YJ Teens Reflections from Midwest Convention

By Young Judaea

By Akiva Weinkle

My name is Akiva Weinkle and I am in 12th grade. I attended CYJ Midwest for seven years as a camper as well as Tel Yehudah for two. This past summer I worked as an MIT at Midwest and plan to work there again this summer as a madrich.

I am heavily involved with the Pittsburgh YJ club as a Bogrim member where I help to plan and run day events in addition to our annual Shabbaton. It was actually at this Shabbaton in 2012 that I first experienced YJ, ever since then it has been at the center of my life. I have served on Midwest Mazkirut for the last 3 years and am currently the Midwest Mazkir. 

A few weeks ago I had the privilege to gather with 50 other Judaeans from around the Midwest and all over the country to spend a weekend together at Midwest convention. Getting the opportunity to escape from the routine of the school year and step into the YJ world for just one weekend is a magical experience. Whether it be the peulot, shira, or just silly moments with friends I look forward to it everything all year and cherish it for the short time I get to live it. 

This convention was special for a number of reasons, the first being that it was the most attended Midwest convention in a long time. Bringing all these teens together meant old friends could reconnect and new friendships could be formed. It also meant that more people got to have their voices heard when electing the Midwest Mazkirut for the 2024-25 year. This was also my last convention, and having a chance to lead it as the Mazkir was truly special. I got to make sure that as many people as possible felt the incredible joy YJ can provide. While I will not be at convention next year what I saw this year gives me incredible hope for the upcoming years of the Midwest region. I saw so many 8th and 9th graders creating friendships and memories that will last them for years and keep them coming back to YJ for years. 

Seeing those chanichim enjoy convention is the exact reason why I love being on Midwest Mazkirut; getting to see the next generation of Judaeans appreciate all that it can offer as a pluralistic Jewish space is, for me, the most rewarding aspect of Maz. Over my 12 years in YJ, I have taken all that has been offered in terms of Jewish experiences and connecting with Israel and to have the opportunity to give back to the movement that gave me so much means the world to me. This desire to share the incredible things YJ has to offer stems from being a second-generation Judaean. My father was heavily involved with YJ in high school and worked at CYJ Midwest for many summers, and his decision to share this incredible movement with my brothers and me is what has made me so passionate about sharing it with the next generation of Judaeans.

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