By April Basler
Hailee Grey, 17, elected international president of USY |Hailee Grey
Hailee Grey of East Cobb won the United Synagogue Youth international presidency in elections at the 64th annual USY international convention at Atlanta’s Omni Hotel at CNN Center in late December. She’s only the fourth girl to hold the title.
“I’m so amazed by the results of the election, and it’s something I’ve always dreamed about,” said Grey, a senior at Pope High School who belongs to Congregation Etz Chaim. “It’s crazy to think that now it’s real.”
Becoming international president of the Conservative movement’s group for high school students has long been a goal for Grey, the daughter of Mitchell and Michelle Grey, because USY has changed and inspired her so much, she said. “USY is something I put so much time into and something I love and want to give back to. I hope I can give back to USY and impact it as much as it has impacted me and my Jewish life.”
Grey has been involved with USY locally, regionally and internationally since her freshman year of high school and has held several positions, including the 2014-15 president of the Southeast’s HaNegev Region.
While her previous USY positions prepared Grey for the international presidency, she said that losing several elections also helped.
“Beforehand, I ran for two subregional board positions and chapter president and lost all three. I think having those experiences helped me realize that winning isn’t everything and that by losing you can still be a leader without the title,” Grey said. “And that’s something I wanted to express to USY throughout the year — that everyone won’t have a leadership title, but they can still be a leader within USY.”
Grey’s goals during her one-year term include increasing membership and promoting more social interaction.
In her campaign speech to the more than 750 convention delegates, Grey’s proposals included specialized conventions for USY regions that are close together, thus cutting travel costs, and a monthly conference call for any USY members to ask questions of the international executive board, thus increasing communication across USY.
“I hope everyone in USY can accomplish what they want to in USY, and I hope that I can help everyone fulfill their dreams throughout their four years in USY, like I have myself,” Grey said.Hailee Grey Speaks at the USY International Convention
Grey’s convention speech, which you can read in full at atlantajewishtimes.com, focused on Havdalah and dreams.
“Havdalah is amazing because it’s a time for all to stand together, to hear all voices, to extend the beauty brought unto us by Shabbat and to dream about what the sizzle will bring in the coming week,” Grey said in her speech. “Regardless of your personal Havdalah sizzle thoughts, we all stand in that circle, dreaming of something.”
With 132 HaNegev Region delegates in attendance, December’s convention gave Atlanta and the South a chance to show their sizzle. Grey’s election provided the finishing touch as she joined Ahavath Achim Synagogue’s Margo Gold, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism’s president, atop international Conservative organizations.
“I think it’s a great move for Atlanta. The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism president is also a female from Atlanta, so we’re both really excited for this year,” Grey said. “But it also shows that a USY leader doesn’t necessarily need to come from California or New York or somewhere where there are a lot of Jewish people. It can really come from anywhere and from anyone who sets their heart out to be this position.”
USY has helped shape Grey’s Jewish identity and her future. She’ll start college in New York in the fall in the joint program of the Jewish Theological Seminary’s List College and Columbia University. “I know USY will end at the end of my term, but my Jewish identity will continue because of USY.”