Although only 18, Joshua Ull has quite the resume. The Edison resident is already president of the Hagalil region — covering central and northern New Jersey — of United Synagogue Youth, the youth movement of United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism. He has held many leadership positions in his local USY chapter at Congregation Neve Shalom in Metuchen.
A member of the student council at J.P. Stevens High School in Edison, the senior is also a member of the National Honor Society and of a Spanish honor society.
Now he can add a global title to his bio: president of USY International. He emerged victorious in an election during the organization’s annual convention, held Dec. 25-29 in Philadelphia, which 900 USYers attended.
The three contenders for the office filled out a qualification sheet that was distributed to the delegates and participated in a candidates’ forum the day before the election.
“It is really amazing to me to be given this responsibility,” Ull told NJJN in a Jan. 9 phone conversation. USY International has almost 9,000 members.
Ull’s responsibilities include overseeing the planning of next year’s convention, the USY board, and its publication, Achshav.
His tentative goals, he told NJJN, “are to increase membership, strengthen participation in our summer programs, and to build up our chapters.”
Ull, who plays basketball with USY, also enjoys volleyball and Israeli dancing and has a “fascination” with Jewish music. He also considers eating to be a hobby, describing himself as “a huge fan of food.” He took part in the USY on Wheels summer travel program in the United States, as well as its Israel Pilgrimage. In the summer of 2010, inspired by USY’s commitment to social action, he went with the American Jewish Society for Service to build a house in Kansas through Habitat for Humanity.
Ull attributes his strong leadership skills and Jewish identity to growing up in the Neve Shalom community.
“Neve Shalom is very big on youth,” he said. “I have been there since I was young, attending Hebrew school, then Hebrew high school. I was in Kadima [for preteens], then USY. The Metuchen chapter is one of the strongest in the Hagalil region, with 50 to 60 members.
“I attribute a lot of my Jewish strength and awareness to Neve Shalom.”
The synagogue’s Hazzan Sheldon Levin spoke highly of Ull. He said he and Rabbi Gerald Zelizer “and the entire congregation of Neve Shalom are very, very proud of Josh. He’s a wonderful young man…. He teaches in our Hebrew school, puts on tefillin every morning, and leads services from time to time. He leads our teen service and generally is a very fine young man.”
USY has strengthened the values and Jewish background Ull said he received from the synagogue and from his parents, Scott and Cindy Ull.
“I’ve gained lifelong friends and learned about Judaism and the Conservative movement as a whole,” he said. “I definitely learned leadership skills. I learned to be proud of Judaism and how to stand up for Israel and a sense of social action.”
“There’s something about USY — just the ruach,” or spirit, he said. “There are dances, conventions. I know people from all over. It’s a really great way to expand your borders and form relationships with people.”