In the spring of 2017, Bedford Middle School 8th grader Sam Zuckerman got an email from Annie Glasser. The Conservative Synagogue youth group director said there was an opening for a 9th grade representative on the local United Synagogue Youth board.
Sam was not the only one Annie contacted. But he was the only one to respond. He got the job.
Sam spent his Staples High School freshman year watching older members lead. In 10th grade he was named to a religion and education position on the board. It was out of his comfort zone, but he learned a lot more about leadership.
Last year, as a junior, he became chapter president. Despite challenges like staff turnover and the pandemic, he grew the group.
Last January, Sam broadened his involvement beyond Westport — way beyond.
He applied for a spot on USY’s international general board. He’s not the first Westporter on it — senior Even Siegel served too — but it was “eye-opening” to have an influence far beyond his home town.
In May Sam added another post: president of the New England USY region. He helped organize a convention with upstate New York and eastern Canada chapters, and worked on outreach.
All of that work prepared him to run for the top USY job: international president.
Sam got signatures. He videotaped a speech. He developed a platform, stressing inclusion of smaller regions, addressing mental health issues of members, and opening communication with other Jewish youth groups.
And he won.
He’s now in charge of 15 regions, with over 350 local chapters. There are 20,000 members in USY.
“A year ago, I was only a Westport chapter president,” Sam says. “I didn’t see myself being where I am. But I’m looking forward to leading an organization I love.”