By Barbara Bayer, Editor of The Kansas City Jewish Chronicle
University of Kansas sophomore Evan Traylor has been elected as the first teen to become a full member of the North American Board of Trustees of the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ).
Steve Sacks, URJ board of trustees chair, said of this historic decision, “The URJ board is saying that the voices of our young people are important, not just because our constitution requires it, but because we really do want to hear the voices of our teens represented in the movement’s governing body.”
Traylor, who is 19, said being the first teen elected to the URJ board is an enormous honor that will come with a lot of responsibilities and commitment to the Reform movement.
“Nearly two years ago, the URJ launched the Campaign for Youth Engagement, a movement-wide initiative to more effectively engage the younger generation of Reform Jews. My election to the URJ board, involving more youth in the URJ’s leadership, is an incredibly tangible part of achieving success for our movement,” he said.
Being a part of the URJ board includes serving on select committees and task forces, as well as attending several board meetings throughout the year. This will require Traylor, who is majoring in political science with minors in Jewish studies and leadership studies, to travel during the school year.
“While I will have to miss some classes during this school year to attend meetings, most notably the URJ Biennial in San Diego this December, I have found that professors at KU have been extremely understanding with my travel schedule over this past year while I served as the president of NFTY,” he said.
Traylor said it was an incredible honor to serve as North American Federation of Temple Youth president for the 2012-2013 term.
“I’m so glad that I had the opportunity to serve Reform Jewish teens in such a meaningful and powerful way. As part of the position, I served on staff at the URJ Kutz Camp in Warwick, N.Y., traveled to several NFTY regions, helped to plan and coordinate NFTY’s North American level event, NFTY Convention 2013, and even traveled to Israel to collaborate with progressive Jewish leaders from around the world. NFTY is an incredible youth movement and I’m glad I could represent NFTY in this position,” he said.
Since beginning his studies at KU, Traylor has been very involved at Hillel.
“As soon as I entered the KU community this past fall, I immediately felt a part of the KU Hillel community. I was extremely active this past year in KU Hillel, including attending almost every Shabbat event and participating in the Freshmen Leadership Series. For the fall 2013 semester, I am serving as a KU Hillel Freshmen Engagement Intern, working to welcome all of the new Jewish freshmen students into the KU Hillel community,” he said.
Jay Lewis, KU Hillel’s executive director, said Traylor is a “terrific young man.”
“We are thrilled that KU attracts such outstanding emerging leaders. I am confident he has a long future in leadership in the Jewish community,” Lewis said.
The URJ represents nearly 900 Reform congregations across North America. Traylor was elected to the board during the organization’s annual meeting in New York City on May 31.
Traylor is the son of Ann Baumgarten and Ed Traylor of Edmond, Okla., where they are members of Temple B’nai Israel in Oklahoma City.