NCSY CITIES AND REGIONAL LEADERSHIP NCSY is the international youth movement of the OU.
EXECUTIVE LEADERSHIP Rabbi Micah Greenland............ International Director, NCSY Keevy Fried................................... Associate International Director, NCSY Rabbi Moshe Benovitz.............. Managing Director, NCSY Martin Nachimson...................... President, OU Howard Tzvi Friedman.............Board of Directors Chair, OU Avi Katz.........................................National Youth Commission Chairman, OU Allen Fagin..................................... Executive Vice President, OU Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb....... Executive Vice President, Emeritus, OU Rabbi Steven Weil....................... Senior Managing Director, OU Shlomo Schwartz........................ Chief Financial Officer / Chief Administrative Officer, OU Arnold Gerson............................Chief Institutional Advancement Officer, OU Rabbi Lenny Bessler.................. Chief Human Resources Officer, OU Dr. Sam Davidovics.................... Chief Information Officer, OU Gary Magder................................. Director of Digital Media Marketing, OU
INTERNATIONAL STAFF Rabbi Dovid Bashevkin............ Director of Education Sari Borenstein............................ Summer Programs Associate David Cutler.................................. Director of NCSY Summer Rachel First................................... Educational Content Manager & Designer Samantha Feldman.................... Summer Programs Associate, Marketing Coordinator Jen Goldman................................ Assistant Director of NCSY Summer Yael Gruen...................................Summer Programs Associate Dan Hazony................................... Director of Data and Evaluation Rabbi Moshe Isenberg............ Director of PR and Communications Rabbi Israel Lashak.................... Senior Educator Tali Lebenbom............................Alumni Connections Associate Rabbi Yehoshua Marchuck..... Director of Alumni Amy Mauskopf............................. Summer Programs Associate, Director of Logistics Andres Moncayo......................... Graphic Designer Rabbi Menachem Nissel..........Senior Educator Ayelet Prero...................................Administrative Associate Rabbi Ari Rockoff........................Director of Leadership Development DY Rubin.........................................Evaluations Coordinator Adam Rudich...............................Director of Operations and Finance Rachel Shammah.......................Alumni Data & Marketing Coordinator Saadia Simon..............................Systems Support Manager Debbie Stone................................ Associate Director of Education Elliot Tanzman.............................. Director of NCSY Summer Recruitment Josh Weinberg............................. Interim Director of Marketing Shayna Zukerman......................Alumni Associate
SUMMER LEADERSHIP BILT................................................... Rabbi Akiva Naiman Euro ICE.......................................... Rabbi Israel Lashak GIVE................................................. Erin Cooper Stiebel GIVE West...................................... Leah Moskovich ICE Israel........................................ Tzvi and Malkie Hametz JOLT................................................. Rabbi Eli Zians JOLT Israel ................................. Rabbi Dr. Noam Weinberg Kollel................................................ Rabbi Moshe Benovitz Camp Maor................................. Sari Kahn Michlelet......................................... Rivka Yudin Camp Sports................................. Rabbi Jon Green The Anne Samson: TJJ & TJJ Ambassadors............ Rabbi Barry Goldfischer TJJ Ambassadors Poland........ Marc Fein
ON THE COVER: NCSY Southern advisor, David Cohen, learns with Dallas teen, Daniel Bolurian, at this year’s Yarchei Kallah in Stamford, CT.
Rabbi Jonah Lerner Dr. Michael Elman, Chair 410.358.6279 email@example.com atlanticseaboard. ncsy.org
Atlanta, GA Alpharetta, GA Dunwoody, GA Johns Creek, GA Marietta, GA Sandy Springs, GA
Baltimore, MD Columbia, MD Germantown, MD Gaithersburg, MD Olney, MD Potomac, MD Sandy Spring, MD Silver Spring, MD Towson, MD Cherry Hill, NJ Allentown, PA Harrisburg, PA Huntingdon Valley, PA Lancaster, PA Philadelphia, PA Lower Merion, PA Wilkes-Barre, PA Richmond, VA Norfolk, VA Virginia Beach, VA
CANADA Rabbi Glenn Black Larry Zeifman, Chair 905.761.6279 firstname.lastname@example.org canada.ncsy.org Calgary, AB Edmonton, AB Vancouver, BC Victoria, BC Hamilton, ON Kitchener-Waterloo, ON King City, ON Kingston, ON London, ON Ottawa, ON Toronto, ON Montreal, QC
CENTRAL EAST Rabbi Tzali Freedman Judge Daniel Butler, Chair 888.471.4514 email@example.com centraleast.ncsy.org Windsor, ON Ann Arbor, MI Bloomfield Hills, MI Farmington Hills, MI Huntington Woods, MI Oak Park, MI Southfield, MI West Bloomfield, MI Akron, OH Canton, OH Cincinnati, OH Cleveland, OH Columbus, OH Dayton, OH Solon, OH Toledo, OH Youngstown, OH Pittsburgh, PA
GREATER ATLANTA Rabbi Chaim Neiditch 404.486.8787 firstname.lastname@example.org
PHOTO: JOSH WEINBERG
MIDWEST Rabbi Moshe Isenberg Rabbi Donny Schwartz Ari Shabat, Chair 847.677.6279 email@example.com midwest.ncsy.org Des Moines, IA Buffalo Grove, IL Chicago, IL Glenview, IL Northbrook, IL Skokie, IL Indianapolis, IN South Bend, IN Kansas City, KS Overland Park,KS St. Louis, MO Winnipeg, MB Minneapolis, MN Omaha, NE Memphis, TN Milwaukee, WI
Twin Rivers, NJ West Orange, NJ
NEW YORK Rabbi Yehoshua Kohl Kenny Sicklick, Chair 516.569.6279 firstname.lastname@example.org newyork.ncsy.org Bronx, NY Brooklyn, NY Cedarhurst, NY Commack, NY East Meadow, NY Great Neck, NY Hewlett, NY Inwood, NY Lawrence, NY Long Beach, NY Manhattan, NY Merrick, NY Oceanside, NY Plainview, NY Port Washington, NY Queens, NY Roslyn, NY Staten Island, NY Stony Brook, NY Westchester, NY West Hempstead, NY Woodmere, NY
SOUTHERN Todd Cohn Leah Klean, Board Chair Saby Behar, Campaign Chair 1-866-887-5788 Southern@ncsy.org southern.ncsy.org
Rabbi Simon Taylor Joyce Wertheimer, Chair 617.332.6279 newengland@ ncsy.org newengland.ncsy.org Little Rock, AK Birmingham, AL New Haven, CT Aventura, FL Stamford, CT Bal Harbour, FL West Hartford, CT Boca Raton, FL Brookline, MA Coral Springs, FL Framingham, MA Hollywood, FL Lexington, MA Jacksonville, FL Marlborough, MA Kendall, FL Newton, MA Miami Beach, FL Sharon, MA North Miami Waltham, MA Beach, FL Providence, RI Palm Beach, FL Parkland, FL NEW JERSEY Greater Atlanta, GA Savannah, GA Rabbi Ethan Katz Charleston, SC Dr. Murray Myrtle Beach, SC Leben, Chair Nashville, TN 201.862.0250 email@example.com SOUTHWEST newjersey.ncsy.org Rabbi Gershon Meisel East Brunswick, NJ 972.934.9143 Englishtown, NJ firstname.lastname@example.org Fair Lawn, NJ southwest.ncsy.org Freehold, NJ Freehold Boro, NJ Denver, CO Hackensack, NJ New Orleans, LA Highland Park, NJ Santa Fe, NM Hightstown, NJ Austin, TX Livingston, NJ Dallas, TX Marlboro, NJ El Paso, TX Manalapan, NJ Fort Worth, TX Millburn, NJ Houston, TX Montclair, NJ McKinney, TX Northern Richardson, TX Highlands, NJ San Antonio, TX Randolph, NJ Teaneck, NJ
SPECIAL THANKS TO
Tova Ross Avinoam Teplow-Phipps Fran Zelenetz
Deeni Adler Dovid Bashevkin Rachel Moskowitz Ayelet Prero Michael Sohn Sara Trombka
UPSTATE NY Devora Weinstock 646.459.5175 email@example.com upstate.ncsy.org Albany, NY Binghamton, NY Buffalo, NY Catskills District, NY Mount Kisco, NY Rochester, NY Schenectady, NY Syracuse, NY
WEST COAST Rabbi Effie Goldberg Rina Emerson Dr. Josh Penn, Chair 310.229.9000 firstname.lastname@example.org westcoast.ncsy.org Phoenix, AZ Scottsdale, AZ Berkeley, CA Beverly Hills, CA Calabasas, CA Cupertino, CA Irvine, CA La Jolla, CA Los Angeles, CA North Hollywood, CA Oakland, CA Palo Alto, CA Piedmont, CA Sacramento, CA San Diego, CA San Francisco, CA San Jose, CA San Mateo, CA Santa Monica, CA Saratoga, CA Sunnyvale, CA Thousand Oaks, CA West Hills, CA Woodland Hills, CA Woodside, CA Las Vegas, NV Eugene, OR Portland, OR Mercer Island, WA Seattle, WA
ARGENTINA Rabbi Marcelo Krawiec Martin Lebovich 011.54.911.6802.5854 email@example.com
CHILE Michael Bengio 011.56.99.186.5575 firstname.lastname@example.org
GERMANY Anna Segal 011.49.30.440.10160 email@example.com
ISRAEL Rabbi Yosef Ginsberg Rabbi Michael Kahn 054-953-8225 052-508-5091 firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com Israel.ncsy.org
NCSY International Headquarters 11 Broadway New York, NY 10004 Phone: 212.613.8233 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Web: www.ncsy.org Facebook: www.facebook.com/myncsy Twitter: @ncsy YouTube: www.youtube.com/myncsy Instagram: www.instagram.com/myncsy
MORE THAN JUST SUMMER TRIPS Thanks to NCSY Summer, thousands of teens live passionate, committed Torah lives and will inspire those around them for generations to come. Now itâ€™s your turn to play a role in impacting the Jewish future. To help send a teen on NCSY Summer, call David Cutler, director of NCSY Summer, at 212.613.8317 or email email@example.com
TABLE OF CONTENTS 8 14
UNITED IN THE FACE OF TRAGEDY 20 OU and NCSY partner to hold Ezra Schwartz hy”d memorial in Israel.
DIRECTOR’S MESSAGE Hypocrisy Gets a Bad Rap – A message from NCSY’s International Director, Rabbi Micah Greenland.
FACES IN THE CROWD Meet Rabbi Dr. Noam Weinberg, director of NCSY Summer’s JOLT Israel; Find out why Dr. Murray Leben supports NCSY.
CHAIRMAN’S MESSAGE Mr. Avi Katz explores the power of hope.
LEADING THROUGH ACTION International Teen President, Sarah Engel, reflects on leadership lessons learned from NCSY.
COMMUNITY SNAPSHOTS Community members across the NCSY world show their support.
CHESED ACROSS THE COUNTRY NCSYers across the globe give back to their communities and beyond.
YARCHEI KALLAH A recap of NCSY’s winter break Torah learning extravaganza for public school teens.
STAYING WARM IN THE WINTER A look back at this year’s Winter Regionals.
ON THE FRONT LINES OF INSPIRATION Jewish Student Union clubs and what they’ve been up to.
THE 21ST ANNUAL BEN ZAKKAI HONOR SOCIETY DINNER 21 Looking back at this years annual dinner honoring NCSY’s best and 24 brightest. ANYTHING BUT ALONE 22 NCSY connects with IDF lone soldier alumni. PILOTT 24 ABRITAIN Kentucky teen’s tale of resilience and inspiration. WITHOUT BORDERS 26 Fernando Sur’s daily epic journey to make his Judaism count.
A WEEKLY TRANSFORMATION 28 How a JSU Club transformed Allie Weeks. BEHIND THE LENS 30 How Eli Dreyfuss went from being in photos to taking them. MAN ON A MISSION 32 Rabbi Chaim Neiditch and his Atlanta NCSY revolution. A DIFFERENT KIND OF CLUB 34 How DJZJ turned NCSY. HEADING EAST 35 The Birth of NCSY Israel
30 MEET THE NEW & IMPROVED NATIONAL BOARD 36 Meet the teen ambassadors who are getting it done behind the scenes.
AS A TEEN 38 Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks discusses his teenage years with NCSY’s Director of Education, Rabbi Dovid Bashevkin.
THE LIST 39 Five pro tips for your Pesach Seder from the NCSY Eudcation
THE BOOK WAS ONLY THE BEGINNING OF THE STORY 40 How an OU Press book became an NCSY learning program.
IT DONE 41 AGETTING look back at Ari and Jessica Hoffman’s twenty years with NCSY.
QUEEN OF RUACH 42 ANCSY’S loving tribute to Mrs. Rivke Berkowitz a”h. HIGHLIGHTS 43 Happenings around the NCSY World TRADITION…POWERED BY GOOGLE 50 Rabbi Moshe Benovitz on how the digital culture affects our lives and thought process.
By Rabbi Micah Greenland, International Director “You’re such a hypocrite!” How often do we hear the hypocrisy charge leveled at a friend, a co-worker, or (more frequently) a politician? There is seemingly no worse insult, and it would appear to be for good reason. Who would want to be considered internally inconsistent, to be thought of as having values that are lessthan-strongly held? We all wish to be seen as people of conviction, who live the virtues that we admire in others, who “practice what we preach.” To be hypocritical is to be wishy-washy, or worse, a charlatan and a fraud. And yet, I’m here to tell you that I think hypocrisy gets a bad rap. In my career in Jewish education, I have met thousands of Jewish teens who have become inspired to grow in their Judaism and to become better people. They feel a spark of inspiration, often on an NCSY Shabbaton, at a kumzitz, or on a summer program that motivates them to want to take a positive step forward, to do more for one another or forge a deeper bond with God. Often, they follow through, and they turn that feeling into action. But sometimes – too frequently, I believe – the inspiration goes nowhere, and fear of the hypocrisy allegation is the reason. I have heard the following lines, and others like them, directly from teens themselves:
Rabbi Micah Greenland addresses NCSY staff at NCSY StaffCon this past September.
“I couldn’t possibly take time to volunteer at a soup kitchen or to assist a family that needs extra help. Everyone knows I’m far from a saintly person, and I’d just feel like a hypocrite doing something so generous when that’s not me.” “I don’t feel ready to keep Shabbat yet, and I just wouldn’t feel right doing just the Friday night part. It kinda has to be all or nothing, doesn’t it?” “I might be willing to try saying the Shema prayer at night for just one week, but unless I know that I’ll be able to keep up the commitment forever, I’d just feel like a hypocrite. “ In each instance, the motivation to do something positive is pushed aside by the worry about being seen as a hypocrite, or as inconsistent in some way. It certainly makes some sense for a person to have such a concern. At the same time, trying something outside of our comfort zone – what might be seen as a hypocritical act – is, in fact, the way we grow as people. Pushing ourselves to do something once, even when we’re uncertain whether we can sustain it in the long run, is precisely the path to selfimprovement. Unquestionably, it requires a degree of risk-taking or just “taking the plunge” in order to give a new experience a try. But if we try a positive behavior once and find it fulfilling, we may feel empowered to repeat the experience again. At worst, we will have done something noble, even if just once. But if we aren’t willing to try, for fear of being deemed hypocritical, we’ll never have the opportunity to embrace those moments of inspiration or to become any greater than we are today. The redemption of Passover reinforces this message. The Torah relates the steps towards redemption in four distinct steps (see Exodus 6:6-7). Many commentators are puzzled: Why is redemption described so piecemeal? But, the underlying message is clear. Growth is not binary. Each step towards redemption is inherently valuable – regardless if certain aspects of exile still linger. An unhealthy
Pushing ourselves to do something once, even when we’re uncertain whether we can sustain it in the long run, is precisely the path to selfimprovement. relationship with hypocrisy can prove decidedly detrimental to the long term possibilities of redemption. Instead, the Torah reminds us, that each step forward serves an important purpose. There are valuable analogies to Jewish communal work as well. Affecting change in an organization, much like an individual is not an all-or nothing proposition. As an organization develops, opportunities for growth are sometimes halted until complete and comprehensive change can be implemented. Like an individual, organizations may deem modest steps towards improvement as highlighting underlying hypocrisies. But, hypocrisy, in this context, has certainly gotten a bad rap. We cannot wait for comprehensive perfection before advancing. Certainly at NCSY, we are proud that each day represents greater successes than the day that preceded it; our organizational aspirations consistently guide our efforts – even if present issues may linger. Personal and organizational growth need not begin with zero-based budgeting. In both instances gradual and consistent steps on a visionary trajectory is the best assurance for success. Just because our road to success is not perfect, does not mean it is hypocritical - so long as the ultimate trajectory moves you closer to perfection. With Torah Blessings,
Rabbi Micah Greenland
QUESTIONS FOR WITH
DR. MURRAY LEBEN
CHAIRMAN OF NJ NCSY AND NCSY SUPPORTER
HOW DID YOU FIRST HEAR ABOUT NCSY? I first heard about NCSY in 1974 from a friend in North Bergen named Robbie Marcus. He had gone with friends to some Shabbatonim that year and had an amazing experience. Robbie came to me with two ideas at the time: one was to start a business selling Shaklee products, which were vitamin/health products, and the other was to start an NCSY chapter in North Bergen. The Shaklee idea went bust, but starting the chapter of NCSY was very successful.
Rabbi Dr. Noam Weinberg may be heading one of NCSY’s newest summer programs this year, JOLT Israel, but his NCSY involvement spans decades. Noam first began attending NCSY Shabbatonim and programs in seventh grade as a proud member of the New England Region. “Growing up in a small town like West Hartford was amazing, but it had its challenges, especially socially,” said Noam. “NCSY was a lifesaver for me and my sisters, because it enlarged our catchment area of friends to include all of Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and the other New England states.” Returning to the U.S. after a year studying abroad in Israel, Noam longed to give back to the organization that had given him so much and so he became an NCSY advisor. His involvement led him to spend an unforgettable summer on NCSY Kollel, a summer that changed his life as he inspired Jewish teens and met his wife, Nechama in Israel, for the first time. Rabbi Weinberg continued to study at Yeshiva University’s RIETS program where he received rabbinic ordination, as well as one masters in Secondary Jewish Education, one in School Administration and finally a doctorate from The Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education & Administration. A post graduate degree in not-for-profit management from Columbia University Business School followed, as well as becoming a certified parent coach in the area of adolescent religious development. Rabbi Weinberg taught Chumash and Gemara in Frisch, Ma’ayanot and MTA before serving as assistant principal in HALB, and the associate principal at the Moriah School in Englewood, NJ. Today he holds the position of Rosh Yeshiva and Principal of Judaic Studies at North Shore Hebrew Academy High School in Great Neck, NY. Education and religious growth are core principals in his life and he considers his general approach to education to be in line with that of the Piaseczno Rebbe, Reb Klonymus Kalman Shapira hy”d. Like the rebbe who wrote: “Parents and teachers are gardeners who work and protect Hashem’s garden,” Rabbi Weinberg always works hard to see the good and sweetness of each Jewish child, seeking to facilitate their unique and individual growth towards Hashem. This summer, Rabbi Weinberg will take his vision to NCSY Summer as he pilots the new JOLT Israel program. “JOLT Israel is about taking emerging leaders in the Jewish community and teaching them how to take an idea from inception and bring it successfully to fruition,” says Rabbi Weinberg. “At the same time, our trip will focus on the importance and centrality of our ancestral homeland, hoping and knowing that all participants on the trip will fall in love with Israel as they see the land in a way they have never seen it before.”
WHY IS NCSY CRITICAL TO THE JEWISH COMMUNITY? NCSY is critical to our community because it helps teenagers fill a crucial void frequently missing from their growth and development in the Modern Orthodox world. We have fantastic day schools, synagogues and communal organizations; however that is not enough. Teens are always searching for meaning in life and something that resonates with them. They will find it somewhere. NCSY provides a meaningful, caring and wholesome environment in a Torah-true fashion for all those teens seeking it through our inspirational and informative programs, as well through our professional staff that is there for our teens whenever the need arises. WHAT MAKES NCSY UNIQUE IN YOUR OPINION? NCSY is unique in that it is the sole Modern Orthodox youth organization that offers so much to our youth under one roof. NCSY offers leadership training, experiential programming, fun and exciting events, support for teens going through difficult family situations, and support for a Torah lifestyle in a world with so many compelling distractions. HOW HAS NCSY IMPACTED YOU AND YOUR FAMILY? NCSY has been instrumental in helping me develop leadership qualities that have helped me in my communal volunteer positions, professional career and family rearing. My children have enjoyed many of the summer programs, which in turn have imbued in them positive values as well as a sense of responsibility to those less fortunate. The NCSY Summer Kollel program has solidified my sons’ commitment to learning, as well as honed their abilities in sports. WHAT MESSAGE DO YOU HAVE FOR OUR READERS? If people want their children to be committed to a Torahtrue lifestyle, they should never assume that just because they send their children to the best day schools, summer camps and programs their job is done. All of that is important and wonderful, but it is not enough. The day-to-day interactions with your children is crucial, and living as a consistent example for them every day is essential. Beyond that, however, NCSY provides the nurturing environment, the network of caring professionals, the ability to develop meaningful friendships and an opportunity for teens to excel in areas of leadership. NCSY solidifies one’s commitment to Torah and has helped to create and develop some of the finest teachers, administrators, rabbis, professionals, and perhaps most importantly - fine human beings. Over the past 60 years, NCSY has made a huge impact and has been a vital component of Modern Orthodoxy.
By Avi Katz, National Youth Commission Chairman, OU s the Jewish people are leaving Egypt, the Torah describes the scene with the phrase: “vi’chamushim alu Bnei Yisrael”. The use of the somewhat enigmatic term “chamushim” led Rashi towards two distinct approaches of interpretation. More literally, the Jews left Egypt prepared with the necessities needed for the journey ahead. That said, Rashi presents a midrash which emphasizes the numeric value alluded to in the phrase “chamushim”—positing that only one fifth of the Jews actually left Egypt! This midrash tells us that a communal division took place during the plague of darkness and suggests that the vast majority of Jews were found unfit for salvation. Chazal speculate as to which litmus test Hashem used to determine those worthy of liberation. The Rosh suggests that survival was dependent on personal merit and character. As such, it was the wicked that perished during the plague of darkness. He then poses a simple question—If the wicked perished during the plague—how is it that Dathan and Aviram, noted for their past (and future) evil survived? His profound answer elucidates the secret behind the survival and continuity of the Jewish people—namely, hope. Despite all their treachery, Dathan and Aviram never lost hope in the ultimate redemption of the Jewish people. For this quality alone, they were redeemed. Do we, as a community, share that same sentiment today? Can we say that we maintain a steadfast hope in a vibrant Jewish future? What I can state with confidence is that for NCSY, the answer is—most certainly—yes!
Ultimately, though, our communal future lies with our children and it is from them that I gain the most hope. As Youth Chair, I see this hope when meeting so many dedicated NCSY professionals with the passion and energy to go above and beyond on behalf of Klal Yisrael. They know, all too well, the alarming data surrounding intermarriage and overall lack of religious commitment amongst our Jewish brethren. Their persistence, in spite of this negative data, is inspirational—not delusional—and their accomplishments continue to be remarkable. The strong initial results we have seen since the implementation of the NCSY 2020 Strategic Plan are a testament to this ethos. In just the first half of this school year, we have seen double digit increases in teens reached and, more critically, even faster progress towards our goal of doubling the number of teens impacted over the next five years. These exciting results are directly attributable to the efforts and creativity of the NCSY team as evidenced by the successful launch of nineteen pilot projects. These programs are at the cutting edge of teen engagement and
reflect an overall effort to impact as many Jewish teens across the spectrum as possible. By way of example, our New England region launched the Extreme Shabbat Makeover project. This innovative program empowers day school teens with the tools and skills needed to run a local community Shabbaton in one of the many smaller shuls in the Boston area. These experiences reciprocally benefit both the teen and the community as relationships are forged and passion for Judaism is strengthened. We strongly believe our success with these types of projects can be replicated and spread across the country and we would urge you to join us and partner in these unique programs. Ultimately, though, our communal future lies with our children and it is from them that I gain the most hope. From the overwhelming spectacle of more than 1500 engaged teens at Yom NCSY to the subtlety of smaller chesed programs across the country—NCSY participants exemplify the positive determination for a more engaged and meaningful Jewish life. My experience learning with and from NCSYers at this year’s Yarchei Kallah gave me a clearer picture of this more optimistic future. It demonstrates that when we provide our youth with authentic opportunities to learn and experience Torah, we unleash the natural optimism they possess and therein discover the power of hope.
Avi Katz is a managing member of Agam Capital Management. Prior to that, he was a partner at Apollo Management where he was the portfolio manager of the Apollo Strategic Value Fund and Apollo Value Investment Fund. Previously, he held many leadership positions in the world of finance and in the broader Jewish community. Mr. Katz graduated from New York University with a BS in Accounting and Economics, and he is also a Chartered Financial Analyst. He lives in Teaneck, New Jersey, with his wife Becky and their four children.
This past fall, as terror swept the streets of Israel, one attack felt particularly crushing for me and for many of my fellow NCSYers: the murder of Ezra Schwartz hy”d, a recent yeshiva high school graduate from New England. He was killed while studying in Israel on a gap year, something hundreds, if not thousands, of NCSYers have done in the past, are presently doing, and something NCSYers like myself plan to do next year. While all terrorist attacks hurt, this one felt closer to home. Ezra was a friend of my friends and a student of my teachers. He exemplified many of the values that NCSY ingrains in its participants, most notably, the synthesis of chesed and leadership. Ezra was known for going out of his way to perform acts of kindness, was a leader of morality and a champion of compassion. To remember Ezra and do acts of kindness in his merit, NCSYers participated in a Siyum Tanach, finishing a goal he himself had set out to achieve that same fateful day of his murder. NCSYers divided up Tehillim, Psalms, each reciting a different chapter in his merit and for the safety of Israel during that hard time. NationaLNL, an online live stream session, was taught in his memory. #NCSYChesed week, a Chanukah campaign run by National 8
We have come to understand that the greatest leaders are those who are constantly looking for opportunities to give to others. Board, encouraged NCSYers to live those same values Ezra naturally embodied. As our teen-run National Board underwent a transition to a new model this year, we hoped to emulate Ezra’s leadership - an ideal blend of kindness and action. Thus far, at both International Yarchei Kallah and JUMP, we have had the privilege of serving as event staff, helping with logistics and assisting with aroundthe-clock behind the scenes work. These experiences have been incredibly rewarding for all of us, sensitizing us to the overwhelming amount of effort that goes into every Shabbaton and convention. As we lugged chairs, matched keys to nametags and sorted challahs, we witnessed an unbelievable amount of kindness and dedication displayed by the NCSY staff. As National Board members, we have tried to emulate their amazing commitment,
and we have come to understand that the greatest leaders are those who are constantly looking for opportunities to give to others. As Pesach approaches, I am reminded of a scene from Parashat Shemot that so aptly defines Moshe Rabbeinu’s leadership. While still a young man living in Pharoah’s palace, Moshe decides to walk around the slave fields. Noticing an Egyptian man beating a Jewish slave, the pasuk describes, “va’yifen koh vi’choh, vaya’ar ki ein ish” (Shemot 2:12), Moshe looked back and forth and saw that there was no one else there but him. It was this realization that served as the catalyst for action. Moshe, the only person in sight, went and saved the Jewish victim, taking action and thereby becoming a leader. As we learned from Ezra, as we learned from the NationaLNL, and as we learned from #NCSYChesed week true leadership is fused not only with lovingkindness, but with the ability to be proactive, constantly on the lookout for individuals in need, and then to take our understanding to spur action and alleviate suffering. This is the leadership of Moshe Rabbeinu, this was the leadership of Ezra Schwartz, and this is the leadership of NCSY.
MAJOR EVENTS AROUND NCSY
COMMUNITY SNAPSHOTS Community members across the NCSY world show their support.
CHESED ACROSS THE COUNTRY NCSYers across the globe give back to their communities and beyond.
YARCHEI KALLAH A recap of NCSY’s winter break Torah learning extravaganza for public school teens.
STAYING WARM IN THE WINTER A look back at this year’s Winter Regionals.
ON THE FRONT LINES OF INSPIRATION Jewish Student Union clubs and what they’ve been up to.
UNITED IN THE FACE OF TRAGEDY OU and NCSY partner to hold Ezra Schwartz Memorial in Israel.
THE 21ST ANNUAL BEN ZAKKAI HONOR SOCIETY DINNER Looking back at this years annual dinner honoring NCSY’s best and brightest. ANYTHING BUT ALONE NCSY connects with IDF lone soldier alumni.
BALTIMORE, MD Shuie and Elise Steinharter accept the Alumni Leadership Award at Atlantic Seaboard NCSYâ€™s 41st Annual Isaac H. Taylor Jewish Music Festival. Pictured above is (Left to Right) Jerry Wolasky and Dovid Meir Loeb, Concert Hosts, Dr. Michael Elman, Regional Youth Chairman, Rabbi Jonah Lerner, Regional Director, Rabbi Tzvi Teichman, Rabbi of Ohel Moshe Synagogue, Shuie Steinharter, Elise Steinharter and Lauren Gluck, Regional Logistics Coordinator.
CHICAGO, IL Regional Director Rabbi Donny Schwartz and Executive Director Rabbi Moshe Isenberg (left) present Guests of Honor, Jonah and Jo Bruck, with a new megillah at the Midwest Annual Banquet.
TORONTO, ON NCSY and Torah High held the first ever Celebrating the Spirit of Youth Gala in York Mills Gallery this past November. The event raised $1.8 million of neceessary funds for NCSY and Torah High. Pictured here (L to R) are Larry Zeifman, Rabbi Steven Weil, Rabbi Micah Greenland, Allen Fagin, Eddy Goldstein, Rabbi Glenn Black, Jerry Klasner, Jack & Harriet Feintuch, Karmela Klasner, Felicia Salomon and Sonya Budd.
BAL HARBOUR, FL NCSY board members and lay leaders join Regional Board and Philanthropy Interns at the home of Murray and Linda Laulicht for an emotional havdalah dedicated to raising awareness and scholarship funds necessary to send teens to Israel on summer and gap-year programs.
PORTLAND, OR The Q, Oregon’s best trivia competition and NCSY Oregon’s largest fundraiser, took place on January 30th, and raised over $115,000. Pictured here is the winning team (L to R): Brett Phillips, Liz Phillips, Jeff Robinson, Julia Robinson, Ross Weinstein, Mindy Zeitzer, Darcy Hoyt, Mark Zeitzer.
LOS ANGELES, CA Rabbi Effie Goldberg, West Coast NCSY Executive Director (pictured left), and Motti Herzog, VP of Operations for Herzog Winery, share fine wines and great food at the 2nd Annual Trustee Dinner this past December in Los Angeles.
LAS VEGAS, NV Mr. and Mrs. Andi and Les Silver (pictured left) opened their home to the entire Las Vegas Jewish Community at the 3rd annual Hops ‘n Scotch fundraiser this past December. The evening raised over $15,000. Rabbi Steven Weil, OU’s managing director (pictured right), spoke highly of the unprecedented growth of NCSY led by Director Rabbi Yehuda Maryles, pictured at center with his wife Sarah. In just five years, Las Vegas NCSY has reached over 500 unaffiliated teens helping send over 50 of them to Israel.
CHICAGO, IL When Midwest NCSY found itself with an unusable Sefer Torah at its annual winter Shabbaton, they turned an unfortunate situation into an unforgettable learning opportunity. Raising $50,000, the region commissioned the writing of a Midwest NCSY Torah. Pictured here are Minneapolis chapter teens fulfilling the unique mitzvah of writing a letter in the new NCSY Sefer Torah in October.
WEST ORANGE, NJ The NJ NCSY West Orange Breakfast took place this past September at the home of Rosalyn and Stephen Flatow and honored Karen Berger and Elia Weixelbaum as well as Doris and Jay Hartman. Pictured here (L to R) are NJ Regional Director, Rabbi Ethan Katz, Jay Hartman and Doris Hartman, Karen Bergen, Elia Weixelbaum and Robin Amster.
HARRISBURG, PA NCSYers volunteer with multiple social action groups at Atlantic Seaboard Winter Conclave. Options ranged from helping clean up a Holocaust memorial, play sports with special needs adults, sing Shabbat songs with children and volunteering at a homeless shelter. After giving back to the community of Harrisburg, NCSYers came together for an inspiring Shabbat and left the Shabbaton Sunday morning motivated to make an impact on the Jewish Future.
BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA NCSYers in Argentina visit the Beit Tzion Geriatric Center to light the menorah, sing songs, play games and share life stories with residents this past Chanukah.
METROWEST, NJ NJ NCSY public school and yeshiva students from the MetroWest area spent three days in New Orleans building houses for families whose lives were devastated during Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
PITTSBURGH, PA Yael Itskowitz, Shira Itskowitz and Adriana Gulli (L to R) gather to assemble sukkah decorations for the local senior center as part of Pittsburgh NCSYâ€™s Post Yom Kippur Chesed Project.
LOS ANGELES, CA Jewish teens from the greater Los Angeles area get ready to run the annual 5K for Jewish Education. Teens were able to choose where the raised money was donated and unanimously agreed to donate the funds to NCSY Summer programs.
PHILADELPHIA, PA Philadelphia and Cherry Hill teens join the Jewish Relief Agency in packing food packages for the needy throughout the Philadelphia area.
NEW YORK NCSYers get ready for a big day of repairs and community service in flood-damaged Texas on the New York NCSY Disaster Relief Mission this past February.
SANDY SPRINGS, GA Atlanta JSUers decorate dreidels to give to Jewish children unfortunately in the hospital during the holiday season.
CANADA Girls on Canada NCSYâ€™s Live2Give Shabbaton made blankets on their bus ride to New York City and distributed them to the cold and homeless upon arrival. SPRING 2016
This past December, 300 public school teens from across North America chose to spend their winter break in Stamford, Connecticut at NCSY’s Yarchei Kallah. The premier five-day learning program connects public school teens to their Jewish heritage and is one of NCSY’s most anticipated and popular events. Traditional classroom learning is supplemented with group study, one-on-one chavrutot and late night discussions with teachers, advisors and fellow NCSYers. After a week of studying Torah and bonding, teens are imbued with a deep passion for learning about their heritage. Each year, the educational programming is centered around a specific text or theme and this year teens focused on studying Sefer Tehillim, Psalms. This year’s Yarchei Kallah saw an unprecedented amount of partnerships
between NCSY and leading educators from an array of Jewish institutions. Video content was provided by Aleph Beta and teens were privileged to hear words of inspiration from Rabbi Moshe Weinberger, mashpia at Yeshiva University and rabbi of Congregation Aish Kodesh in Woodmere, NY; Rabbi Judah Mischel, Executive Director of Camp HASC; and Rabbi Yaakov Lehman, Chief Executive Integrator of Wisdom Tribe, amongst many others.
Program highlights included the ‘Lone Soldier Program,’ where teens heard from former IDF lone soldier, Rabbi Josh Rosenfeld, as he shared his experiences of serving in the Israeli army away from home. Using Tehillim as a springboard, teens used King David’s themes of praise, prayer and vulnerability to handwrite letters to IDF lone soldiers, offering encouragement and thanks for
“Yarchei Kallah is truly a magnificent experience, with hundreds of teenagers learning Torah in a mini-yeshiva type of environment,” said International NCSY Director Rabbi Micah Greenland. “I have no doubt that Yarchei Kallah 2015 has made a profound difference in the lives of the teens who participated and in the lives of their families.”
Advisors and teens are all smiles at this year’s National Yarchei Kallah in Stamford, CT.
Teens took part in ‘Express Yourself,’ a hands-on program that offered NCSYers the ability to participate in an array of collaborative sessions – writing, poetry slam, painting, music and comedy to name a few. The program culminated with a showcase presentation highlighting the most creative teens before a packed Yarchei Kallah audience.
Teens enjoy an engaging discussion about Sefer Tehillim at this year’s National Yarchei Kallah.
Oregon Regional Director, Meira Spivak, takes a break from teaching to chat with NCSYer Hannah Rosenbloom at #YK2015.
NCSYers and staff took part in the first ever Yarchei Challah Bake, baking over 300 challah breads for Shabbat.
Rabbi Josh Rosenfeld, former IDF Lone Soldier, recites a prayer for the State of Israel and the IDF, at the conclusion of the Lone Soldier Program.
Teens from across the country, including this bunch from the Central East region, came to learn about their heritage and explore the depth of Torah study at this year’s Yarchei Kallah.
Rabbi Dave Felsenthal, director of the Orthodox Union’s Next Gen Division, gives an optional late-night class for NCSYers eager to learn more well into the night.
Atlantic Seaboard NCSYers get ready for a Shabbat of song, learning and inspiration.
NCSY Summer hosts the annual NCSY Summer Carnival. Teens had the opportunity to enjoy carnival entertainment while learning about NCSY’s fourteen unique summer programs.
GREATER ATLANTA Atlanta teens enjoy havdalah at a ski resort during Winter Regional in North Carolina. For many, this havdalah symbolizes the completion of their first Shabbat experience.
SOUTHERN Over 200 teens from across the Southeast joined the Southern Winter Regional and Ski Weekend in Gatlinberg, TN. Teens enjoyed the unique Downtown Gatlinburg experience, as well as a Shabbat in the breathtaking snowcapped Smoky Mountains. The freezing cold weather and snow fall added to the authentic winter experience for our Southern NCSY teens.
MIDWEST Over 200 participants came out to NCSY Midwest’s Okner Winter Conclave Convention held this past December in Bloomingdale, IL.
ATLANTIC SEABOARD Atlantic Seaboard NCSY regional board members (L to R) Miriam Waxman, Hannah Assour, Chani Kermaier and Arianna Stone hold havdalah candles at the Atlantic Seaboard Winter Conclave 2016.
NEW ENGLAND New England’s Winter Regional in Hartford, CT was record-breaking and action packed. More than 140 teens from across the region enjoyed a weekend filled with inspiring guest speakers, singing, dancing and of course, late-night snow tubing.
SOUTHWEST Southwest NCSY Regional President, Liat Lefkovich, holds the havdalah candle at the closing moments of Southwest NCSY’s regional.
NEW YORK New York NCSYers gather for a moving havdalah at the conclusion of The Deep Freeze Winter Convention held at the Hudson Valley Resort..
WEST COAST Rabbi Derek Gormin, Associate Director of West Coast NCSY, speaks to over 400 attendees at the West Coast Winter Regional this past December. Rabbi Gormin delivered an inspirational message during havdalah, urging NCSYers to use learning as a way to connect to each other.
NEW JERSEY Over 200 teens gather at NJ NCSY Winter Regional to hear from Disney animator and director, Saul Blinkoff. Teens spent the weekend celebrating Chanukah, being inspired by the energetic environment, and Saul’s motivating words as he taught them the unwavering value of maintaining a Jewish-enriched lifestyle while pursuing your dreams. SPRING 2016
JSU was created as a forum for public school students to meet other Jewish teens while learning about their Jewish heritage in a fun and relaxed environment. During weekly or biweekly club meetings, teens learn and engage in Jewish topics, in addition to hearing about Jewish opportunities within their area.
JSU educators provide educational programming through interactive discussions, guest speakers and video presentations. Topics include Jewish holidays, Israel education, current events, leadership and anti-Semitism. While teens may initially come for the free food, they keep coming back to nourish their newfound interest in their
Jewish identities. By going where students spend most of their day, JSU clubs successfully reach thousands of Jewish teens who otherwise might never have been exposed to their heritage and rich tradition.
BROOKLYN, NY Brooklyn JSU students made challah covers after learning about why we cover the challah and the importance of caring for someone else’s feeling.
TORONTO, ON Jewish girls enrolled at Bishop Strachan School enjoy learning about building an edible mishkan at the Christian school’s first Jewish Student Union club.
DAVIE, FL Students at Nova High School JSU make potted plants as they learn about the holidy of Tu Bi’Shevat.
DUNWOODY, GA Dunwoody High School JSUers making caramel candy apples as part of their high holiday celebrations.
MONTREAL, QC The Students With A Goal (SWAG) JSU program at Herziliah High School learned about the importance of caring for others by hand crafting scarves for the homeless.
RICHARDSON, TX JSUers pose for a picture after the innauguration of the newest JSU club in Richardson High School.
PORTLAND, OR Anael (L) and Ayelet (R) Posner, twin sisters from Israel, enjoying an intense game of dreidel at the annual JSU Chanukah party at Wilson High School in Portland, Oregon.
WESTON, FL Students at Cypress Bay High JSU design necklaces and jewelery with their Hebrew names.
TORONTO, ON Jewish JSUers Max and Matthew, enrolled in Royal St. George College, a private Christian boys high school in Toronto, come to JSU for their weekly dose of Jewish learning.
KATONAH, NY JSU leaders at The Harvey School arranged for Dr. Moshe Avital to speak to their club, as well as to the entire student body, about the importance of never forgetting the atrocities of the Holocaust. SPRING 2016
PHOTOS: DALIA FINKELSTEIN
The news came in pieces. This time it was an American citizen. It was a teenager. It was a boy studying in a gap-year yeshiva that our friends and neighbors had studied in before. It was someone we knew.
making the necessary connections with the Israeli government to ensure the smooth running nature of the event. A video speech was delivered by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as well.
When Ezra Schwartz hy”d, a teen from Sharon, Massachusetts, was brutally murdered this past November in an act of terror, the Orthodox Union and NCSY were quick to respond. Partnering with Yeshivat Ashreinu, Ezra’s yeshiva, as well as Israel’s Ministry of Education, MASA and Yeshiva University, an azkarah, memorial service, that attracted over 1,500 people - mostly American yeshiva and seminary students – was held in Beit Shemesh. The goal was to provide some degree of consolation and comfort to the broken and mourning members of the Schwartz fmaily and the assembled community.
Meanwhile in the United States, New England NCSY Regional Director Rabbi Simon Taylor worked tirelessly with the Schwartz family and the greater Boston Jewish community to support the community in its time of need.
Moving words were shared by Rabbi Akiva Naiman, Ezra’s rabbi at Ashreinu and Director of NCSY Summer’s BILT program, as well as by Rabbi Nesanel Yudin, Rosh Yeshiva at Ashreinu and bus director of one of NCSY’s The Anne Samson TJJ trips this past summer. Rabbi Avi Berman, Executive Director of OU Israel, was instrumental in 20
“As a Rabbi in Ashreinu, the azkarah was a very important event for myself and for the students,” noted Rabbi Akiva Naiman. “In some way, being there
together provided a sense of closure, while at the same time allowed us to collectively mourn with the other gapyear students who had attended.” “Over the course of the evening many people commented on the reality that something so beautiful should have been generated from something so tragic,” described Rabbi Moshe Benovitz, Managing Director at NCSY. “The evening was unique in showcasing the power of the entire community when it comes together. Ezra was one of us, any of us could have been him, and that awareness linked us to him and to each other.”
Over 1500 people gathered at a memorial service for terror victim, Ezra Schwartz, this past November in Beit Shemesh, Israel.
PHOTOS: MEIR KRUTER
The twenty-first annual Ben Zakkai Honor Society dinner was held this past January at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York. Honored guests included Terry and Dennis Eisenberg of Brooklyn, New York; Dr. Murray Leben of Teaneck, New Jersey; and Rabbi Dave and Chani Felsenthal of Passaic, New Jersey.
NCSY Summerâ€™s Elliot Tanzman (L) and David Cutler (R) were inducted into the Ben Zakkai Honor Society this past January.
The Ben Zakkai Honor Society raises critical funds to provide direct scholarships for NCSYers to continue their Jewish education after high school, or to participate in various NCSY programs, such as National Yarchei Kallah and summer programs. Founded in June of 1965, the society also provides a means of recognizing the distinguished achievements of NCSY alumni who have demonstrated personal Torah growth and the promise of future meaningful service to the Jewish people and the Orthodox community. The dinner witnessed the formal induction of four of Ben Zakkaiâ€™s newest members: David Cutler, director of NCSY Summer Programs, Elliot Tanzman, director of NCSY Summer Recruitment, Eli Weinstein of West Hempstead, New York, and David Statman of Los Angeles, California. SPRING 2016
BY BATYA ROSNER
They may have been lone soldiers, but they were anything but alone. Once an NCSYer, always an NCSYer. Nearly 80 NCSY alumni who have or are currently serving in the IDF or in Shearut Le’umi (National Service) gathered on a cold motzei Shabbat in January for an appreciation dinner at Papagaio in Jerusalem. The event was hosted by the NCSY’s Alumni division who work with former NCSY participants to ensure that they maintain their connection to the Jewish community. “We inspire thousands of teenagers every year,” explained Rabbi Yehoshua Marchuck, director of NCSY Alumni. “But when teenagers take that step to make their Jewish connection permanent by joining the IDF or serving in National Service, they inspire us. We’re so proud of them and this was our way of giving back.”
Popular musician Shlomo Katz performed, and author and Israeli icon, Miriam Peretz, who lost two sons in the IDF, spoke during the evening. For many, the event was a chance to meet new friends, reconnect with old friends and strengthen their bonds to the State of Israel and the Jewish people. “It is not a simple thing to come and enlist when you don’t have to,” Peretz told the participants. “You leave everything behind you and you come to fight for the land of Israel and the people of Israel. It moves me as a bereaved mother to see youngsters such as yourself.”
NCSY Alumni came from all across Israel—from Netanya, Tel Aviv, Afula and Otniel. Letters were sent to commanding officers by NCSY leadership requesting permission for some soldiers to leave their bases for the event.
Evan Gerwitz, 23, of Chicago, knew he would move to Israel after his first visit with NCSY’s The Anne Samson Jerusalem Journey in 2008. His service in the Israeli army was especially significant given that his family has served in the American army for the last four generations. He broke tradition to serve in the Israeli Defense Forces. He was one of five teenagers from the TJJ trip to serve in Israel after high school. He served in the Golani Brigade, eventually rising to the rank of a platoon sergeant.
“We are seeing the Jewish people understanding that we are one,” explained Rabbi Avi Berman, director of OU Israel. “It doesn’t matter where you were born, but if you are Jewish then you are connected to the 13 million Jewish people that stand together.”
After learning in Israel for a year post high-school, Tovah Berman, 19, of New Jersey, decided to make aliyah and is in National Service at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem. Involved in NCSY her whole life, Tovah traveled with New Jersey NCSY on disaster
relief missions to assist clean up after natural disasters. “NCSY taught me the importance of giving back,” she reflected. “Seeing how many others have made the same sacrifice was a true inspiration and source of encouragement,” said Shimon Bermon, who trained religious soldiers for combat units and now serves as a combat soldier on reserve duty. Growing up in a religious and Zionistic home, aliyah and serving in the IDF were always something Shimon Berman thought about. “NCSY, and especially my summer on NCSY Kollel, really strengthened my connection to Judaism and my desire to make aliyah,” he said. Shimon credits New Jersey NCSY Regional Director Rabbi Ethan Katz with helping him actualize his dreams. Rabbi Katz himself was one of the NCSY leaders who flew in for the event. “The recent NCSY event was a beautiful example of what NCSY is about,” Rabbi Katz said. “We are proud of our alumni and we want them to know that NCSY is here for them at every step along their journey.”
PROFILES OF THE PEOPLE AND PLACES THAT MATTER
BRITAIN PILOTT A Kentucky teen’s tale of resilience and inspiration.
WITHOUT BORDERS Fernando Sur’s daily epic journey to make his Judaism count.
A WEEKLY TRANSFORMATION How a JSU Club transformed Allie Weeks.
32 34 35
MAN ON A MISSION Rabbi Chaim Neiditch and his Atlanta NCSY revolution.
MEET THE NEW & IMPROVED NATIONAL BOARD Meet the teen ambassadors who are getting it done behind the scenes.
AS A TEEN Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks discusses his teenage years with NCSY’s Director of Education, Rabbi Dovid Bashevkin.
THE LIST Five Pro Tips for your Pesach Seder from the NCSY Eudcation Department.
THE BOOK WAS ONLY THE BEGINNING OF THE STORY How an OU Press book became an NCSY learning program.
BEHIND THE LENS How Eli Dreyfuss went from being in photos to taking them.
A DIFFERENT KIND OF CLUB How DJZJ turned NCSY HEADING EAST The Birth of NCSY Israel
GETTING IT DONE A look back at Ari and Jessica Hoffman’s twenty years with NCSY. NCSY’S QUEEN OF RUACH A loving tribute to Mrs. Rivke Berkowitz a”h. SPRING 2016
I won my first award for Torah Growth from Leora Balk. That same weekend a ceremony took place just for me where I was given my Hebrew name. It took me many months to choose what I wanted my name to be, but finally I decided on Esther Ariella. I chose Esther because she was a courageous woman who inspires me.
From a speech Britain delivered this past September at a Columbus NCSY fundraiser. y name is Britain Pilott and I am from Burlington, Kentucky. At the age of five, my father passed away suddenly and the deaths of both my grandparents shortly followed. I never had the opportunity to have a bat mitzvah and until seven months ago, I had never attended a Passover Seder or sat in a sukkah; I didn’t even have a Hebrew name. My family and I have always been the only Jews in my community, and going to a public school for most of my life has put limitations on my knowledge of Judaism. Last summer, my mom had the unbelievable opportunity to go on a Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project Israel mission trip for two weeks. For her, it was more than just a vacation; it was an opportunity to have a new way of life. Prior to the trip, my family was completely oblivious to what being a Jew entailed. This opportunity was almost as if the doors of Judaism were opened directly in front of her, and she dove in headfirst. Unfortunately, my mother broke her ankle in Israel, an injury that required two surgeries and countless months of physical therapy. She ended up with a metal rod in her ankle. Her injury also meant that she needed to stay an additional two weeks in Israel, leaving my three siblings and I alone at home. The Jewish community in nearby Cincinnati was so eager and willing to help. They brought us home-cooked meals and they were there for us whenever we needed anyone. Late one weeknight, I opened my front door to a beautiful young woman holding a bag full of soups. This was something that was very foreign to me. I wasn’t used to people volunteering their time to help
Britain discusses Jewish values and priorities in a classroom session at Yarchei Kallah 2015.
a complete stranger. Instantly, we hit it off. I noticed a logo on her shirt: “NCSY.” I asked her what it was. It’s safe to say that that question changed my life. The lady who brought me soup, Leora Balk, is now my NCSY advisor and biggest role model. In November 2014, I went on my first Shabbaton during winter break as part of NCSY’s Yarchei Kallah. Yarchei Kallah is equivalent to a yeshiva for public school kids. Who could have known that I would spend my winter break studying Torah when a week before I didn’t know what Torah was? After my first taste of Torah, I couldn’t get enough. I spent any free time I had reading books and asking as many questions as I could fit on a sheet of paper. The first d’var Torah that I ever heard was from Rabbi Menachem Nissel who spoke about the hardships in Israel for the Jews living there. I have never been so motivated and inspired to do anything in my life. I immediately thought: “I just got here and I’m already hearing about how people try to kill us simply because we are Jews. If other people are willing to die to have the right to be Jewish, I want to know why I should live as a Jew. I want to embrace my Judaism.” Afterwards, whenever anything would happen in my life, good or bad, I started turning to Hashem. At Spring Regional,
This past summer, I was on one of the 25 NCSY busloads of teens in Israel. I was on TJJ Bus 6 and it was incredible. I would highly suggest for all of you to go on an NCSY Summer trip to Israel but you’re a tad too old, so I recommend sending your kids. I wish I had the proper words to describe just how amazing this trip was and how empowering it was to be in our homeland. I met two of my current best friends who constantly inspire me. Four weeks ago I enrolled in the Columbus Torah Academy. The Columbus community has been incredible to me. Mrs. Cassel has welcomed me into her heart and home. Mrs. Savage has taught me to read Hebrew and so much more to help me catch up on 15 years of lost connection to my heritage. My classmates have embraced me as if I had been their lifelong friend. I’ve only been in CTA for a month and I am on the volleyball and basketball teams, and I ran for a student council position. I am also the Vice President of Outreach on my NCSY Chapter Board.
IN NCSY WE HAVE A THEME SONG: Searching for our answers in many different ways, Trying to find direction meaningful today. Fighting for the emes (truth) always holding fast, Creating a future by learning from our past. Kesser Torah Region - creating something real, D’veykus (connection) and Achdus (unity) are things we really feel. Growing together, learning how to choose, Kesser Torah Region - proud that we are Jews!
Britain holds the havdalah candle at Yarchei Kallah’s havdalah dedicated in her honor.
I have too many people to thank, but most of all I want to thank G-d for orchestrating my journey. SPRING 2016
minimally traditional in Uruguay— going to shul on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and an occasional Shabbat meal—Jewish education became important to them as they learned more when they moved to Mexico and sent Fernando to a Chabad school. Fernando chose to enroll in SCY to continue his Jewish learning. SCY is where Fernando discovered NCSY, which he calls a major source of inspiration, though he was initially hesitant to become involved. “There was a Jewsday Night, a weekly event that involved some schmoozing and learning, and I wasn’t too religious at that point and nervous that I wouldn’t fit in,” he recalled. “But attending the event made me realize how open NCSY is to people of all backgrounds, and I knew I’d grow religiously more there than anywhere else.” Fernando became very involved with West Coast NCSY and hasn’t looked back. It’s a common refrain to complain about one’s commute to school or work, especially in the early mornings when the only thing most people want to travel to is a caffeinated state of being. But few of us have the right to kvetch like Fernando Sur might, a 17-year old student at a small boys’ high school in San Diego, SCY High, who travels across the U.S. border from his home in Tijuana, Mexico, each day—just to get to homeroom. “It might sound simple to just cross over a border when it’s just words, but it’s a daily adventure for me,” said Fernando, whose family moved to Mexico from Uruguay when he was five years old. Here’s a taste of what Fernando goes through each day: he wakes up at 5 a.m. and walks three blocks to the TijuanaSan Ysidro International Border. There, he shows his passport and visa to the customs officer, who then checks his backpack and documents thoroughly. Once across the border, he rides a trolley for nearly an hour to get to downtown San Diego. He waits half an hour for a bus that will drop him off not far from his high school. From there, Rabbi Moshe Adatto, Dean of SCY, picks him up and drives him to school. Fernando does the trip in reverse order once the school day is over, though the Mexican border isn’t as rigorously guarded as the U.S. one. He gets home at about 7 p.m. each night, and finishes any homework he didn’t do on the trip and works on movie script ideas. It puts your daily commute into perspective, doesn’t it? Though Fernando’s family was
“NCSY has brought me closer to my Jewish self more than I thought anything could,” he said. “If not for NCSY, I wouldn’t have decided to spend the year after high school in Israel. Aside from helping me stay connected to Judaism, NCSY has also helped me make amazing friends from so many different regions: Los Angeles, Phoenix, Las Vegas, San Francisco and more.” Among his new vast network of friends, Fernando counts Rabbi Adam Simon, Assistant Regional Director of West Coast NCSY. “Aside from being an unbelievable chapter director, Rabbi Simon is an amazing friend,” said Fernando. “I know I can go to him if I ever need anything, to talk about any problem I might have, or advice on gapyear programs.”
“Rabbi Simon is teaching us to effectively tell our stories through film,” said Fernando. “NCSY is helping my film career in other ways, too. I recently had the chance to direct a short film for a multimedia presentation at the West Coast Regional.” Fernando and his friends wrote, produced, cast, directed, and edited a festival-quality short film, Bound: its overarching theme touting the unity of the Jewish people. The group received extremely positive feedback from everyone in attendance. “Fernando is always looking for language,” said Rabbi Simon, “owing to the fact that he is bilingual and, in a way, lives in two worlds. He found a way to express himself in film and the Jewish community. I think film has really enabled him to communicate his Jewishness, and it’s one of the main reasons he decided to attend a yeshiva in Israel next year. In this way, he can accrue more knowledge which he can, in turn, communicate to others, be that through film or in his acts of chesed.” In the future, Fernando hopes to become a successful filmmaker, not only to achieve professional realization, but to use his voice for good. “I want to make great films, and I want to use that voice to advocate for Israel and Judaism around the world,” he said. It’s an ambitious plan, that’s for sure: the filmmaking industry is a cutthroat one, and often doesn’t allow for messages of positivity and spirituality to shine through. But if anyone can accomplish it, it’s sure to be Fernando, who has proven that surpassing borders to reach new heights in spiritual growth is a feat he can easily meet.
Aside from nurturing his Jewish roots, Fernando nurtures a passion for film. Intending to go into acting, Fernando took acting classes and workshops to refine his skills as a child. He obtained an O-1 visa, which enabled him to work in the U.S. as an actor. He found an agent and landed some jobs working on short films and a few national-scale commercials for brands like AT&T and Kellogg’s for the Spanish-speaking market—but he yearned to be on the other side of the camera. Fernando began writing scripts for short films and, with his friend and classmate Harel Amsalem, pushed for a film elective at SCY. And the teacher of this elective? None other than Rabbi Simon, who has a background in short filmmaking and who also shares a deep passion for the medium of film.
Fernando, behind the camera with NCSY Orange County director, Rabbi Yitzchak Estreicher, shooting his short film, Bound. SPRING 2016
PHOTO: BENJI CHEIRIF
Growing up, Allie Weeks’s only exposure to Judaism was watching Fiddler on the Roof, and the odd other cultural nuances, like eating bagels with lox on occasion. Allie’s grandmother was Jewish, but when she married a Catholic man, she converted to Christianity and they decided to raise their children— including Allie’s mom, Maria Nina—with Catholic traditions. Allie, born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah, before moving to Las Vegas at nine years old, was raised in a non-denominational Christian and religiously active home. She attended church services, participated in the church youth group, and taught 3-year olds in Sunday school. “At the same time, I always knew I was Jewish and was really fascinated by what that could mean,” said Allie. During her freshman year at the Las 28
Vegas Academy of the Arts High School, she happened upon a class being led by Rabbi Yehuda Maryles, NCSY Las Vegas’ Director and head of the school’s Jewish Student Union club. “I saw the kippah and tzitzit and thought, ‘Whoa, it’s a real Jew!’” laughed Allie. “I walked into the room right away to find out more.” Rabbi Maryles was leading an activity on how to make a menorah. As he recalled it: “Allie walked in with a cross around her neck and set to work making two menorahs, one of which she told me was in honor of her grandmother, who had been Jewish but converted to Christianity, and one for her mother. I told her she was Jewish too, but she didn’t believe me. I was afraid I had scared her off.” Far from frightened—just overwhelmed with the implications of her new identity—JSU quickly became one of
Allie’s favorite school activities. She was drawn to the interactive lessons, the stimulating discussions, and, though she wasn’t yet ready to take on any of the mitzvot she was learning about, she enjoyed discovering the meaning behind keeping kosher and certain holidays. Allie’s parents entertained her budding interest, figuring it couldn’t hurt for her to learn more about the Old Testament and her roots. “I liked that JSU was a very open environment, with no pressure to change but just a space that allowed you to be yourself while exploring new ideas,” said Allie, who served as the JSU club’s secretary for one year and its president for two. “The irony of someone who was a practicing Christian serving as president of a Jewish club never escaped any of us at JSU,” she added wryly.
to abandon all of my Christian beliefs,” recalled Allie. “But once I got over that, I never looked back. Learning the Midrash blew my mind by presenting me with these philosophical ideas that I had never thought to question.”
Allie (bottom left) in her Las Vegas JSU, where she first met Rabbi Maryles and began her journey.
After long resisting the idea of attending a Shabbaton, at Rabbi Maryles’s encouragement, Allie finally decided to attend NCSY’s Spring Regional in her senior year of high school—and loved it. It marked the first time she fully observed Shabbat, and she responded to the singing and energy of those in attendance. “I thought, ‘I want to be a part of this amazing club,’” said Allie. In 2014, she was supposed to go on The Anne Samson Jerusalem Journey (TJJ), NCSY’s flagship summer program in Israel for public school teens, but it was canceled due to the ongoing violence of the Gaza War. Rabbi Maryles connected her to Rabbi Benzion Klatzko, who was heading a kiruv trip to Israel for high school students. It was on that trip, during a visit to King David’s Tomb, that a naming ceremony was held in Allie’s honor. Allie had chosen a Jewish name for herself. “Allie chose the name Yehudit Esther in light of its meaning,” explained Rabbi Maryles. “I was a Jew, and it was hidden, until JSU found me.”
Though she planned to stay for just under a month, she extended her stay to five months, and then, after a summer back in Las Vegas, returned to Israel to continue learning for almost this entire year. “Hashem placed me in exactly the right seminary with the best teachers, people and experiences,” said Allie. “A year ago, I could barely read Aleph-Beis. Now I can sit down with a chavrusa and translate Torah and commentaries. I can begin to understand the ideas that can only be discovered in Hashem’s language.” When she returned home, her parents were a little shocked at how far she had come, and what being an Orthodox Jew fully entailed. Allie no longer wore jeans, kept a strictly kosher diet and was uncomfortable accompanying her parents to church. “My parents didn’t understand how someone so free-spirited could ‘restrict’ herself, and they joked about touching something and possibly rendering it non-kosher,” said Allie. “They also wanted me to go to church and see all our friends. They said it would be disrespectful if I didn’t.”
Allie continued, “But I think once they got past the initial shock, it became easier. I tried to explain to them the spirituality and reasoning behind everything I did. Ultimately, my mom and dad value our relationship,” said Allie, “and they each went on their own journey exploring religion so I think they can relate to my journey and understand it in their own way.” And, throughout her remarkable journey, Allie has never forgotten that it started in earnest with JSU and NCSY. “Allie’s incredible journey features indelible strength, resolve, and commitment, and as much as JSU and NCSY inspired her, I think I’m left more inspired by her example,” said Rabbi Yehuda Maryles. Recently, a longtime non-Jewish family friend remarked to Allie that while she might not fully understand Judaism and what Allie gets from it, she has noticed a light in Allie’s eyes that wasn’t there before. “I’m looking forward to seeing how I’m able to take my Judaism with me into the real world,” said Allie. “In ten years, I see myself with a whole scrapbook of memories of Jewish holidays, instead of this isolated feeling of doing everything for the first time without a family. I see myself with my hair covered and children who will be able to list the generations from Noach to Moshe Rabbeinu without blinking an eye.”
“I joke that it was my bat mitzvah ceremony,” said Allie, “but in a way, it really was.” With the constant support of Rabbi Maryles, and a local college campus rabbi, Rabbi Avi Cutler, Allie began observing Shabbat, Yom Tov and fast days. She made the decision to attend a seminary in Israel, She’arim College of Jewish Studies for Women, for a short period of time. That’s when Allie’s parents started becoming nervous. They reminded her that, according to Christian beliefs, halacha (Jewish law) wasn’t binding. They also tried taking her to services at a messianic Jewish church, but, eventually, they accepted that Allie was determined to explore Orthodox Judaism and study in Israel. “When I came to Israel, I was still balancing between Christianity and Judaism, and I was a little bit in denial that learning in Israel might cause me
Allie, now studying in seminary in Jerusalem, Israel.
orn and raised in New Haven, Connecticut, Eli Dreyfuss belonged to an Orthodox Jewish family, but found his connection to Judaism waning towards the end of eighth grade. That’s when he found NCSY. “While researching what I wanted to do the summer before high school, I chanced upon NCSY’s BILT summer program, and I immediately became excited at the prospect of visiting Israel for the first time,” Eli, 18, recalled. “I loved immersing myself in the holiness of the land, and I felt like the NCSY crew was a family. I was happy to belong to it.” Eli, who had always been drawn to the arts and started drawing in middle school, found that spending time in Israel also helped nurture his budding artistry. “Israel was such a beautiful place that I wanted to capture it somehow before I returned to the U.S.,” explained Eli. “I started taking a series of photographs with my iPhone, and from there, I realized the wonder of capturing priceless moments in that way.” Eli, whose family moved to Boca Raton, Florida right before he started high school, began participating in NCSY events in his new hometown, and his newfound photography interest compelled him to begin photographing all the events he attended. He had also enrolled in a professional arts high school called the G-Star School for the Arts in West Palm Beach. While learning essential new skills, he soon graduated from snapping pictures on his phone to using a professional camera, the Canon 6d model, which he purchased with funds he had earned from doing photo shoots on the side of his schooling. “Before I knew it, I became the official Southern NCSY photographer,” said Eli. Eli is always looking for those off-the-cuff moments he can capture with his lens—the casual conversations between NCSYers and their advisors, the laughs and learning sessions. “My favorite thing to photograph is people in their element, just having fun,” said Eli. “For the past four years, I’ve toured
Photography and my Judaism are fused, and I am forever grateful for the opportunities I’ve been given.
Eli and advisor Paul Creeger learning at this year’s National Yarchei Kallah in Stamford, CT.
the globe with my NCSY family by my side. I’ve attended and photographed over 20 Shabbatons, regional events, and national events, and my Jewish identity has become so much stronger. Photography and my Judaism are fused, and I am forever grateful for the opportunities I’ve been given.” Though he is not paid by NCSY, he does earn credit hours—a sort of NCSY currency that can be applied toward covering the cost of Shabbatonim and other events throughout the year. But Eli does it for love of the craft—and he has been recognized time and again for his work. Over his four years of high school, he has amassed an abundance of awards. This past year, he was named a Young Arts Merit portfolio winner; his work was selected from the work of 12,000 applicants. He will be rewarded with a five-day, all-expenses paid trip to Miami to attend a photography workshop. In December, he was also notified that he placed second in the Drexel High School Photo Competition, in which he beat out 3,000 applicants. His work was on display at the school in Philadelphia during the month of February. He also won 15 keys—seven gold, six silver and two honorable mentions—in the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. Thanks to his golden keys, he will advance to the awards ceremony in Carnegie Hall and his work will be exhibited throughout the U.S. Eli plans to attend Drexel University, where he will major in Photography and Film Production. “I would like to pursue my career in the creative arts working as a photographer for NCSY and as an independent filmmaker,” said Eli, “where I can bring my visions to life and positively impact the people around me.” And, no doubt, he will continue being involved with NCSY, whether in front of or behind the camera. “From the first day I joined NCSY to today, I’m not the same Jew,” said Eli. “I’m now a strong, confident young man who is able to find true joy in things like celebrating Shabbos or spending time with my advisors—people who just get me. NCSY made me into the person I am today
and I’m forever grateful.” “Through his ability to seize and capture the moment, Eli utilizes his talents to inspire others around him,” said Eli Zians, NCSY Director of South Palm Beach. “Moreover, he always has a smile on his face and his positivity is simply contagious.” Famous documentary photographer, Elliott Erwitt, once said: “To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place... I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.” For Eli, it’s clear that it wasn’t so much the landscape of Israel that motivated him as a young teen, but what Israel stood for—and the Jew and photographer he is today are both stronger for it.
Pictured above, two of Eli’s many award-winning photographs.
As the director of one of the largest NCSY regions in North America, Rabbi Chaim Neiditch, who oversees the Greater Atlanta NCSY Region as well as the region’s Jewish Student Union clubs, is a man on a mission: To reach as many Jewish teens as possible to teach them about their heritage, in an age when distractions—digital, cultural and more—are ever-present. If anyone is up to the task at hand, however, it’s Neiditch, whose background as an MBA helps informs his current rabbinic and youth outreach work, and whose trademark positive energy, ingenuity, and strategic thinking have helped him build Atlanta’s NCSY presence from piddling to formidable. After he returned from his gap year in Israel, Neiditch was recruited to work for Southern NCSY by then-Assistant Regional Director Lenny Bessler, who 32
currently works as the Orthodox Union’s Chief Human Resources Officer. Neiditch spent 15 years traveling throughout the Southern United States to help struggling synagogues in smaller communities retain their membership, and developed the Community Assistance Program (CAP), which allowed teens in geographically isolated communities to participate in innovative team-building and serviceoriented initiatives. CAP enabled teens to have their first Shabbat experience, and, with this entryway into Jewish observance along with Neiditch’s continuing efforts, the Southern Region grew by over 30 percent. After his success with Southern NCSY, Neiditch moved to Baltimore to earn his MBA at Johns Hopkins University. In 2004, he moved to Atlanta to formally become the Director of the Southern
NCSY Region. In 2006, he met with the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, and from that meeting, he learned that fewer than 10 percent of Jewish teens in Atlanta were involved in any kind of Jewish organization, and no one knew how to find these teens or connect them to Judaism. To solve this crisis, Rabbi Neiditch devised a plan. “I identified that there’s one thing all these teens have in common: they go to school,” said Neiditch, “and that’s where we could find them.” Neiditch brought the Jewish Student Union (JSU) clubs, clubs which meet at public schools, to the Atlanta region, and the program grew like wildfire. A testament to Neiditch’s appeal is that the teens—a demographic known for sleeping late—wake up an hour early just to attend his JSU club meetings
members of his Centennial High School Jewish Student Union club marched onto the stage wearing yarmulkes on their heads, the first time they had ever worn yarmulkes in public. He was also invited to sit on the superintendent’s Council on Teens for his success in reaching and positively impacting a broad range of teens.
Rabbi Neiditch at Centenial High School graduation in Roswell, GA where he spoke. To his surprise, 14 JSU seniors showed up proudly wearing yarmulkes in support of their favorite rabbi.
before school. “The strategy is not so much the educational activities done with the teens, but the environment created for them,” said Neiditch. “JSU gives teens a place to belong and where they can connect to Judaism. They come to be a part of something greater.” Neiditch now runs programs at more than a dozen public high schools, while a list of 35 public schools interested in bringing a JSU club to their campuses continues to grow. More astoundingly, from fewer than 10 teens enrolled in NCSY 11 years ago, Neiditch now counts over 3,000 young men and women who engage regularly with NCSY and JSU, which is more than one out of every two Jewish teens in the city. These numbers mean that Neiditch helped grow an NCSY chapter into a region, the first time in NCSY history. Alumni of the Atlanta NCSY region have gone on to do great things in the Jewish world, like founding Hillel chapters, founding a Moishe House, working for Birthright Israel and NCSY, and becoming Jewish educators in kollels and yeshivas, congregational rabbis and community leaders around the world. Neiditch’s work for NCSY and JSU has helped revitalize Atlanta’s Jewish community, as well—Atlanta’s Jewish community is flourishing and counts thousands of Jewish observant and nonobservant families whose children might otherwise not have much to do with Judaism if it weren’t for NCSY and JSU.
himself when outside sources weren’t sufficient but, thankfully, plenty of private donors and organizations have come through to help fund this important work. Owing to his longevity in the field and evident success, Neiditch has become a go-to mentor for budding NCSY professionals. He’s even written a manual—a “primer,” of sorts—to advise people on best practices for outreach and experiential education. Neiditch’s work has been recognized both internally and by the broader Jewish community, too. The Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta has awarded his NCSY region a Jewish Continuity Grant each year for the past decade. For the past three years, the Federation granted an additional Jewish Community Impact grant to expand programming. Owing to his communal success, Neiditch has been asked to speak at public high school graduations quite a few times. At one memorable occasion, Neiditch delivered a talk to Centennial High School in the summer of 2014. The audience, composed of over 2,000 mostly non-Jewish parents and students, were blown away by his talk on the importance of family and friendship, the Jewish notion of G-d’s role in everyday life, and how to learn from one’s failures. Rabbi Neiditch was, in turn, deeply touched when the
Among his accolades, Neiditch was picked by business industry leaders like Bernie Marcus, the founder of Home Depot, and Laurie Ann Goldman, who was then the CEO of Spanx, as the winner of the first and only Jewish community Shark Tank Competition, hosted by the Federation. JSU was chosen over numerous leading nonprofit organizations. Marcus was so impressed with Neiditch that his private foundation, the Marcus Foundation, began helping fund Neiditch’s programs. Neiditch’s success is not limited to his work with public school teens. Every Shabbos for over 11 years, he has run programs for the area’s teens enrolled in yeshiva. He even led yeshiva teens to win the coveted OU Jewish Unity Mentoring Program (JUMP) tournament in 2012. “Rabbi Neiditch is an exceptionally talented and committed Jewish communal professional,” declared Rabbi Micah Greenland, International Director of NCSY. “His rapport with and dedication to Jewish youth have allowed Atlanta’s public school program to become the largest in NCSY’s landscape.” Atlanta, in the mainly Christian South, is the most populous city in Georgia, a vibrant cultural center, and a city that rose from the ashes of the Civil War to become a bustling city of chamber and commerce. Thanks to Neiditch’s vision and tireless efforts, it is now also home to a huge NCSY presence, and thousands of Jewish teens who are excited by their Judaism and exploring their connection to their heritage.
“I’m inspired every day when I see these teens’ desire to learn, connect and engage with their heritage,” said Neiditch. “I’m honored that Hashem allows me to work on behalf of the Jewish people.” As with any kind of business start-up, Neiditch was responsible for securing funding for NCSY and JSU programs, and, in the early years, that was often a tall order. He used to fund things
Rabbi Neiditch reaches out to thousands of Jewish teens and is often the sole rabbi in their lives. Jewish clubs in public schools is the starting point for most teens on their path to Jewish observance.
Jonathan Zar always had an ear for music. But it wasn’t until his friends encouraged him to get into the DJ business at the end of eighth grade that DJZJ was born. Initially, Zar would DJ at friends’ parties – low-key house events where the money was secondary to the experience – but as time passed and word started to spread, DJZJ became a name on the music circuit. Larger local parties gave him entrance into the New York City club scene, where Zar was becoming an incredibly successful club promoter. By the start of his senior year of high school, Jon was a high-end event coordinator for exclusive parties and realized that he had begun to forge somewhat of a career path for himself. As his senior year of high school was coming to an end, life was good for Jon Zar. DJZJ had a girlfriend, was making money, and most of all, was having fun doing his work. Why change any of that? “In an interview with my Jerusalem based gap-year yeshiva, I told the head of school that, frankly, I didn’t want to go to Israel because I liked my lifestyle and wasn’t really looking to change it,” said Zar reflecting now four years later. The head of school accepted Zar, nonetheless, seeing his blasé attitude as a challenge and recognizing the enormous potential laying beneath a seemingly rough and rigid surface. DJZJ packed his bags for Jerusalem and then, like many who spend time entrenched in Jerusalem’s Old City walls, Jon Zar found himself inspired, seeing thing with a different view and perspective. “People want to find happiness,” says Jon, “While studying in Israel, I realized that I was looking for it also, but I was looking for it in the entirely wrong way. I always told myself, ‘If I buy this or if I go there or if I get this, then I’ll be happy.’ 34
Physicality is finite, but spirituality can keep growing.” Learning that changed Jon Zar. Zar took his newfound inspiration and instead of abandoning his old ways, uplifted them. Recognizing his talents as a DJ to be heaven sent, he began to use his craft to connect himself and those around him to Judaism. Taking energetic house music, most likely found in a dance club, Jon would “convert” them - adding words of Torah and inspiring messages. His parties would continue - with a mechitza, a separating wall down the middle, of course. When Zar returned to New York after Yeshiva, he went to work with teens at North Shore Hebrew Academy running the Sephardic minyan, helping run Shabbatonim for them and serving as an advisor for their students. It was then he learned of NCSY, when he was given the opportunity to DJ at a Central East regional Shabbaton. Shortly after, New York NCSY began looking for an inspiring educator to run programs in Great Neck, hoping to reach the greater Persian community, and Zar was the perfect fit.
New York NCSY regional Shabbatons, for Yarchei Kallah’s senior formal, and this past summer for participants on The Anne Samson Jerusalem Journey. His DJing, though, comes second to his exhaustive and exhausting programming in Great Neck, including two Lunch & Learn programs at Great Neck North High School, Pizza & Parsha classes for boys, Dinner & Learning for girls, and semi-regular Friday onegs. He is working on the initiation of NY NCSY Chesed with an upcoming event at the Masbia Soup Kitchen in Brooklyn. “It’s a different kind of club, NCSY,” said Zar. “But the main thing is that I’m able to use my talents to give back to the teens and hopefully show them that DJing and having a good time can also be part of the spiritual journey.” To have DJZJ join you for your next regional, Shabbaton or event, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Since joining the New York region, Jon has had found an outlet where he can combine his two passions: music and Judaism. Great Neck NCSY’s kickoff event this year was a “Kosher Sukkah Rave,” a separate-dancing extravaganza held over Sukkot for local teens in an enormous sukkah. With strobe lights, fog machines, incredible lighting and a three-thousand watt stereo system blasting Jewish music, three hundred teens at the program danced the night away, celebrating the holiday and their identity. Throughout the year, DJZJ has continued to DJ havdalah for both Central East and
DJ Jon Zar doing his thing at the Israel Gap Year Program for seniors at this year’s National Yarchei Kallah.
Pictured above, regional directors Rabbi Yosef Ginsberg (L) and Rabbi Michael Kahn (R).
The teenage years are challenging at the best of times. Add being a recent immigrant to the mix, and the challenge can be even greater. Thrust an Angloteen into the wave of Israeli culture, and well, the results can be jarring to say the least. Teenagers are often confronting questions of self-identity, asking how they can best impact their surroundings, but when those surroundings are unfamiliar, when there are cultural differences and social limitations, when the language of the people is inaccessible – the framework for growth and maturation is gone. Olim themselves, Rabbis Michael Kahn and Yosef Ginsberg recognized this struggle and were inspired to make a change. With the help of NCSY’s International Director Rabbi Micah Greenland, as well as Rabbi Avi Berman, Executive Director of OU Israel, NCSY’s newest region – NCSY Israel – was born. The region obtained a significant grant
NCSY Israel teens come together for a Master Chef latke making competition, this past Chanukah in Jerusalem.
from the Samis Foundation to help kick start their efforts. Teaming with Yonaton and Aviyah Atkin, NCSY Israel’s Directors of Staff Development, they began to assemble a staff of advisors made up of both former teen-olim and now Israeli NCSY Alumni. With a strong staff and exciting programming, the region is making significant strides in the Anglo-teenage circles. In just three months since its inauguration, NCSY Israel has over 100 teens registered for regularly scheduled programming. With an opening laser tag event drawing more than 55 teens and 17 advisors, followed by Chanukah gatherings, assorted Latte & Learnings, a bowling event and a Game Show Night, the region has launched its ‘Planting Seeds Campaign’ in hopes of raising the necessary funding to expand its operations to other cities throughout the state of Israel. “NCSY Israel is crucial for the absorption of emotionally healthy and proud Israeli teens,” noted Rabbi Michael Kahn, co-director of the region. “It is providing a framework in which they can be proud of being Anglo immigrants while at the same time learn how to integrate into Israeli society.” As the only Israeli youth movement designed specifically for teenage olim,
NCSY Israel will provide immigrant teens with the leadership skills and confidence to positively impact the State of Israel through army service, National Service, involvement in chessed and eventually, in building their families and careers in Israel. “We want them to stay here instead of moving back to the countries that they came from,” said co-director Rabbi Yosef Ginsberg. “Hanging out with like minded teens, teens that are going through the same struggles they are, as well as talking and learning from staff and advisors who have faced similar challenges, really creates a positive environment for all our participants and we hope that we can continue to have an even greater impact on this segment of Klal Yisrael as we continue to grow.”
Teens gather at NCSY Israel’s, “The Q”, a night of interactive competition and trivia.
To learn more about NCSY Israel visit israel. ncsy.org or email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. SPRING 2016
By Shanee Markovitz National Ambassador of Education
NCSY’s National board has experienced a major shift over the past few months. Comprised of thirteen teens from regions across America (and Canada!), and directed by the talented Rabbi Dovid Bashevkin, NCSY’s “NaBo” has transformed both in format
and in attitude. Broken up into four committees, each group of teen ambassadors is responsible to oversee multiple, focused initiatives. All of this is impressive, sure, but the entire operation is held together on one principle: National Board has become
a place where one learns to be a leader by acting like one. NCSYers on NaBo are given the opportunity to not only participate in NCSY events, but to help run National programing like JUMP and Yarchei Kallah, gaining invaluable insights into what goes into making an organization like NCSY function so smoothly.
PRESIDENT Sarah Engel
Piedmont, CA National President Sarah Engel is from the incredible NorCal Chapter of the West Coast region. She just started her senior year at Meira Academy. She has been involved in NCSY since the beginning of 8th grade. Aside from NCSYing, Sarah loves learning Torah, chilling with friends and swimming.
The education committee have put together multiple initiatives, including the NCSY Sukkah Hop and rotational divrei Torah given both on NaBo’s website and during national programs.
Hollywood, FL National Ambassador of Education
Philadelphia, PA National Ambassador of Education
When Shanee is not studying in Yeshiva High School or having an amazing time at Southern NCSY, you can find her writing (creatively), watching a crime court case on Youtube, or hanging out with friends and family.
Phillip attends Kohelet Yeshiva High School in Philadelphia. Aside from learning Torah, Phillip has a love of music. He plays the piano and saxophone and loves classical, jazz and Jewish music.
Denver, CO National Ambassador of Education
Passaic, NJ National Ambassador of Education
Shua just moved to Denver Colorado from Memphis and currently attends the Denver Academy of Torah. He enjoys playing sports, especially basketball, and is passionate about music.
Sophia Stepansky goes to Bruriah High School in New Jersey. She loves learning Torah, listening to music, dancing and reading.
Aside from serving as teen representatives for NCSY Summer programs, the summer programs committee created an NCSY Summer quiz and questionnaire for teens to help them best determine which of NCSYâ€™s fourteen unique summer programs is for them.
Silver Spring, MD National Ambassador of Summer Programs Arianna Stone is a senior at Melvin J. Berman Academy in Maryland. She is involved in Israel advocacy, loves TED Talks and rock climbing.
Vancouver, Canada National Ambassador of Summer Programs
San Diego, CA National Ambassador of Summer Programs
Shayna Horvath is a senior at York House School in Vancouver, Canada. Her hobbies include community service and sports, especially rowing.
Daniel Krasner is from San Diego California and attends University City High School. Daniel loves (and plays!) lacrosse, soccer, and tennis. He volunteers with the Hand Up Youth Food Pantry where he is a teen leader board member.
The social media committee has already launched Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook pages that have overseen everything from building partnerships across the regions to introducing National Board campaigns created solely for teens.
Southfield, MI National Ambassador of Social Media Kip Glickman is from Detroit, Michigan and attends Oakland Early College. Kip has been involved in NCSY for the last 4 years, and has served on his chapter and regional board (shoutout to Central East!). His interests include sports, music, making people laugh, rapping and writing.
Baltimore, MD National Ambassador of Social Media Jasmine attends Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School in Baltimore, MD. She loves singing, acting and photography.
The social action committee introduced the Purim Shake Nâ€™ Donate fundraising project to the regions and promoted NaBo initiatives like Eight Days of Chesed for Chanukah.
Buffalo, NY National Ambassador of Social Action
Monsey, NY National Ambassador of Social Action
Boca Raton, FL National Ambassador of Social Action
Hannah attends Sweet Home High School in Amherst, New York. In her free time, she enjoys playing field hockey, painting, cooking, baking and reading.
Esther attends Bruriah High School for Girls in Elizabeth, NJ. Her hobbies include playing guitar and football (Go Jets!).
Asher is a senior at Donna Klein Jewish Academy in Boca Raton, Florida. In addition to consistently striving to grow in his Judaism, he has also dedicated his time both inside and outside of school pursuing his passion for NCSY.
NCSY Director of Education, Rabbi Dovid Bashevkin, sits with Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks to discuss Rabbi Sacks’ teenage years. RABBI DOVID BASHEVKIN (RDB): Rabbi
Sacks, thank you so much for joining us, it means so much to me and to NCSY. We’re talking about what the teenage experience was like for great Jewish leaders and I was wondering if you could describe a little bit about what your experience was like as a teenager.
RABBI LORD JONATHAN SACKS (RJS): We didn’t have many Jewish schools in Britain at the time so I was at a non-Jewish school, growing up amongst non-Jews. Obviously, I went to a youth group - Bnei Akiva, in my case - but it was challenging because if a lot of your friends are not Jewish, you are always conscious of difference. I think that in a sense, although the challenges are different for each of us, it is the challenges that actually make leaders. People who ski gently through life never are forced to ask, ‘Mi anochi - who am I and what should I be doing?’ I think the challenges were actually very creative.
RDB: Did you have a specific area where you struggled or felt challenged as a teenager?
RABBI SACKS: I mentioned to you that I went to a school that wasn’t Jewish. That
school had a lot of Jewish people, almost half the school, but, no Jews were on the academic staff. What did the Jews do every morning when the Christians went to a Christian assembly? For many years, they sat and did their homework. Eventually, the head teacher figured out that if half the kids are not having a morning assembly, something is wrong here. They said to us: ‘Can you, the boys, do the assembly?’ and so from a fairly young age, from when I was 15, I started running school assemblies. I was kind of thrust into leadership from quite an early age. I think that is really the defining moment for everyone. I say to people, the key moment in Moses’ life, when he becomes a leader, is when he sees something wrong. An Egyptian is hitting an Israelite, “Vayifen koh va’choh vaya’ar ki ein ish,” he looks here and there, and there is no one there. To read that verse literally is impossible. You are never alone on a vast building site, especially if you are working in Egypt for Ramses II. So there were hundreds of people around but he looked and he saw, “ki ein ish” - nobody was prepared to be a mensch, nobody was prepared to do anything. I think that is the moment when leaders are born, when they say: something needs to be done, I don’t think I am particularly up to it, but if nobody else is going to do something, I will. That’s really what happened to the great leaders, and also what happens to the little people like me. We’re all small cogs in a big system. But I suddenly realized as a teenager that if nobody got up and did an assembly for the Jewish kids, they wouldn’t have one. I think people become leaders when they see that if no one else is prepared to act, then I will.
RDB: In what ways do you feel that the
general teenage experience has changed from when you were a teenager, compared to what you see teenagers struggling with now?
RABBI SACKS: When I was a teenager
back in the Jurassic age, British society was a traditional society. We shared a lot of our values with the wider society. People valued the family, they valued community, Sunday - they didn’t keep Shabbos but they kept Sunday - that was a day of rest. They respected authority and they realized that we can’t invent the world afresh in every
generation; we need to learn where we came from if we are to understand where we are going. So I think the challenges that I faced then of - well, they needed young Jews to get up and lead and they weren’t really doing so - that was a big challenge. Today, I think Jewish kids are much more prepared to get up and lead but the challenge they face in terms of the dissonance between Jewish values and the values they see on television, on the computer screen, that dissonance is much greater than it was when I was young. It requires young Jews to feel a lot more strength and confidence because they are aware of the fact that not everything they believe, people out there believe, and that’s tough and it’s challenging.
RDB: If you could reach out and give advice to your teenage-self,what would it be? And what advice would you give to teenagers nowadays?
RABBI SACKS: I would not reach back and give myself any advice at all, because the fact that I now know that I shouldn’t have done “X” and I shouldn’t have done ”Y” would have spared me many tears. But the truth is, we have to sometimes go through those tears in order to grow. We learn by making mistakes. To be a leader is to have
the courage to take a risk, and it is the very nature of a risk, that it won’t always work out right. The fundamental value that you have to have is that you just keep going. I don’t think Moshe Rabbeinu, the greatest Jewish leader there ever was, had an easy life. He had difficulties from day one all the way through. And yet, at the end of his life, it says about him at age 120 “Lo cha’hasa eino vi’lo nus lei’cho,” his eyes were undimmed and his natural energy was unabated. Now, I always used to read those two phrases as if they were two descriptions, until I realized that the first is the explanation for the second. Why was his energy unabated? Because his eyes were undimmed; he never lost the idealism of his youth. As a teenager he was idealistic, he thought he could change the world. He never lost that idealism, and
because of that, he never lost his energy, he never became cynical or disillusioned and lo and behold, he did change the world. Now each of us, by having an influence on our contemporaries, by reaching out, can change lives. And since we believe that ‘nefesh echad ki’olam malei,’ one life is like a universe change even one life and you’ve begun to change the world. So let me say to all the young people, the incredible young people of NCSY: dream dreams. Have the courage to begin the journey to make those dreams come true. Never be afraid to take a risk. Never be discouraged by failure, and may you go out and lead the Jewish people to great achievements. May you be strong, may you lead and may you be a blessing to the Jewish people and to the entire world.
5 PRO TIPS FOR YOUR PESACH SEDER 1. TREAT YOURSELF Matzah is delicious and the four cups of wine (or grape juice) likely ensure that no one will leave your seder thirsty, but neither are particularly popular treats for teens or children (or adults). Make sure your seder includes plenty of candy. Encourage participation with treats to make sure your entire seder is sweet. 2. REPEAT YOURSELF New ideas and innovative insights keep the seder fresh, but a recurring idea repeated at every seder can help make sure it is also memorable. It’s not necessarily a bad sign if everyone at the seder “heard that one already.” Returning to a few core ideas and words of Torah builds continuity and familiarity from one seder to the next. I repeat: Repetition can be your friend. Say it with me, repetition can be your friend. 3. FAMILY FOIBLES The Pesach Seder is about the collective redemption of the Jewish nation, but it is also an appropriate time to share personal and familial stories of liberation. In a must-read NY Times article by Bruce Feller entitled “The Stories that Bind Us,” he recalls a study conducted in Emory University that showed that children who understand the struggles and triumphs of their parents and grandparents have better self-esteem and emotional happiness. At your Seder make sure your stories of redemption are also a part of the Haggadah. 4. BODY LANGUAGE To the contemporary Jew, leaning may seem like a strange way to symbolize freedom. But leaning can also become a fun and engaging way of demonstrating the importance of body language. The way you sit for a job interview or during an exam is different than how you sit while speaking with friends or reading a book. Most of communication is non-verbal and Pesach can be a great time to see what we can express through our posture. All communication is difficult, so this Pesach explore what your body can say. Lean in! 5. LEAVE YOUR COMFORT ZONE Redemption begins, explained Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Alter, the first Chassidic Rebbe of Gur, when you leave your comfort zone (Chiddushei Ha’Rim, Shemot 6:6). The first step towards redemptive living is realizing that redemption is even necessary. Our comfort zone is the warm blanket that prevents us from seeing the possibilities that redemption offers. This seder, step out of your comfort zone. Do something that doesn’t come naturally and discover the extent of your talent and potential. Start a song. Share something personal. Make sure you find time during your seder to leave your comfort zone and connect with redemptive creativity. For more NCSY Education materials and information, visit education.ncsy.org. SPRING 2016
Hurricane Sandy: Rescuing Those Who Put Themselves in Danger ◆ Stand Your Ground vs. Duty to Retreat: Would a Beis Din Have Convicted George Zimmerman? ◆ Reporting Child Molesters: מסירהor Obligation? ◆ Shooting Down a Hijacked Plane: Killing a Few to Save the Lives of Many ◆ Leiby Kletzky’s Killer: The Insanity Defense in Halachah ◆ Accepting Charity from Non-Jews ◆ Alternatives to Cattle Prods: In Search of a Solution to the Aguna Problem ◆ Therapy and Impropriety: Yichud with a Therapist ◆ Drafting Yeshiva Students: A Halachic Debate ◆ Many Terrorists for One Israeli? The Gilad Shalit Deal Through the Prism of Halachah ◆ A Kosher Cheeseburger? The Halachic Status of Synthetic Beef ◆ Webcams in Halachah ◆ Bernie Madoff: Must a Charity Return Funds Donated by a Ponzi Scheme to Investors? ◆ Hurricane Sandy: Rescuing Those Who Put Themselves in Danger ◆ Stand Your Ground vs. Duty to Retreat: Would a Beis Din Have Convicted George Zimmerman? ◆ Reporting Child Molesters: מסירהor Obligation? ◆ Shooting Down a Hijacked Plane: Killing a Few to Save the Lives of Many ◆ Leiby Kletzky’s Killer: The Insanity Defense in Halachah ◆ Accepting Charity from Non-Jews ◆ Alternatives to Cattle Prods: In Search of a Solution to the Aguna Problem ◆ Therapy and Impropriety: Yichud with a Therapist ◆ Drafting Yeshiva Students: A Halachic Debate ◆ Many Terrorists for One Israeli? The Gilad Shalit Deal Through the Prism of Halachah ◆ A Kosher Cheeseburger? The Halachic Status of Synthetic Beef ◆ Webcams in Halachah ◆ Bernie Madoff: Must a Charity Return Funds Donated by a Ponzi Scheme to Investors? ◆ Hurricane Sandy: Rescuing Those Who Put Themselves in Danger ◆ Stand Your Ground vs. Duty to Retreat: Would a Beis Din Have Convicted George Zimmerman? ◆ Reporting Child Molesters: מסירהor Obligation? ◆ Shooting Down a Hijacked Plane: Killing a Few to Save the Lives of Many ◆ Leiby Kletzky’s Killer: The Insanity Defense in Halachah ◆ Accepting Charity from Non-Jews ◆ Alternatives to Cattle Prods: In Search of a Solution to the Aguna Problem ◆ BY DOVID LICHTENSTEIN Therapy and Impropriety: Yichud with a Therapist ◆ Drafting Yeshiva Students: A Halachic Debate ◆ Many Terrorists for One Israeli? The Gilad Shalit Deal Through the Prism of Halachah ◆ A Kosher Cheeseburger? The Halachic Status of Synthetic Beef ◆ Webcams in Halachah ◆ Bernie Madoff: Must a Charity Return Funds Donated by a Ponzi Scheme to Investors? ◆ Hurricane Sandy: Rescuing Those Who Put Themselves in Danger ◆ Stand Your Ground vs. Duty to Retreat: Would
Headlines Halachic Debates of Current Events
Can You Steal Wi-Fi? Using a Wireless Connection Without Permission BACKGROUND
Our technology-driven 21st-century life affords us the opportunity to use other people’s assets without ever stepping into their property or touching their material possessions. After one sets up a router and wireless internet connection, he essentially opens a virtual highway that can be accessed by neighbors, pedestrians, and anyone who happens to be within range. We must determine whether or not the halachic parameters of theft extend to the unauthorized use of these intangible types of property. In principle, using a neighbor’s wireless connection can be regarded as theft for at least two reasons: 1. One makes use of his neighbors’ physical devices, such as his router, without his permission; 2. One makes use of his neighbors’ wireless network without authorization. When considering the possible applications of the laws of g’zeilah (theft) to “borrowing” a person’s wireless network and its associated devices, we must address a number of halachic issues:
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER
■ Is borrowing without permission tantamount to theft? ■ If so, are there any exceptions to this rule? ■ Does the fact that the wireless network is intangible affect one’s ability to “steal” it? Can one halachically steal things that are intangible? ■ Halachah sometimes permits a person to derive benefit from someone else’s possessions (even against the owner’s will) if the owner does not incur any expense or loss as a result of this usage. This concept is called zeh neheneh v’zeh lo chaseir. How might this concept apply to the use of a wireless connection?
BORROWING WITHOUT PERMISION
At first glance, the halachic status of using items without permission is addressed by a statement of Rava in Bava Metzia: Talmud Bavli: Bava Metzia 43b Rava said: One who borrows without permission has the status of a thief (gazlan), according to the Rabbis…
... שואל שלא מדעת לרבנן גזלן הוי:הא דאמר רבא
SEE THIS ORIGINAL PAGE OF TALMUD ON THE NEXT PAGE Although Rava’s opinion is subject to dispute in the Gemara, his opinion is codified in the Shulchan Aruch as the normative halachah we follow. QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER
■ What do you think are the ramifications of this ruling? Why does it matter that such a borrower is called a thief?
C A N YO U S T E A L W I F I ? U S I N G A W I R E L E S S C O N N E C T I O N W I T H O U T P E R M I S S I O N – 1
A real estate mogul, an NCSY city director and an OU Press publication walk into a beit medrash… No, this is not the setup for a joke, but rather an amazing partnership within the Orthodox Union that has brought about a new learning program serving the NCSY teens of Greater Washington. This past summer, Rabbi Yudi Reisel, city director of NCSY’s Greater Washington region, was searching for a text-based learning program for teens in his area. Based on a successful model pioneered by Ohr On Campus in Miami, Florida, Rabbi Reisel understood that one of the keys to developing a 40
long-term relationship with Judaism is engaging in high-level text based learning. He knew the model worked, but was struggling to find just the right text to engage teens. Enter Dovid Lichtenstein, CEO of Lightstone Group, one of the largest privately held real estate companies in the United States. Aside from his successful business endeavors, Mr. Lichtenstein is also a noted Torah scholar and philanthropist. Last year, Mr. Lichtenstein published an acclaimed book with OU Press entitled: Headlines: Halachic Debates of Current Events. The book presents a Torah perspective on some of the most controversial news stories of the past decade, amongst them, September 11th, the Chinese smog crisis, Obamacare and the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. “I had read Headlines for my own interest” recounted Rabbi Reisel, “and I knew from the moment that I picked it up that I needed to figure out how to present these amazing topics in the book to teens without a strong Torah education or backround.” Enter Rabbi Dovid Bashevkin, Director of Education for National NCSY. Aside from his work with NCSY, Rabbi Bashevkin has worked on several projects with OU Press, including Mr. Lichtenstein’s Headlines, for which he served as one of its editors. Rabbi Bashevkin agreed to adapt Mr. Lichtenstein’s work into
a series of source sheets designed specifically for one-on-one chavruta learning with teens. Collaborating with Rabbi Shaya First, a member of the Yeshiva University Kollel, sleekly designed source sheets were made to highlight the headline articles along with the primary halachic sources and their translations – thereby making it easy for teens to see how the actual Torah sources bear upon the breaking news stories. The collective efforts of Mr. Lichtenstein, Yudi Reisel, and OU Press have paid off. Each week dozens of 11th and 12th grade teens gather to study a different Headlines chapter specially adapted for their group learning. Each source sheet is available on the NCSY Education site and the program is being develo ped for other NCSY regions and day schools for the coming year.
Rabbi Yudi Reisel (pictured left) learns adapted Headlines articles each week with Greater Washington NCSYers.
When Ari and Jessica Hoffman moved from New York to Jessica’s hometown of Seattle after getting married in 2004, they thought they were leaving their considerable NCSY careers behind. They were busy pursuing other career fields and NCSY just wasn’t in the picture for their new hometown. But, twelve years later, the Hoffmans are just now retiring from their “temporary gig” as the Seattle City Directors for NCSY, and along with their three kids, they have been an integral part of the Jewish community in Seattle ever since they arrived. Together as a team, with one or the other taking the lead at different times, they’ve revived a once-dormant NCSY chapter into a genuine powerhouse. Ari’s NCSY career began over 20 years ago at the encouragement of his family and a very dedicated advisor who saw his potential. Ari’s mother, Deborah (Zalkind) Hoffman, had been very involved in her local NCSY chapter growing up in North Hollywood, CA. Years later and raising her own family in Westchester, NY, she urged Ari to become involved with the local chapter because it had been such a positive experience in her adolescence. Ari befriended NCSY advisor Ari Kahn, who quickly became his mentor, and attended his first shabbaton in 1996. “I came for the fun, but I stayed for the singing,” laughed Ari. “My first havdalah with NCSY really sealed the deal for me. I remember I used to sneak into the best sessions that had the best advisers, which included my mentor Ari Kahn.” Ari continued, “Any teen who was involved in New York NCSY in the 90’s has had ‘the talk’ with Ari Kahn that changed their lives. Now, when I see Ari on staff conventions, it’s like I am an NCSYer all over again looking up to my advisor and the big brother I never had.” Ari went on to become chapter president of Westchester NCSY, vice president of Junior NCSY, and a Regional Board member for New York
NCSY. After attending Yeshivat Shaarei Mevaseret Zion in Israel in 1999, he returned to serve as an advisor for New York NCSY, and was soon put in charge of the Westchester NCSY Chapter. Meanwhile, Jessica (Russak) Hoffman was living in Seattle, where her family had long been active in NCSY and in building up the Seattle Jewish community. Her maternal grandparents, Earl and Dorothy Korchak, were involved in the founding of the Orthodox Union’s West Coast location, and her paternal grandparents, Joseph and Adina Russak, were among the founders of the Seward Park Ashkenazic community in Seattle. Jessica’s father, Larry Russak, was involved with NCSY as a teen and served as Seattle NCSY’s chapter president in the early 1970’s, as well as National Vice President for NCSY. Jessica continued the family legacy by participating in NCSY throughout high school, and traveling to Israel and Poland on NCSY’s JOLT and Michlelet summer programs. While studying at Yeshiva University’s Stern College for Women, she met Ari, a student at Yeshiva College, and they began attending NCSY shabbatonim together. Jessica worked as a chapter advisor for Westchester, NY and continued taking every opportunity to give back to her community. During the 9/11 tragedy, Jessica helped organize groups of students to create a shemira program for the victims of 9/11, so that their bodies would not be left alone in accordance with Jewish tradition. By the time Ari and Jessica married in 2003, both of their NCSY careers were winding down, and mostly consisted of a weekly advising session in different chapters in Westchester. Jessica was working fulltime for a New York publishing house, while Ari was working in real estate. They decided to move to Seattle shortly after, and, when they got there, they found an NCSY chapter without a director. Though they
hadn’t planned for it, they knew they could fill the role, and so they stepped in as temporary directors while NCSY looked for a long-term replacement. Twelve years later, the Hoffman family is still at the helm. During that time, they’ve invested so much in Seattle’s Jewish community in and out of NCSY—and the community’s been thriving. “Our favorite quote in Pirkei Avot is “Im ein ish, tzarich li’hishtadel li’heyot ish,” said Ari, explaining why he and Jessica chose to remain with NCSY, despite initially planning another path. “We take that to mean step up and get the job done, especially if there is no one else around to get it done. We are proud to be associated with NCSY and proud to help it flourish.” And flourish it has: At the peak of Seattle NCSY’s success with the Hoffmans as directors, JSU grew from a single club to 13 different clubs with over 300 students participating; a fully-accredited Torah High was created (the only accredited one in the country), which counted as many as 120 students; and Jewish engagement trips were being run to New York, Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Other highlights include panning and raising the funds for a $1.2 million dollar state-of-theart youth facility at Bikur Cholim Machzikay Hadath (BCMH), in NCSY’s Teen Lounge is housed, and Ari and Jessica taking integral roles in Jewish education for teens in other ways. Ari served on the board for Torah Day School, which he and Jessica helped found, and Jessica created Derech Emunah, a new all-girls high school. Not only have the Hoffmans helped fill a void, they took that space and helped it blossom to epic proportions. It is for the benefit of so many that something temporary turned into something lasting, and both Seattle and NCSY are better for the Hoffmans’ dedication. SPRING 2016
See that smiling lady leading the Conga line on the Shabbaton dance floor? She’s the one singing at the top of her lungs, urging every reluctant teen to join in? That’s NCSY’s beloved “Mrs. B.” There was no missing her. Sadly, there is now. Rivke Berkowitz, longtime Buffalo resident and Upstate New York region’s beloved advisor, left the world this past November. She left thousands of NCSYers bereft of an exemplary role model, confidante and surrogate parent. But she didn’t leave them emptyhanded. “Mrs. B.’s” no-holds-barred passion for Judaism and the love she gave three decades of Jewish teens remains alive and well. And dancing! “Many people came to the shiva to say they owed their Yiddishkeit to her,” says Rabbi Moshe Crystal, senior educator at NCSY. “They knew Mrs. B.’s greatest nachas was seeing her NCSY children growing in their Judaism. And they didn’t come just to sit for a few minutes; they grieved like they had lost their own parent.” At every Shabbaton, you’d find teens clustered around her, sharing their most private thoughts and feelings, welcoming her comfort and advice. They knew she respected them and she cared. “She was a kid magnet,” says husband Dr. Gerry Berkowitz. “There are people who you meet for the first time and after speaking with them, you feel like you’ve known them all of your life; she was one of them.” Mrs. B. invested close to six decades devoting her endless supply of energy and wisdom to educating Jewish youth. Aside from lighting up the classroom, she also took on the role of associate headmaster at Kadimah Day School of Buffalo (now Kadimah Academy) and afterschool Talmud Torah at Temple Shaarey Zedek Hebrew School, as well as Temple Beth El Hebrew School and 42
the High School of Jewish Studies. “She was the best teacher in the whole Talmud Torah,” says Rabbi Steven Weil, Senior Managing Director of the Orthodox Union and one of her former fourth-grade students at Shaarei Tzedek. “[You’d think that] the kids would much rather be playing hockey, but not when it came to her class. She had the ability to be one of the kids, and at the same time to be an exemplary role model they could all look up to.” Every new cycle of NCSYers eagerly anticipated hearing Mrs. B.’s powerful recounting of her family’s plane hijacking experience. In September 1970, four jet airliners bound for New York City and one for London were hijacked by members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Although one of the attempts failed, one of the planes was forced to fly to Cairo and the others to an abandoned WWII airstrip in the Jordanian desert. The Berkowitz’s were on one of those planes. While the majority of the 310 hostages were transferred to Ammon and freed, the Palestinian terrorists kept 56 Jewish hostages on the plane. In order to identify the Jews, the terrorists had asked each passenger their religion. “I said I was Jewish,” Mrs. B. tells an interviewer in “Hijacked,” a documentary film about the ordeal. “All my life I had grown up in the shadow of the Holocaust. I always thought that one day my turn would come. I didn’t think twice about it.” She put that unyielding devotion into every NCSYer under her wing. “Before spring convention, when special awards were being determined, she would call me and advocate for each kid,” says Shira Reifman, former regional director of Upstate, an NCSYer since fifth grade. “She knew exactly what made each one of them unique. It came from loving them as people, for all of their strengths and challenges.” A breast cancer survivor, she demonstrated how a leader faces
challenges. Not letting this personal struggle quell her commitment to the NCSYers, she scheduled her treatments around the Shabbatonim. “A woman who came to the shiva told me, ‘I had to come because your mother meant so much to me,’” says Mrs. B.’s daughter Yael Rosenberg. “She showed me a photo from her wedding taken five years ago [during her treatments]. Although clearly ill, my mother was dancing joyously with the bride.” She lived what she taught. “She never lectured to you,” says Reifman. Apparently, she never had to. “Everyone thought she was the coolest advisor, even though she was a 70-year-old grandmother. If Mrs. B. said this is a good thing to do, then you do it.” United Synagogue Youth, the Conservative Jewish youth group, tried to figure out why their kids [were going to NCSY],” says Dr. Berkowitz. “They would ask them, ‘You’ve got a grandmother for an advisor; don’t you want someone young?’ They would answer, ‘She’s the youngest person we know!’” And indeed she was. She was the first one out on the dance floor, and the first to listen when anyone needed an understanding ear, NCSY staff included. Elisheva Ettlinger, a former NCSY advisor to the Catskill and Syracuse chapters, recently named her new baby daughter after her mentor, Mrs. B. “When she passed away, I was heartbroken,” says Ettlinger, a participant of the Har Sinai chapter since ninth grade. “I hope my daughter will have all of Mrs. B.’s amazing qualities – doing everything in her power to inspire others to Torah and mitzvos, her desire to show others the truth, and her pride in being a Jew.” We will miss her, but no doubt she’s rooting for her abundant NCSY “offspring” as they continue carrying that impassioned Jewish pride forward.
HAPPENINGS FROM AROUND THE NCSY UNIVERSE
THE ISRAEL PROJECT JSU Teens show their support and rally for Israel.
IDF COMMANDER VISITS KANSAS Elite IDF commander comes to live and educate in Kansas City.
SHABBATONS, NOT JUST FOR TEENS Teaneck NCSY and their nursing home Shabbatons.
NCSY STAFFCON NCSY Staff gather for three days of intensive professional development. NCSY ISRAEL NCSY Israel, NCSY’s newest region, kicks off with fun for Anglo teens.
BAT MITZVAH CLUB
dinner is provided.
JUNIOR NCSY GIVES BACK
Montreal started its first Bat Mitzvah club with 5 public school girls who wanted a meaningful way to mark their special occasion. Class highlights have included challah baking, a trip to view a mikvah, learning about mitzvot pertaining to women and simcha dancing. We ended our session in February with a dessert reception and gifts for each girl.
Lauren Gluck - email@example.com Mordi Spero - firstname.lastname@example.org
SHABBATON WITH DORON KORNBLUTH
ATLANTIC SEABOARD Rabbi Jonah Lerner, Regional Director 410.358.6279 // email@example.com atlanticseaboard.ncsy.org
Our grade 6 & 7’s are getting involved in social action projects including baking cakes for JFSA recipients around the High Holidays, running a Chanukah shuk with proceeds benefiting JFSA, as well as social programs such as a visit to the Extreme Air Park and Sunday Fever - a night of games and food. We also had a wonderful Family Shabbat dinner.
Montreal NCSY hosted a Shabbat of NCSY family education featuring Doron Kornbluth this past November. The Friday night dinner was a tremendous success with 160 in attendance. Shabbat had great food, great fun, and ended with a beautiful kumzitz that lasted over an hour.
YITZY SCHLEIFER VISITS WITH NCSY BALTIMORE
Josh Stein - firstname.lastname@example.org
Rabbi Arieh Friedner - email@example.com
THE BUSINESS OF SPORTS
The Baltimore NCSY run Senator Ben Cardin Scholars program, hosted Yitzy Schleifer, running for state council. Mr. Schleifer spoke to the students about his work and students left informed and inspired.
Co-CEO of Silver Crystal Sports, Jeffery Silver, shared his insights as a businessman to Jewish students as part of the Jewish Professional Alliance (JPA). JPA is an exclusive group of Jewish young students from grades 11 and 12 across Toronto. The group is part of Torah High’s business leadership track. Silver spoke to the students about his business experience; primarily how he has secured licensing deals for jersey customization with the NBA, NFL, NHL, and the MLB. He talked with the students about the challenges and beauty of what it means to be an Orthodox Jew in the professional world.
ACTIVITY BOOMING FOR CLEVELAND MIDDLE SCHOOLERS
CHALLAH BAKE Baltimore NCSY Teens came together with the senior citizens from the Weinberg Village to bake challah. NCSY was contacted when the “Great Big Challah Bake” for the Shabbos Project in the community was too large for the senior citizens to attend.
Greater Washington, MD Rabbi Yudi Riesel - firstname.lastname@example.org
See story on page 40.
CHURCHILL JSU REACHES 65 TEENS Jacob Glassman and Ethan Dalva, teen leaders of the Churchill JSU club in Potomac, took the Churchill club from 10 teens two years ago to 65 teens this year. The club is a major event in the school each week and has been moved into one of the schools auditoriums to accommodate it’s growing size.
Philadelphia, PA & Cherry Hill, NJ Rabbi Yitz Levi - email@example.com
FOOD PACKING AT JRA NCSY Philadelpha teens pitched in to help their local community by participating in food packing at the Jewish Relief Agency. Over 50 teens from the NCSY community participated in this yearly event.
Richmond, VA Arielle Sherman - Shermana@ncsy.org
NCSY COMES TO RICHMOND With the help of chapter director, Arielle Sherman, an NCSY presence has been established in Richmond, VA. The chapter has a successful Latte n’ Learning program, once a month trips to Dave and Buster’s, Sushi Nights, Shabbatonim, and of course, JSU. Clubs have begun at Freeman High and will begin in Godwin High School this April.
CANADA Rabbi Glenn Black, CEO 905.761.6279 // firstname.lastname@example.org canada.ncsy.org
Montreal, QC Marg Polowin - email@example.com
Toronto, ON Shyndee Kestenbaum - firstname.lastname@example.org
TWO NEW JSU CLUBS IN TORONTO John Polyani Collegiate is a school with a small Jewish population. The school was begging for programming and recently began a JSU club. The JSU takes place at the city director’s home near the school. A second new JSU club has begun at Royal St. George’s College, the second private Christian school with a Jewish Student Union clubs in the area.
Rabbi Tzali Freedman, Regional Director 888.471.4514 // email@example.com centraleast.ncsy.org
This year has been an exciting year for Cleveland Junior NCSY, under the leadership of new program director Rabbi Menachem Tenenbaum. In February, the Jr Shabbaton saw nearly 50 teens, grades 6th through 8th from across Cleveland, enjoy a fun and inspirational weekend in Toledo. One unique highlight has been the opening of Central East’s first Middle School Israel Culture Club. Through the help of Beachwood Schools and the breakthrough leadership of local teen Abby Dubow, the Club meets every few weeks and has hosted more then thirty 8th grade teens.
LOUNGING AND LEARNING NCSY teen leaders have opened Lunch and Learn groups in their schools and Lounge and Learn groups in their homes. Spanning the entire community, leaders like Jakob Bolman, (10th Grade, Beachwood), Sabrina Vinokur (10th Grade, Fuchs Mizrachi School) and Sydni Burg (11th Grade, Solon) have opened up groups and invited their friends to make their Jewish growth personal.
JSU SOCIAL ACTION LASER TAG
JSU is planning an inter-JSU competition at the local laser tag to raise money for Save a Child’s Heart. The NCSY teen board has been planning the event and we are looking forward to a very successful event.
CELEBRATING THE WEDDING OF A MEMBER TURNED MENTOR
Vancouver, British Columbia Rabbi Samuel and Gila Ross - firstname.lastname@example.org
ANNUAL FAMILIES SHABBATON Vancouver NCSY opened up its annual Shabbaton to families this year. The room was filled with 270 people, from babies to grandparents. The Shabbaton also attracted a record 90 Vancouver teens, with 135 teens in total attending from across the Pacific North West and Western Canada. Rabbi Israel Lashak was the guest speaker and in his unique manner was able to inspire all age groups in attendance.
IMPACT 3 Back for its third year, Impact 3 kicked off in style this past November. Impact 3 has already attracted 42 teens and has become the place to be on Wednesday nights! Impact is based on a successful model from Eastern Canada, where teens learn and discuss core Jewish topics which are meaningful to them. A new topic is discussed every Wednesday and a delicious
Rabbi Dovid Lichtig - email@example.com
Five years ago, Jennifer Peysakhova pioneered the very first Detroit Jewish Scholars Program as an NCSYer. She loved learning, and the amazing opportunity to connect with a mentor. She graduated high school, went to Israel and returned to the program in 2014 as a mentor! After celebrating her recent marriage to Eli Abraham, the Detroit Jewish Scholars Program hosted a sheva berachos in her honor.
OVER THE BORDER Just across the Detroit river is the city of Windsor. Twenty minutes away from Detroit, it has a struggling Jewish population and extremely limited Jewish programming, especially for teens. Detroit NCSY has stepped in to fill this void and is running a monthly Windsor Latte & Learn and having Windsor teens serve on its Chapter Board, bridging the gap for Windsor teens to a vibrant Detroit NCSY.
BLOOMFIELD HILLS HIGH SCHOOL OPENS JEWISH CULTURE CLUB Bloomfield Hills High School is proud to be the newest
addition to the Jewish Culture Clubs in Metro Detroit. With a large Jewish student body and centrally located in the community, the club is set to be a new hub for Jewish teens.
THE ISRAEL PROJECT
Pittsburgh, PA Rabbi Ari Goldberg - firstname.lastname@example.org
JEWISH SCHOLARS Jewish Scholars recently completed its first semester with over 40 teens participating in engaging discussions with adult mentors from around the community. The program was a huge success.
POST YOM KIPPUR CHESED PROJECT. Shortly after the Yom Kippur fast, over 20 teens gathered to create succah decorations for a local senior center, organize clothes for the Kinder Closest and assemble lulav sets for the synagogue mens club.
GREATER ATLANTA Rabbi Chaim Neiditch, Regional Director 404.486.8787 // email@example.com ncsyatlanta.com
Atlanta, GA HIGH HOLIDAYS IN ATLANTA Over 1,500 teens attended Jewish Student Union High Holiday programs this year. Rabbi Chaim Neiditch led educational sessions at a dozen local public high schools, where the main topics of focus were Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, and uniquely Jewish concepts such as teshuva (repentance). The participants engaged in rousing discussions during which the excitement of learning the deeper meanings of the High Holidays was palpable. Over and above the spiritual pleasures, the teens attending each event got a sweet taste of the New Year in the form of a “dipping apple in honey” activity.
GETTING A SUKKOT EDUCATION Over 800 JSU teens at a dozen Atlanta-area high schools took part in sukkot-themed educational programs. We reviewed the Biblical sources of each of the Sukkot rituals and built our own sukkahs out of gingerbread and decorated them with delicious candy. While the JSU activity represented the first time many of the teens engaged in any sort of Jewish observance during Sukkot, its impact was immediately obvious, as many of the participants made sure to make the blessing on, and shake the four species on the days of Chol HaMoed.
700+ TEENS LIGHT CHANUKAH CANDLES When the Holiday season rolls around each December, Jews everywhere know that it’s time to light up the night, with candles burning bright and celebrate Chanukah. Excitement was in the air, as over 700 teens attended JSU club Chanukah gatherings in 14 Atlanta high schools around the city. With the smell of delicious latkes filling the air, Rabbi Neiditch led the proceedings at each of the dozen-plus meet ups. Aside from imparting the Chanukah stories of how the Maccabees overcame the Greeks as well as the miracle of the single jug of oil lasting for eight days, Rabbi Neiditch also relayed and reviewed the special laws of lighting the menorah with all who took part. The delicious food and delightful lessons led to spirited conversations among the participants, in which they talked about the significance of miracles in our lives.
JSU Teens show their support for Israel during hard times
n light of recent events, upward of 600 teens rallied together at 13 Atlanta-area JSU clubs to support Israel. Teens learned about the history of the State of Israel, the Jewish claims to the land, and about the background of the current conflict. In response to misinformation relayed by the media, Rabbi Chaim Neiditch provided a forum for participants to ask
questions and learn the facts. Since then, many of these teens were motivated to broadcast messages through social media outlets, showing the world their support for Israel and helping their friends and families learn the truth through Facebook and Twitter. We are very impressed with all of our teens for not being a afraid and proudly showing their support for Israel!
Kansas City, KS Rachel Prero - firstname.lastname@example.org
Rabbi Donny Schwartz, Regional Director Rabbi Moshe Isenberg, Executive Director 847.677.6279 // email@example.com
Chicago, IL Levi Zeffren - firstname.lastname@example.org
AMAZING GROWTH IN CHICAGO Chicago NCSY has run three Friday night tisches, each boasting 50-60 people each. Singing, divrei Torah and cholent made these events outstanding. Twenty NCSYers helped organize the food pantry, sort clothes and purim costumes at the Chicago Chesed Fund. We have increased our Shabbaton attendance by nearly 10% this year. Chicago NCSY has also opened a new JSU Club at Naperville Central High School and established the first Jewish Cooking Club.
4G SHABBATON INSPIRES 200 During the last weekend in February, 200 religious high school girls and staff from Chicago came together for the annual Midwest NCSY 4G (for Girls) Shabbaton in Zion, IL. Guest speaker Chevi Garfinkel spoke about identity, and made herself available to the girls the entire Shabbos. The girls experienced traditional NCSY programming, including advisor-led sessions, beautiful singing, and an extremely moving ebbing led by Chevi. Snow tubing and a pizza melaveh malka on Saturday night, as well as a closing on the beach on Sunday ended off a truly moving and inspirational Shabbaton.
See mini story on page 47
Memphis, TN Shira Nachbar - Shiranachbar@ncsy.org
FIRST JSU CLUB IN TENESSEE
White Station High school in Memphis, TN now joins the hundreds of other public schools that have a JSU Club. Started in October 2015, under the leadership of JSU Club President Gavi Freiden, the JSU club has already impacted more than 30 kids who have walked through the doors. “JSU has helped me and other teens feel proud of our Jewish identity while in school” said Freiden in an interview for the Hebrew Watchman, a local Memphis newspaper. The JSU club has had in-school events, as well as Shabbat dinners and other out of school events and has much more in store!
Rabbi Tzvi Kupfer and Mindy Daitchman - email@example.com
NCSY/JSU & BBYO JOINT SHABBATON Minneapolis NCSY brought teens together with a Joint Chapter Shabbaton. NCSY and JSU joined with BBYO for a phenomenal weekend that promoted impactful Judaism and Jewish Unity. Nearly 50 teens from across the Twin Cities enjoyed a weekend full of learning and inspiration. The Shabbaton helped break down some of the barriers that teens may experience when belonging to different youth groups. NCSY continued this partnership with BBYO for a great SPRING 2016
Rabbi Yehuda and Mashi Polstein - firstname.lastname@example.org
STEP UP FOR ISRAEL North Shore NCSY, in partnership with a local organization called The L’Chaim Center and Jerusalem U, launched their very cohort of Step up for Israel, a film-based series that explores the fundamental issues concerning the State of Israel, examining its unique challenges, accomplishments, and values. On February 22nd 2016, over two dozen participants watched the film Israel Inside where they learned about several actualizers that make Israel so unique. It was an excellent and positive way to open the series. Additionally, the group had a chance to meet with fellow participants and get started on building a vibrant SUFI community.
JEWISH FAMILY EXPERIENCE Jewish Family Experience (JFE), Midwest NCSY’s family based Sunday school run in partnership with CTN and the Associated Talmud Torahs, is currently in its 4th year with over 70 students enrolled in its Hebrew school and B’nei Mitzvah program.
South Bend, IN Akiva Gutnicki - gutnickiagmail.com
ALLIANCE JCC Providence NCSY hosted a city-wide inter-youth group Friday night dinner in December at the Alliance JCC. Teens enjoyed delicious kosher Chinese food brought in by our staff from Boston, presented divrei Torah, and enjoyed awesome games led by chapter Shabbaton coordinator Sammy Aronson.
Stamford, CT Yehuda & Martha Meyers - email@example.com
SIMCHAT TORAH HAKAFOT AND CHINESE FOOD EXTRAVAGANZA Stamford NCSY kicked off the year celebrating Simchat Torah with a teen-only Hakofot Service hosted by Congregation Agudath Sholom and lead by Stamford city directors, Yehuda and Martha Meyers. Over 60 teens on both sides of the mechitza gathered to sing and dance with the Torah and take ownership and leadership over this exciting Yom Tov! The celebration was followed by a delicious all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet and schmoozing with advisors and friends.
JSU IN STAMFORD PUBLIC SCHOOLS New this year, NCSY now has reps in both Stamford High and West Hill public schools, with high hopes to expand JSU and reach more Jewish teens in the Stamford community.
COMMUNITY FOOD DRIVE South Bend NCSY held a community wide food drive. It was inspiring to see many individuals and families give to this worthy cause. The amount of donations that flowed in was incredible. There were droves of bags containing foods, toiletries, gift cards, and other items. At the event itself, over 30 teens came to help and sorted the items that were collected. This program was a Kiddush Hashem, since it brought together teens of all denominations to perform a mitzvah.
St. Louis, MO
NEW CHAPTER IN NEW JERSEY
Sam Zitin - firstname.lastname@example.org
NURSING HOME TRIPS This year, St. Louis NCSY has begun regular visits to a local nursing home to spend time with the residents and bring smiles to their faces. Playing games with the residents, doing some of the ladies nails, and just chatting has really been a joy to see. The residents have come to look forward to these inspiring visits.
NEW ENGLAND Rabbi Simon Taylor, Regional Director 617.332.6279 // email@example.com newengland.ncsy.org
Brookline, MA Chanan Freilich - firstname.lastname@example.org
BROOKLINE ROADSHOW Twenty five teens from throughout the Greater Boston area gathered together for Shabbat, enjoying a Chinese Friday night dinner at the Mamane home, teen minyan at the Young Israel of Brookline, a “cozy” seudah shelishit at the Freilich home and an incredible evening of rock climbing at Brookline Boulders on Motzei Shabbat.
Rabbi Ethan Katz, Regional Director 201.862.0250 // email@example.com newjersey.ncsy.org
East Brunskwick Ari and Rebecca Zucker - firstname.lastname@example.org
East Brunswick, NJ has been eagerly awaiting an NCSY chapter. With a lot of help and leadership from local Regional Board members, East Brunswick Friday Night Lights began this past fall. Almost half of the local teens flock to the Young Israel of East Brunswick for an energetic and delicious dinner followed by an Oneg Shabbat filled with new friendships. The next day they return for a learning program Shabbat afternoon and an inspiring ebbing. This growing chapter began weeknight programs including Latte and Learnings and Thursday night Challah Bakes.
Teaneck Rabbi Reuven Lebowitz - email@example.com
STAND WITH US Teaneck NCSY has formed a partnership with Standwithus. Standwithus has been able to send speakers to talk to our teens about Israel at Latte and Learn and various JSU clubs. This gives our teens the opportunity to be educated on Israeli History and engage in dialogue with each other about Israel. We are very honored and privileged to have such an important partnership with Standwithus. See mini story on page 48.
West Orange, NJ Jen and Eric Israeli - firstname.lastname@example.org
Devora Weinstock - email@example.com
West Orange NCSY and Rayim Yachad partnered to co-
run a Shabbaton for the first time, bringing unique ruach, camaraderie and energy to West Orange. NCSYers and their families graciously opened their homes to Yachad guests for Friday night dinner, followed by a packed Shabbat Oneg and inclusive programming prepared by our West Orange NCSY Chapter Board.
NEW YORK Rabbi Yehoshua Kohl, Regional Director firstname.lastname@example.org 516.569.6279 // email@example.com newyork.ncsy.org
Brooklyn, NY Nechama Kamelhar - firstname.lastname@example.org Rabbi Moish Zucker - email@example.com
Each week for six weeks, JSU teens from Brooklyn and Staten Island got together at the Brooklyn Jewish Experience (BJX). Each week they heard a shiur from Rabbi Fingerer of BJX, followed by a talk from Jewish people making a difference in the world such as Rabbi Steven Weil, Executive Vice President of the OU. Following the program, Dr. Faye Zakheim, one of the speakers invited the teens for a beautiful Shabbat dinner at her home which was inspiring and uplifting for both the teens and the Zakheim family.
Manhattan, NY Avi Feder - firstname.lastname@example.org
CAKE WARS Manhattan NCSY kicked off the year with a Cake Wars Kickoff contest where teens had to bring their creativity and love of Torah to the table. They had to decorate their cakes to reflect what they know and love to learn. They got to start off the new school year getting to know each other through their creativity and what they connect to the most.
Queens, NY Rabbi Avrohom Walkin - email@example.com
TU B’SHVAT For the holiday of Tu B’Shvat, the School of American Studies JSU club had an incredible Tu B’Shvat seder led by Rabbi Walkin and their assistant principal, Mr. Solkoff, who is also a TJJ parent! He prepared for them a Tu B’Shvat Hagaddah to explain the holiday to celebrate and learn in an exciting and interactive way.
West Hempstead, NY Avi Warman -firstname.lastname@example.org
FRIENDSHIP CIRCLE West Hempstead NCSY teamed up with Friendship Circle, an organization for children with special needs, for an afternoon filled with fun. The NCSYers prepared a bake-off where all the kids got to help out and create their own baked goods as well as make some for friends. The day ended off with a game of pass the parcel, so all of the children got to go home with a gift as well as a smile on their face. See mini story SOUTHERN Todd Cohn, Executive Director 1-866-887-5788 // email@example.com southern.ncsy.org
Bal Harbour Avi Fried - firstname.lastname@example.org
THE BLIND SIDE Middle Schoolers as part of Southern NCSY’s Emtza Bal Harbour Chapter, met together at the Young Israel of Bal Harbour for “The Blind Side”, an educational program modeled after Israel’s Children Museum Dialogue in the Dark exhibit. NCSYers learned about communication, appreciation, and most of all themselves during their blind tour while wearing masks and using walking sticks simulating the experience of the blind .
Boca Raton, FL Rabbi Eli Zians - email@example.com
SUKKAH MOBILE This year provided a unique opportunity for the Jewish teens in American Heritage, a private preparatory school, during Sukkot. The Jewish club, led by Rabbi Eli Zians, brought in a sukkah mobile for all the teens to see, learn, and experience the beauty of the holiday. The students held a lulav and etrog, and recited the blessing all while standing in the sukkah mobile. For many, this was the first time in their life fulfilling this mitzvah. The club has approximately 40 students that attend every Friday afternoon to learn about their Jewish identity. They discuss and learn about Jewish holiday’s, Israel Advocacy, Jewish laws and customs, and do chesed projects as well.
Hollywood, FL Eli Albert - firstname.lastname@example.org
THE LOUNGE At the Lounge, an NCSY teenage hang out, we recently built an entire full court basketball court in the back of our facility, transforming our facility into a teenager destination. The Lounge gives teens a safe environment to meet like minded teens and discuss their Judaism.
Miami Beach Adir Shimon - email@example.com
TWO NEW EVENTS IN MIAMI BEACH
bi-monthly program where boys get together for exciting sports such as paintball, food and fascinating discussions on aspects of adulthood from a Jewish perspective. Second, the chapter began GLAM, a girlsonly monthly club of inspiring soul-searching. We had a team of skilled stylists doing the girls hair and makeup, followed by powerful insights into Judaism’s view on the value of physical fitness and beauty.
Miami, FL Sari Mizrahi- firstname.lastname@example.org
GREATER MIAMI AND BAL HARBOUR CHESED EVENT Greater Miami kids got together and went to an assisting facility for the elderly. We interacted with the elderly and made a Channukh party with them. We showed them how to light the Menorah, sang songs, and ate sufganiyot. The event greatly impacted the kids as well as the elderly. They connected and had a great time seeing the unbelievable ruach the teens had to offer and we are looking forward to seeing them again.
Jason Segelbaum - email@example.com
NEX - JEN CHANUKAH PROGRAMS Southern NCSY’s Nex-Jen Elite Private Schools ran specialized Chanukah programs at Gulliver, Pine Crest, St. Andrews, North Broward Prep, and American Heritage. Many learned more details of the Chanukah story and why we play dreidel, eat latkes, and lit the Menorah. Some participants made their own Chanukiot. Others took a Chanukiah and candles so they could light with their families at home. Everyone especially enjoyed the dreidels, candy and chocolate gelt they received!
BOYNTON BEACH EMTZA NCSY Emtza NCSY is happy to continue to grow our relationship with the shuls throughout South Florida. On November 12, Boynton Beach Emtza NCSY enjoyed a program titled PBJ & Gaga. During this chesed program, members created sandwiches which were delivered later to a homeless shelters and distributed. After making sandwiches, the members enjoyed a fun game of Gaga with their friends. It was a truly enjoyable program that taught our members more about chesed.
Rabbi Eli Lob - firstname.lastname@example.org
LEADERSHIP SHABBATON Chapter Board members from Boca, greater Miami, Bal Harbor, and Savannah gained new insights into what it means to be a communal leader, as they joined together for a leadership Shabbaton hosted in Savannah. Teens participated in lively discussions focusing on fundamental questions that leaders face, and left inspired to take on new roles in the realm of leadership within their Jewish communities.
SHABBOS OF THE GENERATIONS Savannah NCSY initiated a new Shabbaton, Shabbos of the Generations, an inter-chapter Shabbaton that encouraged people of all age groups to play an integral part in the Shabbat meal. Highlights included speakers representing the grandparent, parent, and youth generation. Everyone was very moved as NCSYers discussed how much NCSY has touched their lives. Close to 300 people enjoyed the experience with many communal members being inspired from partaking in a joint Shabbaton together with the Jewish future.
This year, Miami Beach NCSY launched two incredible new programs. The first, The Art of Manliness, is a
IDF COMMANDER VISITS KANSAS
Former IDF commander, Eliav Dikshtein speaks to Kansas City teens.
South Florida, FL
liav Dikshtein, a former commander of the IDF’s elite Duvdivan unit, is currently living in Kansas City and is an active part of the Jewish community. Eliav shared multiple stories from his career in the IDF including how he found and stopped terrorists on a mountain top that were shooting below at Jewish teens on a hike, which hit home for the JSUers who are the same age. He was also involved in capturing Marwan Barghouti, a Palestinian leader. The teens learned about Balfour Declaration and the Partition Plan with pictures from a power point as visual aids, and saw pictures of Eliav’s unit training as well.
SOUTHWEST Rabbi Gershon Meisel, Regional Director 972.934.9143 // email@example.com southwest.ncsy.org
Dallas, TX Rabbi Michel Lomner - firstname.lastname@example.org
JSU EXPANSION EFFORTS THRIVING Southwest NCSY has opened 3 new JSU clubs in cities surrounding the Dallas area. Clubs in the Independent School Districts of Richardson, Plano and Frisco are thriving as Jewish students flock to the clubs for their bi-weekly inspiration. Maddie Weiner, President of the Plano West High School JSU club says “...in a school of over 3000 students, it’s easy to feel alone, and JSU makes sure that every Jewish student has a place”.
Houston, TX Rabbi Gershon Meisel - email@example.com
HOUSTON ENJOYS A RENAISSANCE The Houston chapter has been off to an explosive 6 months! The chapter went from a 25 person chapter to an 80 person chapter. Our mini-weekends enjoy the presence of 55 and 60 kids. We have visited police stations to show appreciation. We have become a dynamic and powerful group that is just thirsty for more. We look forward to seeing many great things from this chapter.
San Antonio, TX Rabbi Gershon Meisel - firstname.lastname@example.org
PROGRAMMING AHEAD San Antonio is enjoying a new spark as this small city is getting more involved with programming. They had a fantastic laser tag at kickoff event and they’ve sent a number of teams to regional and national programming. Its exciting energy is promising, and we look to only see bigger and better things.
UPSTATE NEW YORK Devora Weinstock, Regional Coordinator 646.459.5175 // email@example.com upstate.ncsy.org
Albany, NY Tzvi Goldstein - firstname.lastname@example.org
Albany Chapter had an awesome time hosting Winter Regional. Focused on the theme of Diversity, the NCSYers learned about the differences that make us unique and the power that comes from everyone bringing something different to the table; the Shabbaton was capped by an exciting trip to The Edge rock climbing gym. Already looking forward to Spring with New England!
NURSING HOME SHABBATONS IN TEANECK
eaneck Chapter has a monthly Nursing Home Shabbaton in the Jewish Home in Rockleigh. It is a leadership training shabbaton where teens get the opportunity to enhance the Shabbos of the residents. The Shabbaton features divrei torah, learning sessions, and an NCSY style ebbing and
Havdalah. It is an amazing Shabbaton to be a part of for the NCSYers and for the residents as well. “It’s amazing to be able to learn from the residents’ rich lives and by getting to know them, but what’s even more incredible is to see the smiles that we bring to their faces by simply talking, singing, and celebrating Shabbat with them.”
Buffalo, NY Devora Weinstock - email@example.com
CHAPTER SHABBATON Buffalo’s February chapter Shabbaton was a huge success! The community-wide meal Friday night, in partnership with Congregation Ohr Tzion, brought in lots of families to a meal filled with plenty of NCSY ruach. Our Saturday night out ice skating was a big hit too.
NCSYers with the nursing home residents that they spend these amazing Shabbatons with
participants from the City and Valley chapters of California, joined us for this inspirational Shabbat. We joined with the enitre Las Vegas community for an uplifting havdallah. To top it all off, Saturday night was spent in a stretch limo tour of the Las Vegas strip.
Rina Emerson, Regional Director Rabbi Effie Goldberg, Executive Director 310.229.9000 // firstname.lastname@example.org westcoast.ncsy.org
West Coast Alumni
PHOENIX FNL EVENT
NCSY CONNECT NCSY Connect has “reconnected” West Coast alumni, young professionals and the community with new programs since its inception this past summer. Programs such as the first “Worldwide Latte & Learning” in Israel, New York, the LA Valley and Los Angeles (on the same day) brought together amazing people whom would have normally aged out of NCSY. Over eighty people had learned Torah around the world at “Worldwide Latte & Learning” in the merit of Ezra Schwartz hy”d and the terror victims of the day.
Los Angles, CA Yosef Miller - email@example.com
TEENS GEAR UP FOR 5K FUNDRAISER Jewish Teens from the greater Los Angeles area are preparing to run the annual 5K for Jewish Education. The teens choose where to give the money raised, and this year it was unanimous that anything that is raised will go towards NCSY summer programs. Not only do you get to help support your chapter, but any teens that raise $500 or more will also get to attend the 5K shabbaton retreat. It is amazing to see the passion these teens have for NCSY and Israel, and we are hoping to surpass last years success and enable many more teens to attend NCSY summer programs!
Shmuli Josephson - firstname.lastname@example.org
Phoenix JSU ran a special Israeli Themed FNL session this past January. FNL included a scrumptious Israeli shwarma dinner, followed by an exciting oneg featuring desserts, games and an opportunity to ask their questions relating to Israel current events. We were privileged to host the incredible Rabbi Avi Berman, executive Director of OU Israel. Rabbi Berman spoke to the over forty parents and teens in attendance. He gave an insider’s view on the current Middle East conflict, and expressed his concern over the media bias. He explained that the greatest tool for us to combat this is to learn and get educated now!
Doovie Jacoby - Doovie@ncsy.org
COMMUNITY PASSOVER COOKBOOK The PDX passover cookbook is a Portland community initiative to collect recipes from NCSYers, their parents, their teachers, and any one in the community that would like to contribute to the project. NCSY Portland’s five senior ambassadors are working on compiling all of the submissions and are editing the book independently. This book will be published and sold to raise money for Portland NCSY. It will be available for purchase by April 1st, please contact Meira Spivak at email@example.com to purchase.
Las Vegas, NV
Ari Hoffman - firstname.lastname@example.org
Rabbi Yehuda Maryles - email@example.com
LAS VEGAS SHABBATON
Over 200 attendees from Seattle, Portland, Vancouver, and Los Angeles celebrated Shabbos, some for the first time, on the annual Seattle Shabbaton. Dr. Bernd Wollschlaeger, a former IDF officer who converted to
Las Vegas hosted an incredible Shabbaton on November 20-21. Close to 100 teens, including 48
Judaism after finding out his father was an SS officer, was the speaker for the weekend. Laser Tag against Zombies and our annual Carnival Mega Breakfast capped off an amazing weekend.
NEW HOME FOR SEATTLE NCSY Congregation Bikur Cholim Machzikay Hadath in Seattle planned to tear down their original synagogue building and make it into a first class Youth Facility. After 12 years of hard work, fundraising, and construction, the building was dedicated in June at a dinner Honoring Larry and Shelly Russak (the lead donors, and NCSY supporters and alumni). The building opened in July and Seattle NCSY moved in to their office and the Teen Lounge into their new home in September.
Valley, CA Yisrael Katz - firstname.lastname@example.org
VALLEY NCSY IN LAS VEGAS Valley NCSY, along with the City and Las Vages chapters, came together for the CVLV chapter Shabbaton. The weekend included amazing sessions, Shabbat activities and ebbing with West Coast associate regional director Rabbi Derek Gormin. Rabbi Israel Lashak, senior educator for international NCSY, led an awe-inspiring weekend that left the Valley NCSYers craving more. The CVLV Shabbaton taught us to connect spiritually with the land of Israel. Valley NCSY can’t wait to see what’s in store next.
CHILE Michael Bengio, Regional Director 011.56.99.186.5575 // email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org
Danny Bengio - email@example.com
9TH AND 10TH GRADE ANNUAL TRIPS The highlight of our year was, without any doubt, our annual trips. Ninth and tenth graders enjoyed an amazing trip to Buenos Aires, Argentina, full of activities and one of the most powerful havdalahs ever recorded by NCSY Chile.
11 GRADE ANNUAL TRIP TO COSTA RICA Our eleventh graders went on our first ever trip to Costa Rica, making their NCSY experience all the more extreme and exciting. We spent Shabbat by the Pacuare River in the midst of the jungle, and fully connected to our spiritual side.
CHANUKAH CLOSING EVENT
NCSY STAFFCON NCSY Staff came together for three days of intense professional development, networking and inspiration this past September in Stamford, CT. Guests Saul
Blinkoff, Disney director and animator, as well as Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, addressed the staff, imparting words of inspiration and strength.
After an incredible 2015, the year was ended with an emotional Channuka closing event, where we welcomed our new NCSYers entering 9th grade, and also bid farewell to our twelfth graders after four beautiful years in NCSY.
ISRAEL Rabbi Yosef Ginsberg 054-9538225 // firstname.lastname@example.org Rabbi Michael Kahn 052-5085091 // email@example.com
MASTER CHEF On December 10th, NCSY Israel held a Chanukah Party at the OU Israel Center. The event was a big hit and everyone had a really great time. We had a “master chef” latke making competition. 31 NCSYers and 11 advisors came out for a great night filled with Chanukah fun!
LATTE AND LEARNING On December 24th, over twenty NCSYers and 10 advisors came out for an evening of learning at NCSY Israel’s very first Latte and Learning at Sam’s Bagels in Jerusalem. NCSYers with their advisors stayed and learn for over two hours together!
THE Q On January 7th, NCSY Israel ran “The Q” event at the OU Israel Center. The event was a huge success with more than fifty people in attendance. The goal of this event was to tie in a fun night of competition games with a majority of the games having a heavy focus on
Israeli culture. The games included various minute to win its, Israeli style food taste tests, “faceoff” with Torah and Israel focused topics, and a panopoly style competition with an emphasis on Israeli culture. The teens had a great time and the winning team received a gift basket filled with different “Shuk” food items (Dried fruit, sugar coated nuts, chocolate covered raisins, popcorn, etc.).
PLANTING SEEDS CAMPAIGN
Over fifteen schools came together this past October for the kickoff of the National JUMP competition. The program has teens competing to create programming promoting social awareness and Jewish values across the country with the finals held in New York this past March.
In conjunction with Tu Bi’Shevat, NCSY Israel launched the Planting Seeds campaign with hope to raise necessary funds to continue our programming for Anglo-teens across Israel.
Eleven Broadway New York, NY 10004 212.613.8233 firstname.lastname@example.org
JUMP LEADERSHIP COMPETITION
NCSY ISRAEL KICKOFF EVENT n November, NCSY Israel held their kickoff event in Gan Sacher. The event was amazing and very successful! 55 NCSYers and 18 Advisors came out for the beginning of what is turning out to be a very exciting region. The night started off with a “meet and greet” with sufganiot and snacks as advisors and NCSYers interacted with one and another while hanging out.
NCSYers and Advisors enjoy a game of laser tag in Gan Sacher at NCSY Israel’s Kickoff Event
About a half hour into the night the laser tag activity started. Everyone had a great time and the boys had a football game after laser tag. We closed the night with Pizza Hut and a message about Chanukah, oil, and the mission of the Jewish people connected to Eretz Yisrael. SPRING 2016
BY RABBI MOSHE BENOVITZ Full disclosure: Fact checking and some research for this piece was aided primarily by Google. Go figure. Too much, and also not enough, has been written and discussed about the effects the digital culture has on our lives and on our thought processes. The ways we acquire and analyze information have been radically altered in the past twenty years. In this new culture of learning, opportunities and dangers are ever lurking, although not always in equal measure. Some of those dangers announce themselves aggressively, and their temptations beckon with flashing lights and full fanfare. Yet others are far more subtle in their affect and are only perceived in retrospect with the passage of time. They are a less inspiring manifestation of R’ Akiva’s observation of water and rock. It is a drip and a drop and one day the stone’s integrity and wholeness is no more. The most pure and healthy model of learning involves the symbiotic interaction of student and teacher. Each plays a vital role in establishing this dynamic relationship. Learning can indeed be cultivated even when there is an imbalance between the quality of either side, but the most meaningful developments and growths in wisdom and behavior occur in the context of superior efforts of both mentor and pupil. Our Torah chooses to preserve the narrative of the Exodus specifically through the imperative to pass this story on to our children. This is part of a more general system where we not only respect our elders, mentors and parents but we turn to them for guidance and expertise. They are the guardians of knowledge and values, and they are the source of our eternal wisdom. The maintenance of this ideal system (like most others) requires a broad commitment to its ideals, but also an almost endless string of smaller and more innocuous moments of 50
reinforcement. Conversely, its demise can come about through a wholesale abdication of the premise or more slowly through death by a hundred cuts. Wikipedia, WebMD, surely the ubiquitous Google, and even the great online repositories of Torah content and shiurim all have changed the landscape of education and slowly eroded the base principles of mentorship and teaching. What to substitute for heavy cream in a parve desert? Once we would have asked Grandma. Now we will ask Google. A child’s spiked fever late at night might have been cause for a frantic call to Mom. Now relief and remedy are a closer click away. The picture that will inform my arrangement of the family seder plate is no longer summoned from childhood memory or lovingly transmitted from an earlier time, but downloaded from Google images. Is this a problem? Isn’t this progress? No offense intended to conventional “wisdom”, but aren’t we better off knowing that there really isn’t much danger in swimming laps right after lunch? Anecdotes and folklore are nice and have their place as an inspirational aside at a Shabbaton, but let’s not pretend that internet blogs are the only information sources in dire need of fact checking. And isn’t there something admirably democratic about the wide dissemination of knowledge, preventing corrupt monopolies from owning the information on which we depend? Yet, perhaps we should be more than cautious on improving on the models put forth by the Torah itself. When we are told to ask our parents and hearken to our elders, we should be reluctant to amplify the ask and the hearken, at the expense of the particular sources cited. Each and every one of those aforementioned phone calls and conversations reinforce the centrality of our heritage, and connect us to those who came before us. They create a delivery system for the most profound of messages and ideas, and allow for
intergenerational relationship in ways far more vivid and impactful than a somewhat virtual reality. Anonymity and low bar of entry for internet publishing challenge authenticity and thoughtfulness and can be detrimental to productive discourse. It behooves us to wonder why the revelations and miracles of the biblical Jews are transmitted through word of mouth and commemorated in holiday and ritual, rather than repeated and gifted to each new generation as part of our religious birthright. Apparently, it was deemed more valuable to be told of these events, than even to experience them ourselves. Our Jewish communities are proud protectors of the tried and true methodology. Even the most technologically advanced Torah institutions still rely on the student who asks and the teacher who answers. And yes, the heart of an NCSY event- be it a social action mission, latte and learning, summer program or traditional shabbaton - is still an advisor serving as a mentor for an NCSYer who will become an advisor and a mentor. Chains and bonds are being formed in these interactions, that link NCSYers not only to each other and to their advisors, but to their heritage and legacy. So have a most joyous and meaningful Pesach. And as we sit down to the meal that celebrates our glorious history, let’s take particular delight in the absence of a smart phone or search engine. The only thing we will search will be our own familial and communal narratives, and the only “looking up” we will do will be to the mentors and teachers who inspire and lead us.
Rabbi Moshe Benovitz, an NCSY alumnus, is the managing director of NCSY and the director of NCSY Kollel. He can be reached at benovitzm@ ncsy.org.
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