Teen leader: Moira Wilson seeks to make a difference

Moira Wilson, 16, is a sophomore at Madison West High School, a goalie on the varsity lacrosse team and a newly-licensed driver, having passed her road test in October.

She is also a lifelong member of Madison’s Beth Israel Center. The congregation, which describes itself as traditional egalitarian, is affiliated with the Conservative movement.

On any given Saturday morning, you’ll find Wilson working with b’nai mitzvah students in her capacity as a teacher’s assistant to the program and Youth Director Deborah Hoffman.

She’s is also a student at the synagogue, attending Midrasha, a Hebrew high school program jointly sponsored by Beth Israel Center, Temple Beth El and Jewish Federation of Madison. Midrasha offers Hebrew, Jewish Studies and electives. Students receive language credit from local high schools for their Hebrew classes.

For the past five years, Wilson has spent part of her summer at Camp Ramah Wisconsin in Conover. Asked whether her summer experiences feed into what she does during the rest of the year and vice versa, Wilson said yes – and no.

“I think a lot of the Jewish skills I learn at camp come back,” she said, “but because they’re such different environments it’s hard for it to carry over much.”

Moira Wilson

Moira Wilson

At Beth Israel, Wilson also serves as second vice president on the executive board of the synagogue youth group, MOUSY, short for Madison’s Only USY (United Synagogue Youth) chapter.

“Technically I’m the food person, so I help Deb go shopping for food and make (food) decisions, but every so often I get sucked into other things because the board’s so small this year,” she said. MOUSY’s current board consists of six teens; programs attract approximately 10-14 participants.

Wilson’s Jewish involvement and teaching activities extend beyond the boundaries of her synagogue community. She helps teach at Yonim, Madison’s Israeli dance troupe for children in grades kindergarten through 12th grade.

“I’ve been doing dance since kindergarten,” she said, “I started to be an assistant in second grade and have been doing it ever since.”

Starting this month, Wilson will add art program volunteer to her activity roster. Run through The Road Home – Dane County’s Interfaith Hospitality Network, congregations provide meals, evening activities and shelter on a rotating basis to homeless families.

Her mother, Laurie Nagus, has long been involved with the program, and Wilson said her family’s volunteer work there created relationships that extended beyond meals and activities.

“We would see those people in public,” she said, “and my mom would have a connection with the adults and I’d know the kids. It was nice to have a connection (with them).”

She’s looking forward to seeing what kind of a difference she can make working with the program on a more regular basis.

Asked what she gets out of all she does, she had a ready answer.

“I really enjoy it, the dance stuff and the crafts, the MOUSY board and the b’nai mitvah students,” she said.

As to career plans, Wilson doesn’t have a specific job title in mind, but wants to do something that involves helping improve the lives of underprivileged children.

“I don’t know yet whether that will be as a social worker or doing something else within a big organization, but that’s what I want to do,” she said.

Wilson lives in Madison with her parents, Laurie Nagus and Paul Wilson, and her younger sister Rhiannon, an eighth grader.

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Teen Leaders

The Chronicle is featuring eight Jewish teens who give back to their community – one for each Chanukah candle! Is there a synagogue, community or teen you’d like to recommend for our next Teen Leaders project? Let us know at Chronicle@MilwaukeeJewish.org.