetings and facilitating student activities like homecoming, clubs, and our recent fundraiser for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Being in ASB a big time commitment because we meet for an hour each day.

As though I didn't have enough on my plate already, I decided to run for USY president in December. I am passionate about youth group and Conservative Judaism. I love USY more than anything else I do. At the election at USY's International Convention, there was no campaigning allowed, so the election came down to a public candidates forum and a presentation of a speech. We all answered questions on the spot and gave a prepared speech a few days later. I ran against people from across the country and even one from Canada.

My speech was about the importance of pausing, listening, and then taking action. The theme was serving with love and joy - without that, service becomes meaningless.

I was surprised when the ballots were counted and I was announced as the winner. I am now International President of United Synagogue Youth. I am building a strong team of USYers, and at the end of this month, I am traveling to New York for a board meeting. I'm also going to Cincinnati and to AIPAC. This summer I will be traveling with Rabbi Dave Levy, the head of USY, to visit youth group programs all over the US and Israel.

Besides serving on the ASB (Associated Student Body) at school, and my USY leadership role, I also volunteer at Friendship Circle. Around the time of my bar mitzvah, I was matched up with two brothers, one with special needs. I visit them at their home and we have a great time together. After several years, I have a strong relationship with the entire family.

In school, my favorite subjects are biology and chemistry. When I go to college, I want to major in neuroscience, psychology or philosophy.

Before college, my dream is to take a gap year in Israel on the Nativ program. After that, I plan to come back to the US and attend college. Otherwise, my parents might disown me. I've applied to colleges all over the country, but I don't know where I'll wind up. People ask me if I'm concerned about BDS on campus, but I'm not afraid to go to a school with a strong BDS movement. I'm going to stick to my roots and continue to embrace my Judaism. I will never back down from my convictions, my commitment to my tribe, and to making the world a better place.

Photo credit: Adrian Baird, Endless Entertainment.