I have been thinking about my son, Elan, a lot the past few days. The letter that follows was posted in the CHUSY Region USY June Newsletter. For those who say that the connection to Israel is being lost or diminished, this shows the contrary! I am so proud of Elan and just wanted to share this:
Hi CHUSY Parents,
I am Elan Sykes, CHUSY Regional Executive and Israel Affairs Vice-President for 2011-2012. I moved to Chicago in 2009 at the beginning of my freshmen year at Chicagoland Jewish High School, and fell in love with CHUSY from the moment Adam Blue dragged me to CBS USY, where I am currently a member. A condensed life story: I was born right here in Chicago. After a year and a half, I moved to Atlanta, Georgia where my dad, Rabbi Loren A. Sykes (a former CHUSY Rel/Ed and SA/TO), became the founding director of Camp Ramah Darom. Right before 7th grade, my parents decided that we were going to Israel for a year, and we moved to Jerusalem, where I went to an experimental education school. My academics took a backseat for a year, but my love for Israel blossomed and I am fluent in Hebrew because of that year. I wouldn't have traded it for anything. I have 2 younger sisters, Mira and Amalya, who attend Chicago Jewish Day School, and my mom Rebecca is a multi-talented educator, theater performer, and yoga instructor.
Having been raised by a Ramah director, Conservative Judaism has most certainly played a major role in my life. In USY just as in the greater community, people are becoming less engaged day by day, and I decided to run for CHUSY board to counteract this trend. Israel has always been and will always be an enormous part of my political, social, and family life, so I chose to use my personal love for Israel to increase the engagement of all teens in CHUSY with our ancestral homeland. I truly believe that Israel can act as the spearhead of my generation's Jewish identity, and know that CHUSY executive board will provide me the platform upon which I can capitalize on Israel as such a focal point. In USY, Parents are just as important as the USYers themselves, so feel free to contact me at any time with questions, concerns, or comments.
Elan - you are an incredible mentsch, leader, person and son. I am so proud of you. I love you more than you can every know.