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 Rina Emerson...............................Managing Director, NCSY & CEO, NY NCSY Mark (Moishe) Bane...................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 Michal Azizollahoff......................Summer Recruitment Associate Rabbi Dovid Bashevkin.............Director of Education Tess Blaustein..............................Summer Recruitment Associate Yoni Colman...............................Director of Organizational Innovation and Professional Advancement, NCSY Summer David Cutler..................................Director of NCSY Summer Shira Epstein.................................NCSY Alumni Connections Associate Shayna Feiger.............................Summer Programs Associate Alyssa Goldwater......................Executive Assistant to International Director Daniel Gordon............................Associate National Director of Development Dan Hazony...................................Director of Data and Evaluation Victoria Kalmanowitz.................NCSY Alumni Connections Associate Rabbi Yehoshua Kohl...............Special Projects Coordinator Jeffrey Korbman........................ Director of Development Rabbi Israel Lashak....................Senior Educator Rabbi Yehoshua Marchuck......Director of Alumni Amy Mauskopf.............................Director of Logistics, NCSY Summer Andres Moncayo.........................Graphic Designer Rabbi Menachem Nissel..........Senior Educator Rachel Olson................................Educational Content Manager & Designer Rabbi Ari Rockoff........................Director of Leadership Development DY Rubin.........................................Data & Evaluations Associate Adam Rudich...............................Director of Operations and Finance Racheli Schwartz........................Summer Programs Associate Avi Sebbag..................................Summer Recruitment Associate Saadia Simon..............................Senior Systems and Data Analyst Elliot Tanzman..............................Director of NCSY Summer Recruitment Gabe Toran....................................Director of Marketing Josh Weinberg.............................Creative Director
Rabbi Jonah Lerner Dr. Michael Elman, Chair 410.358.6279 email@example.com atlanticseaboard. ncsy.org
Rabbi Chaim Neiditch 404.486.8787 firstname.lastname@example.org atlanta.ncsy.org
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
Atlanta, GA Alpharetta, GA Buckhead, GA Chamblee, GA Duluth, GA Dunwoody, GA Johns Creek, GA Marietta, GA Milton, GA Roswell, GA Sandy Springs, GA
MIDWEST Rabbi Donny Schwartz Ari Shabat, Chair 847.677.6279 email@example.com midwest.ncsy.org
Des Moines, IA Buffalo Grove, IL Chicago, IL CANADA Glenview, IL Northbrook, IL Rabbi Glenn Black Skokie, IL Larry Zeifman, Chair Indianapolis, IN 905.761.6279 South Bend, IN firstname.lastname@example.org Kansas City, KS canada.ncsy.org Overland Park,KS St. Louis, MO Calgary, AB Winnipeg, MB Edmonton, AB Minneapolis, MN Vancouver, BC Omaha, NE Victoria, BC Memphis, TN Hamilton, ON Nashville, TN Kitchener-Waterloo, ON Milwaukee, WI King City, ON Kingston, ON NEW ENGLAND London, ON Ottawa, ON Rabbi Simon Taylor Toronto, ON Joyce Wertheimer, Montreal, QC Chair 617.332.6279 CENTRAL EAST newengland@ ncsy.org Rabbi Tzali Freedman newengland.ncsy.org Judge Daniel SUMMER LEADERSHIP Butler, Chair New Haven, CT 4G Euro...........................................Ms. Shira Kronenberg 248.557.6279 Stamford, CT BILT...................................................Rabbi Michael Goldman email@example.com West Hartford, CT Camp Maor..................................Sari Kahn centraleast.ncsy.org Westport, CT Camp Sports.................................Rabbi Jon Green Brighton, MA Euro ICE..........................................Jeremy Goldfeder Windsor, ON Brookline, MA Ann Arbor, MI Longmeadow, MA GIVE.................................................Mrs. Erin Stiebel Bloomfield Hills, MI Newton, MA GIVE West......................................Leah Moskovich Farmington Hills, MI Sharon, MA Israel ID...........................................Rabbi Yoni Pollock Huntington Woods, MI Waltham, MA JOLT.................................................Rabbi Eli Zians Oak Park, MI Providence, RI JOLT Israel ................................. Rabbi Dr. Noam Weinberg Southfield, MI Kollel................................................Rabbi Moshe Benovitz West Bloomfield, MI NEW JERSEY Michlelet.........................................Rivka Yudin Akron, OH Next Step: Israel Internships...Malkie & Tzvi Hametz Canton, OH Rabbi Ethan Katz Rescue Israel................................Moshe Zharnest Cincinnati, OH Dr. Murray ReSurf Israel..................................Oran Bendelstein Cleveland, OH Leben, Chair The Anne Samson: Columbus, OH 201.862.0250 TJJ..................................................Rabbi Barry Goldfischer Dayton, OH firstname.lastname@example.org TJJ Ambassadors......................CM and Chaim Gerson Solon, OH newjersey.ncsy.org Toledo, OH TJJAP.............................................Marc Fein Youngstown, OH East Brunswick, NJ TJJ Impact....................................Yosef Kurtz Pittsburgh, PA Englishtown, NJ Elizabeth, NJ ON THE COVER: Fair Lawn, NJ Jared Heichman of Buffalo Grove, IL packs boxes of clothing for Israel’s needy Freehold, NJ this past February on Big Apple Adventure, a joint program of Midwest NCSY, Hackensack, NJ Springboard Chicago, Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago and the Jim Highland Park, NJ Hightstown, NJ Joseph Foundation. SPRING 2018
PHOTO BY: JOSH WEINBERG
SPECIAL THANKS TO
Dovid Bashevkin Israel Odesser Michael Sohn
Micah Gordon Avinoam Teplow-Phipps Tova Stulman Fran Zelenetz
Livingston, NJ Marlboro, NJ Manalapan, NJ Millburn, NJ Montclair, NJ Morristown, NJ Ocean Township, NJ Paramus, NJ Passaic, NJ Randolph, NJ Teaneck, NJ Twin Rivers, NJ West Orange, NJ
NEW YORK Rina Emerson Kenny Sicklick, Chair 516.569.6279 email@example.com 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 David Wolf, Board Chair Saby Behar, Campaign Chair 1-866-887-5788 firstname.lastname@example.org southern.ncsy.org Little Rock, AK Birmingham, AL Aventura, FL Bal Harbour, FL Boca Raton, FL Coral Springs, FL Hollywood, FL Jacksonville, FL Kendall, FL Orlando, FL Miami Beach, FL North Miami Beach, FL Palm Beach, FL Parkland, FL Tampa, FL Savannah, GA Charlotte, NC Charleston, SC Myrtle Beach, SC Nashville, TN
SOUTHWEST Rabbi Gershon Meisel 310.623.7630 Southwest@ncsy.org southwest.ncsy.org
Denver, CO Dallas, TX Houston, TX San Antonio, TX
UPSTATE NY Devora Weinstock Dr. David Hurwitz, Chair 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 Derek Gormin Dr. Moshe Benarroch, 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 Martin Lebovich 011.54.911.6802.5854 email@example.com
CHILE Michael Bengio 011.56.99.186.5575 firstname.lastname@example.org
ISRAEL Rabbi Yosef Ginsberg Rabbi Michael Kahn 054-953-8225 052-508-5091 email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org israel.ncsy.org
NCSY International Headquarters 11 Broadway New York, NY 10004 Phone: 212.613.8233 Email: email@example.com Web: www.ncsy.org Facebook: www.facebook.com/myncsy Twitter: @ncsy YouTube: www.youtube.com/myncsy Instagram: www.instagram.com/myncsy
IT’S NOT TOO LATE TO SIGN UP
FOR ONE OF NCSY’S INCREDIBLE SUMMER PROGRAMS REGISTER TODAY AT SUMMER.NCSY.ORG OR CALL 212-613-8168
Boys Israel Leadership Training (BILT) is a leadership program for boys looking to challenge themselves and have an incredible adventure through the land of Israel.
described their JOLT experience in Poland, Denmark and Israel as having a transformational impact on their Jewish identity.
Located in the Pocono Mountains, Camp Maor is for girls entering 5th- 10th grade who are interested in exploring their passion for the performing arts.
JOLT Israel is for highly-motivated teens looking for a unique leadership experience. The culmination of the summer will be running a camp for Israeli children whose siblings have cancer.
Camp Sports focuses on recreational and highly competitive sports leagues in Baltimore, MD, combined with rigorous Torah learning and outstanding trips.
NCSY Kollel is an unforgettable summer experience for boys in Israel with interactive learning, intense sports and great trips.
Euro ICE brings Jewish history to life by exploring Budapest, Prague and Vienna, lands full of rich Jewish culture and history. This co-ed trip culminates in Israel by visiting all the popular sites.
Michlelet is an extraordinary program for teenage girls looking to spend their summer in a productive way by learning Torah, doing chesed and touring Israel.
Next Step aims to give teens a real workplace experience through highly sought after internships while working in one of the most innovative countries of the world - Israel.
Girls Israel Volunteer Experience (GIVE) is for exceptional high school girls looking to experience Judaism through the art of giving back in Israel.
GIVE West provides a select group of girls with a fun and meaningful summer by giving back to communities across the West Coast of the USA.
ISRAEL IN DEPTH
Israel ID takes boys and girls on an inspirational and exhilarating journey through the land of Israel.
Jewish Overseas Leadership Training (JOLT) is for teens who want to become leaders. Past participants have
NEXT STEP INTERNSHIPS
THE ANNE SAMSON JERUSALEM JOURNEY (TJJ)
The Anne Samson Jerusalem Journey (TJJ) is the most affordable Israel trip for public school teens. Teens tour Israel and develop an appreciation for its history and their Jewish heritage.
THE ANNE SAMSON TJJ AMBASSADORS
THE ANNE SAMSON TJJ AMBASSADORS POLAND
On The Anne Samson TJJ Ambassadors Poland (TJJ AP) program, public school teens spend a week in Poland before traveling to Israel and touring the land through the lens of Jewish history.
NEW PROGRAMS SUMMER 2018 ReSURF
Travel and see Israel through the eyes of the locals and connect to your homeland on a whole new level. Be a part of ReSurf, mentor Israel's youth on this social entrepreneurship surfing adventure! No previous surfing experience is required!
Learn to make a difference in the world through your creativity and passion! Create, design, and implement your own project for goodness while touring Israel and learning how to give in a way that's impactful, personalized, and meaningful.
Travel through Europe on this once in a lifetime all-girls Euro trip. See Europe though the lens of Jewish eyes and visit countries across the continent.
Learn CPR, bleeding control, and how to be a First Responder! Volunteer on an ambulance, and learn how Hatzhalah's state of the art dispatch center operates in Israel.
The Anne Samson TJJ Ambassadors program takes public school teens to the best sights in Israel while they participate in social action, political advocacy and high-level Torah study. NCSY is the international youth movement of the Orthodox Union.
TABLE OF CONTENTS 08
DIRECTOR’S MESSAGE Education vs. Outreach: A message on NCSY’s true mission from NCSY’s International Director, Rabbi Micah Greenland.
FACES IN THE CROWD Meet Oran Bendelstein, Director of NCSY Summer’s ReSurf Israel. Find out why Joan and Peter Hoffman support NCSY.
VICE CHAIRMAN’S MESSAGE 07 Josh Rozenberg discusses NCSY and religious transformation. TEEN PRESIDENT MESSAGE 08 International Teen President, Gabe Gross, reflects on making the most of his opportunities with NCSY.
LESSONS FROM THE FIELD Keevy Fried, NCSY’s Associate International Director, discusses lessons learned from hosting this year’s Yarchei Kallah LIVE.
THE YANKEL FUND: A LESSON IN GIVING National Director of Development, Jeffrey Korbman, discusses lessons on giving learned from his father z”l.
POWER TO THE PEOPLE NCSY Managing Director, Rina Emerson, discusses best methods for empowering workers and colleagues.
SNAPSHOTS 14 ACOMMUNITY look back at this year’s regional fundraisers.
CHESED ACROSS THE COUNTRY 16 NCSYers across the globe give back to their communities and beyond.
STAYING WARM IN THE WINTER 18 Highlights from some of NCSY’s Winter Regionals. ON THE FRONT LINES OF INSPIRATION 20 Jewish Student Union clubs and what they’ve been up to. KALLAH 22 AYARCHEI recap of NCSY’s winter break Torah-learning extravaganza for public school teens.
THE NCSY GALA & BEN ZAKKAI HONOR SOCIETY RECEPTION Looking back at this year’s annual dinner honoring NCSY’s best and brightest.
28 AREAWAKENING tale of twin sisters’ faith. LIFE, A LASTING LEGACY 30 InA SHORT memory of Jennifer Mendoza Alkon a”h. A DRIVE FOR MAKING A DIFFERENCE 32 Eden Luvishis is using her personal drive to create change.
WEATHERING THE STORM 34 When hurricanes strike, NCSYers lend a helping hand to regions in need.
AS A TEEN: RABBI NOSSON SCHERMAN 37 NCSY Director of Education, Rabbi Dovid Bashevkin, sits with Rabbi Nosson Scherman to discuss his teenage years.
THE 3 VOICES OF IMPOSTER SYNDROME 39 Debbie Stone discusses her process in co-authoring the new NCSY siddur.
LET’S TALK ABOUT PRAYER 41 OU and NY NCSY host a day of discussion and best practices on Tefillah for high school girls.
BIG APPLE ADVENTURE A look into new exciting programming coming out of Midwest NCSY.
HIGHLIGHTS 43 Happenings around the NCSY World. TWO WAY TRAFFIC AHEAD 50 Rabbi Moshe Benovitz discusses the integral role of youth groups in our communities.
By Rabbi Micah Greenland, International Director An NCSY staff member recently posted the following poll on social media to her colleagues: “Do you consider yourself an educator or a mekarev?” The latter option, of course, is a reference to Jewish outreach, known as kiruv, which seeks to reach out to and build relationships with fellow Jews in an effort to bring them closer – li’karev, in Hebrew – to God and to Torah practice. The question immediately grabbed my attention. How would our staff respond? Who would say what? And perhaps most importantly, how do I myself respond to that pointed question? My immediate inclination was to respond that I am both, and quite plainly, that everyone in NCSY who works to inspire and engage our teens is in fact both an educator and an outreach worker. Indeed, our staff engages in both educational and outreach-oriented activities on a daily basis. My NCSY colleagues and I routinely incorporate many key ingredients of sound educational practice. Staff members are trained to understand the needs and interests of our students. Our programming has clear and achievable cognitive, behavioral, and affective goals for NCSY teens. Educational methodology
Rabbi Micah Greenland speaking to nearly 400 teens at NCSY’s largest Yarchei Kallah to date this past December in Stamford, CT.
underlies nearly all of our daily responsibilities. At the same time, much of NCSY is kiruv oriented. Our Jewish Student Union clubs in 250 public high schools across the continent are unquestionably a hallmark of our outreach efforts. Moreover, any time one of my colleagues engages with those who feel less connected or disenfranchised by Judaism, it is a part of our collective kiruv activity. When we pick up a phone to connect or to deepen a relationship with a teen that has recently attended an NCSY program, our NCSY staff is unabashedly “reaching out.” So, my initial intuitive response to the poll was to respond that I view myself and, more largely, NCSY’s work as comprising elements of both kiruv and education. Even with all that said, one valued co-worker nudged me off the fence by noting that the poll only gave two options. Responding to a binary, “two-options-only,” poll question with a reply of “both” has clearly missed the point of polls. And so – because this column allows me a bit more room for nuance and elaboration than a poll question – I’d like to share with you my response and why. I answered the poll by checking off the answer marked “educator.” Of course, this was not an abdication of my association with the kiruv movement or my identity as a mekarev, but rather a reflection of my own self-conception and esteem for the world of Jewish education and its importance in facilitating healthy kiruv. I have always looked at my work in NCSY as a part of the much longer and older world of Jewish education. There is also a more fundamental point. There are two different words that describe education in Hebrew – each with their own focus and connotation. There is the word limud, meaning learn, or a m’lamed, a teacher. This term generally focuses on the content. Nowadays, this would be the sort of education with a serious focus on the curriculum and course materials. Another word for education is chinuch, or to serve as a m’chanech. The word chinuch is a curious term. While it is often used in the context of education, such as in the famous
verse “chanoch l’naar al pi darko” – teach a child according to his way (Proverbs 22:6), in the Talmud it is used in a much more unexpected context. Before any vessel is used in the Beis HaMikdash service, the Talmud says we need to be m’chanech the vessel before it formally be used (see Menachos 50a). Of course, in this context chinuch cannot refer to our normal conception of education. One cannot teach a knife or a pitcher. So, what does chinuch mean in the context of vessels of Beis HaMikdash? Here, education does not mean teaching a curriculum; it means readying the vessel for service. Before being included in the holy work of the Beis HaMikdash, a vessel needs to develop the capacity to serve. This, I think, is also at the heart of chinuch education. It is developing students so they have the capacity and motivation to learn. Chinuch is student driven, ensuring that every child is given the opportunities, means, and capacity to develop their own Jewish story. And at NCSY, the kiruv that we do is in fact what I have just described as chinuch. The entire thrust of the relationships that we foster and the programs that we facilitate is in order to nurture within teens the desire to forge their own path; to learn more, and to engage more. Describe this activity with whichever term you’d like. But the key is that at its heart, NCSY is about the teens and their empowerment. I don’t like polls. They force you to choose when, often, the choices are not mutually exclusive or even overlap by definition. But, if forced, I check the box of chinuch as the soul of NCSY’s mission for teens. At NCSY we try to create life long learners who feel prepared to continue their Jewish journey beyond their time in NCSY. And that’s a box worth checking out. With Torah blessings,
Rabbi Micah Greenland
QUESTIONS WITH QUESTIONS FOR
JOAN AND PETER HOFFMAN
Joan and Peter Hoffman reside in Palm Beach Gardens, FL. Originally from the Boston area where they raised their two children, the Hoffmans now have four grandchildren. Peter had a long career in consumer products with Gillette and Procter & Gamble. Joan devotes much of her time to Jewish studies and Jewish organizations. The Hoffmans are currently Chairs of AIPAC Palm Beach and Joan is on AIPAC’s National Council. Together, they are endowing Southern NCSY’s Hoffman Family Israel Advocacy and Israel Trip Legacy Gift so that they can ensure their support annually in perpetuity.
Meet Rabbi Oran Bendelstein, a former youth director, musmach of Rav Yisroel Blumenthal, founder of the screen printing company ApparelDaddy.com, owner of Lollibop Cafe & Play in New York, and Director of NCSY’s newest summer program: ReSurf Israel. Sounds like a lot but if you ask Oran to describe himself, he’ll tell you simply, he is “just a passionate Jew and surfer.” Born on an American army base in Frankfurt, Germany and raised in Far Rockaway, NY, Oran brings his expertise in business and love of helping others to NCSY through his organization ReSurf, a teen driven initiative which empowers young people with social service. “We help underprivileged children around the world, by building and offering them sustainable surfing mentorship programs,” explains Oran. “My father is a doctor, so I guess the desire to help people was sort of built into our family.” “I actually only discovered the magic of surfing when I was a teenager,” recalls Oran, who was introduced to the sport when he was seventeen by his mentor and Rebbi. “We would be discussing hashkafa and all sorts of questions I had as a teenager, and he actually suggested I try surfing as an outlet. I never could have imagined that surfing could be such a powerful tool to do good in the world,” Oran reflects, “let alone be a way to share the beauty of Torah with Jewish teens!” Today, ReSurf’s hands-on and one-of-a-kind interactive chesed projects reaches teens from across the Jewish spectrum. Founded in 2012, ReSurf has helped empower over 500 Jewish teens to help others through its innovative chesed social entrepreneurship curriculum. “Social entrepreneurship is all about connecting the dots to help solve important issues,” explains Oran. “After Hurricane Sandy, I was watching a documentary about a surfer in Jamaica - he was using surfing as a tool to help mentor young kids – and he was speaking about how he didn’t have enough equipment to service these kids. This problem actually gave me an idea! We had all this old stuff; we could refurbish it and give it away!” Oran, together with a good friend, packed up their used equipment and took it to the Hadassah Neurim youth village in Israel, where they established a mentorship program for Israeli youth teaching surfing. “ReSurf grew organically from there and more and more people wanted to donate equipment to these kids. Then one day, some Jewish teens on the West Coast called me and asked how they could donate. I asked them to lead their own effort and raise awareness, and our Teen Ambassador program was born!” The teens used their intrinsic motivation, and with Oran’s entrepreneurial guidance, expanded their service programs from Israel to California, Mexico, South Africa and Hawaii. Bendelstein saw the perfect partner in NCSY as “NCSY is the expert in empowering young Jewish teens and there’s no better place for an empowered teen to do good and explore Judaism and Torah values than with NCSY.” This summer, a select group of teen ambassadors will spend three weeks on NCSY Summer’s ReSurf Israel, a trip designed to give teens the tools and motivation to become social entrepreneurs, see and tour Israel through a new lens and explore the beauty of our shared Jewish heritage. Through ReSurf Israel, teens will become ambassadors of change in their communities, with the skills, experiences and Jewish knowledge necessary to succeed.
HOW DID YOU FIRST HEAR ABOUT NCSY? Joan and Rabbi Avi Fried (Southern NCSY) had a chance meeting in the halls of the AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington, DC. Isn’t that where pro-Israel advocates and activists gather every year? Avi described what NCSY does and Joan indicated that she and I were the Chairs of AIPAC Palm Beach and as a couple, very interested in the issue of identifying, educating and training the next generation of pro-Israel activists. WHY IS NCSY CRITICAL TO THE JEWISH COMMUNITY? NCSY has developed a comprehensive program focused on inspiring a strong connection in teens to their Jewish roots. This then plays a role in promoting advocacy for Israel over the long haul. The organization identifies the schools and the students with leadership potential and offers local and summer recreational programs and trips to Israel which nurture and develop passion and leadership skills. From this group of students will come the pro-Israel advocates of the future. WHAT MAKES NCSY UNIQUE IN YOUR OPINION? The focus of NCSY on high schools is its uniqueness. We are already involved in another program that focuses on college students. This is very important in its own right, but the notion of getting to the student even earlier - in high school - makes infinite sense. That way, students will be ready for the pro-Israel leadership roles so necessary on college campuses today. HOW HAS NCSY IMPACTED YOU AND YOUR FAMILY? We feel good about investing in the development of the next generation of pro-Israel leaders. We are putting our energy and financial resources towards something that we believe in and something very necessary on today’s world stage. By making an annual donation to NCSY and soon, making NCSY a beneficiary in our estate plan, our children will hear our message loud and clear: This is a mission that is important to us and an organization that is very meaningful in our lives. WHAT MESSAGE DO YOU HAVE FOR OUR READERS? Learn more about NCSY. Meet the passionate staff. Consider supporting this organization that makes a difference in the Jewish lives of future leaders.
By Josh Rozenberg, Vice Chair of National Youth Commision In just a few weeks, we will all experience an incredibly powerful religious transformation. As the Haggadah states, “In each and every generation a person must see himself as if he had personally left Egypt…” In order to guide us toward achieving this experience, our Passover seder is filled with symbolism; we eat matzah that represents poor man’s bread, dip foods in salt water that represent tears and lean as we eat and drink to emulate the behavior of a king. The goal of these symbolic gestures is to help us transform our everyday religious experience into something extraordinary, to feel and live through the many emotions our forefathers experienced when leaving Egypt. The ultimate goal of this religious transformation is to enhance our relationship and achieve closeness with G-d. This ability to enjoy a transformative, religious experience isn’t only limited to Passover night. Indeed, because of the work of NCSY, thousands of teenagers experience such powerful transformative experiences year-round. I once heard from an NCSY professional: “Do you know who the ultimate NCSYer is? It is Moshe Rabbeinu! Moshe grew up in a secular home and had everything he could have imagined. And yet, deep down inside, Moshe knew he was Jewish--and so he took action.” As a result of Moshe’s huge leap of faith, he was able to undergo a religious transformation and, ultimately, become the leader of the Jewish people. That incredible religious transformation is what teenagers experience by being part of NCSY. As a lay leader, I have the unique
and awe-inspiring opportunity to witness NCSYers take their very own leap of faith. Whether it is a teenager keeping his/her first Shabbos on a regional Shabbaton, receiving his/ her first sefer on Yarchei Kallah, or experiencing daily inspiration on an NCSY summer program, to name a few, these transformative, religious experiences are the very essence of NCSY. NCSY’s role in a teenager’s religious experience is that of a spiritual beacon guiding him/her on the right path. This critical work is advanced by, and achieved as result of NCSY’s innovative, dedicated and tireless leaders who spend countless hours bringing out the Moshe Rebbeinu in every teenager. Within the past year, NCSY has been able to reach over 25,000 high school students, with over 10,000 teenagers having been impacted by our programs. Summer program enrollment is at an ultimate high, with new programs being added every year. These numbers are quite impressive! However, it is just the start. In the Haggadah, when we reach the “Dayenu,” we discuss all the marvelous things G-d did for us throughout the Exodus and proclaim that if G-d had only done one of these miracles - “Dayenu!” The word “dayenu” is commonly translated as: ‘It would have been enough!’ I once heard that we shouldn’t read “Dayenu” as a statement, but rather as a question: “Dayenu would it have been enough?!” And to this question, we should answer: “No! It would not have been enough, and we needed all the following acts from G-d
for us to become the chosen people.” This is how NCSY thinks. The number of people exposed to, involved in and impacted are at all-time highs. But is this enough? No! As a spiritual beacon with unbounded potential to guide and transform individuals, NCSY continues to expand its reach and impact. Growth and creative development are of the utmost importance. NCSY needs to be there - wherever that may be - to ensure that every Jewish teenager can have a transformative religious experience with the proper guidance and support. As we sit at our Passover sedarim, enhancing our relationship with G-d through our own transformative experiences, we can rest assured that NCSY is on the front lines, day in and day out, working to ensure that every Jewish teenager gets their own opportunity to transform their lives and become the next Moshe Rabbeinu.
Josh Rozenberg is the Vice Chair of the National Youth Commission. He currently works in the finance industry. He is married to Alyse Neumark Rozenberg and they live with their children in Bergenfield, N.J.
Gabe Gross PHOTO: ETAN VANN
Often, we hear people talking about how the current generation of Jews has it the best it has ever been. While the statement may carry some truth, the notion of being in “the good times” has certainly been repeated throughout Jewish history. What ultimately defines our generation, however, is how we react when things stops being quite so easy and the next catastrophe comes because as Jewish history trends dictate, we will face another challenge. Some say that Israel will make the difference this time. They say that since we finally have our own state, there can be no possible outcome where we will be faced with the physical persecution of the past. When reading the Pesach story, we read of leaving Egypt and the end of the physical persecution of the Jewish people. We were no longer slaves and we removed our physical shackles in order to escape Pharaoh and make the journey to our homeland. What can sometimes be overlooked when reading the text, however, is that despite their physical freedom, Bnei Yisrael still had a mental shackle of sorts during their time traveling in the desert. NCSY gives teens across the world the ability to take off the mental 8
shackles that the modern world has pressed upon us. In a time when being religious is a great challenge in the public sphere, and even in everyday life, NCSY lends a helping hand to guide Jewish students to help them contribute and bring about a stronger Jewish future. For me, NCSY provided an ordinary public school teen a connection to his heritage far beyond what he had imagined it to be. As NCSY’s National Board President, I have taken that inspiration and tried to help other Jewish teens realize their innate potential through creating closer connections with their Judaism. So far this year, National Board has taken social media by storm with a video that went viral and got teens thinking and asking questions. We also ran a Chanukah video initiative where each National Board member posted a recording. We have continued our internal bonding throughout the year, from our NaBo Shabbaton in Far Rockaway to working and talking to NCSY Staff from across the globe at this year’s StaffCon. While National Board has allowed us to take part in important and impressive conferences and social media initiatives, the most
important things we have taken from our experiences are the unique bonds we have created with one another through our time working together with and for NCSY.
Teen President, Gabe Gross, speaks to fellow NCSYers at NCSY’s National Yarchei Kallah this past December in Stamford, CT.
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June 24 , 2018
Discover Hudson Valley Ride: Poughkeepsie, NY
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NCSY is the international youth movement of the OU.
their unique personality and relate to the teens in the way that’s appropriate for them. Teens see through people who aren’t genuine and then lose trust in that person. After all, how can they be themselves, when you aren’t being you?
Larry King. Barbara Walters. Mike & the Mad Dog. Those names don’t usually grace the pages of Ignite, but this past December they had particular relevance for me. As a child, teen and young adult, I had listened vociferously to a wide range of interviewers. Of course, I learned something from the people being interviewed, but more often, I gleaned the most from those in the host’s chair. As the host of NCSY’s “Yarchei Kallah Live” broadcast, where we livestreamed nearly 12 hours of NCSY’s premier Torah-learning event, I had to use some of my lessons learned and put them to use. They really worked in eliciting information from people I interviewed, but more importantly, it solidified for me NCSY’s approach in getting to know teens. 1. MAKE THEM FEEL COMFORTABLE: When sitting down with a new interviewee, know that they are inevitably nervous. What is this going to be like? Will I know the answers to the questions? How am I going to look and sound? As a host, it is one’s responsibility to make the guest feel comfortable. Warm them up, crack some jokes, make them smile and feel comfortable around you, the camera, mic and lights. Ask easy questions that you wouldn’t ask on air, just to get them talking and expressing themselves. Smiling, laughing and talking does wonders before going live and makes the interview that much more comfortable and natural. It’s hard for anyone to meet new people or go somewhere for a first time. That’s why out our talented staff and volunteers do what they can to create a comfortable introduction and entryway for all teens. Our staff and advisors are witty and thoughtful and can often get a teen smiling or laughing within two minutes of meeting them. Getting the teens excited to talk about themselves is integral to them feeling at ease and comfortable in their new surroundings. 2. SIMPLE QUESTIONS: A periodical once referred to Larry King’s line of questioning as “street questions” — good, solid, simple questions that the guy on the street would have asked. They consist mostly of “why” questions, which actually elicit 10
more meaning and depth than the “who” or “what” questions that merely position a guest to answer with surfacelevel information. At NCSY we like to know why. What makes a teen tick? Teens are complex, deep and thoughtful, and when we ask the simple “why” in a caring manner, it allows them to convey their rationale in a thoughtful way to people who care what it is they have to say. 3. LISTEN, LISTEN, LISTEN: When a host focuses on the guest and channels their efforts towards listening, the audience learns a tremendous amount. Often we get caught up in responding, trumping someone’s story with our own, or figuring out a way to relate to them with a similar incident — but when we stop and listen, really listen, to what a guest has to say, they will often reveal things that we would never have found out with a quick response. There are many basic Torah and Rabbinic sayings about the importance of speaking when appropriate: “Siyag li’chochma shtika,” “emor mi’at vi’aseh harbeh,” “istera b’lagina, kish kish karya”; the list goes on, but the importance of them all is that we learn more by listening. In NCSY, we value every teen and take the time to listen to them - to what they are saying and to what they aren’t saying. We take the time to make it about them and the more we listen, in an appropriate way, the more a teen will talk. 4. BE YOURSELF: Don’t try to be someone else; just be yourself. While I learned a lot from many different hosts, I learned a very important lesson about being YOU. Each was unique, had their own flare and style and the most successful ones just ran with what they knew — themselves. Larry King asked simple questions; every Barbara Walters interview was a tear jerker; Mike and the Mad Dog was a mix between heated debate, narcissism and humor – and they all were successful in their careers. In NCSY we have a diverse staff, and while many of the tenets and principles are the same in what we do, we never ask one staff member or advisor to be like someone else. We encourage each staff member to express
5. NO DISTRACTIONS: Lots can be going on away from the stage, but the most important thing for the moment is the guest on the mic. It doesn’t matter if the sound crew is dealing with a technical problem, if the host is busy thinking about the next interview, or if you haven’t eaten in quite some time — the only thing that matters is the guest being interviewed. If the host is distracted, the quality of the interview will be seriously compromised. In NCSY, there is a lot going on tons of programming, lots of teens and always something else to run to. But when an NCSY professional is talking with a teen, no distractions are allowed. The teen is the be all and end all, and no matter how busy the professional is, no matter how distracted they can be by the next thing, they stay focused on the teen in front of them. They are the most important thing in the world at that moment. I’ve learned a lot from the many different hosts and personalities that I’ve listened to, but I’ve learned even more from NCSYers that I’ve interviewed over the years. They have so much to say, so much to offer and so much to respect. I encourage you to model the lessons I’ve learned from some of the most prolific hosts of all time and see how they work when talking with your teens. Until then, this is Keevy Fried signing off.
Jeff Korbman, NCSY National Director of Development On Wednesday morning, October 18th, my father died. Jack Korbman z”l, a Conservative Cantor for 57 years, was my first and most important teacher about tzedakah. As a result of his passing, I inherited money. It is money I did not earn, nor money that I particularly feel good about. Still, it is now mine, and I had to start making decisions. 90% of the money I am keeping for myself. There is a rumor out there that one can eventually retire from Jewish communal work. I can’t fathom that day. It sounds more fictitious than true, but nine out of ten dollars, not gobbled up the U.S. Government, will be invested for that pipe dream. 10%, however, will be given away; what we refer to as ma’aser or “tithing.” We learn about tithing early on in
the Torah. Avraham gives Malkitzedek 10% of all that he has acquired (Bereishit 14:20). Likewise, Yaakov promises Hashem that if delivered safely from Lavan, he will give back 10% of all that he earns (Bereishit 28:22). And from here, the Torah builds on the value of tithing, whether it be for the Levites or produce to be brought to Jerusalem. But giving away money that I did not earn felt funny. So I thought about it for a while, and pondered what Dad would do? He would be watching, or so I believe. While this was bouncing around in my head, a good friend of mine took a positon working for a Jewish Community Foundation. And then it hit me: Create a Donor Advised Fund, or what the industry calls a “DAF.” A DAF offered an immediate tax advantage, while safely investing the proceeds to accrue while I decided where to donate. Dad would approve. Then, I thought, let’s involve the kids. So as co-signers to the DAF, I included my teenage son Sam (NCSY Summer of ’15), and soon-to-be-wed daughter Aviva. Dad would approve of that too. Finally, we would name the fund, “The Yankel Fund” after dad, who was known by his Yiddish name to close friends and family - Yankel. The Yankel Fund members - the kids and I - have only met once so far to review bylaws I set. These include: 1. Quarterly meetings. 2. No more than 15% of the corpus could be allocated at one meeting. (This way I have a builtin date with the kids for a while.) 3. All allocations would go to Jewish causes. 4. Recipients would need a 3-star or higher rating on Charity Navigator (www.charitynavigator. org) 5. All three of us would have to agree on each allocation. And so the “The Yankel Fund was born. The context of meeting about philanthropy with my kids, in memory of their Zaide, felt right. Our initial conversation was fascinating. In a discussion about how we, as Jews, even know that Tzedakah is a mitzvah, we reviewed the Torah passage at the end of Parshat Behar:
“If your brother begins to fall, you must pick him up.” We are obligated to help each other, and to do so before someone else’s situation becomes too dire. That’s Tzedakah. What I found interesting in the pasuk is the use of the word “imcha,” with you, two times - once in the middle and the very last word. It reminded me of one of the many stories I heard during Shiva, this one from a woman I had never met, who walked in and said, “Your father saved my son in the bathroom.” That’s something you don’t hear every day. And I wasn’t exactly going anywhere, so I “sat” and listened. She began by saying that my father taught all her kids their Bar/ Bat Mitzvahs. (Dad, we estimated, taught just over 1,500 in his career.) The Shabbat morning of her son’s began like any other - her son sitting up on the bimah between the Dad and the Rabbi. As the sanctuary began to fill with more and more people, her son began to get nervous. At some point, he darted off the bimah and out of the sanctuary. Not good. The mom took off after him. She followed her son into the bathroom where her son stationed himself and was not moving. No matter what she said to him, no matter how warm nor cajoling nor sincere….her son was not coming out. It was all too much. Then they both heard a knock on the bathroom door. It was the Cantor. He asked if he could come in. At this point my shiva visitor’s eyes began to well up with emotion. She said, “your dad walked in, walked over to my son, put his arm around my son’s shoulders and said, “I’m going to do this ‘with you’, we are going to do this together. I won’t leave you.” The bar mitzvah, she told me, was beautiful. That is why, I believe, the Torah emphasizes the word “imcha” with you. When your fellow slips, we are to see ourselves, our fate, our responsibilities with them – much like Dad did with his students and family. Such is a lesson that drives the value of Tzedakah. The Yankel Fund is set to meet four times in 2018. Through the device of setting up a DAF, I am blessed to have four dates with the kids. I hope Dad approves. May he rest in peace. SPRING 2018
Many assume that a strong leadership requires supreme confidence and a ‘my way or the highway’ approach. In this template, the prescriptive leader consolidates power, providing not only the vision, but the exact steps to get there, using carrots and sticks to ensure that their subordinates carry out their decrees. Leaders often fall into this trap as well, fearing that giving up control will negatively impact their authority and impact as leaders. Moshe Rabbeinu, the greatest leader in Jewish history, provides us with an alternative vision. Yitro, his father-inlaw, visits Moshe while he is judging the nation and is struck by the long lines of people standing, waiting to be seen. Yitro realizes that no single person can fulfill the role of serving as sole judge and teacher and advises Moshe to recruit other leaders who will share his burden: “And you should seek from all of the nation men of valor, who fear Hashem, men of the truth, those who hate improper gain. And you should appoint them over the people as leaders of thousands, leaders of hundreds, leaders of fifties and leaders of tens.” (Shemot 18:21) To his credit, Moshe embraced Yitro’s suggestions and a new court system was developed. Moshe understood that by lessoning his direct responsibility, he wasn’t lessening his leadership but rather, was encouraging and empowering others to develop theirs. This model of leadership is summed up nicely in a 2010 Harvard Business Review article by Marshall Goldsmith, one of the world’s leading executive 12
coaches: “It isn’t possible for a leader to ‘empower’ someone to be accountable and make good decisions. People have to empower themselves. Your role is to encourage and support the decisionmaking environment, and to give employees the tools and knowledge they need to make and act upon their own decisions. By doing this, you help your employees reach an empowered state.” Embracing this model not only helps one’s subordinates grow, but it also promotes true feelings of partnership and even affection. Rav Soloveichik (Memorial Lecture, 1973) noted that when Yitro asked why all of the people had to stand and wait while Moshe sat in judgement, he was implying that Moshe did not properly respect his people. Yitro used the word: “Nitzav,” a word which implied subordination, as if Moshe was imposing his authority over the people to force them to stand for hours on end. The Rav explained that the truth was the complete opposite: “The people stood not in an act of subservience, but to be close to their teacher. Yitro perceived that Moshe was behaving like a ruler, while in fact he acted like a teacher, friend, and leader.” When people see that you are on their side, that you are invested in their success and empowerment, and that your feedback is truly ‘devarim ha’yotzim min ha’lev,’ they respond in kind. True leadership is not about consolidating power. It’s about giving it over to the people who matter most in our organizations.
MAJOR EVENTS AROUND NCSY
COMMUNITY SNAPSHOTS A look back at this year’s regional fundraisers. CHESED ACROSS THE COUNTRY NCSYers across the globe give back to their communities and beyond.
STAYING WARM IN THE WINTER 18 Highlights from NCSY Winter Regionals. ON THE FRONT LINES OF INSPIRATION 20 Jewish Student Union clubs and what they’ve been up to.
KALLAH 22 AYARCHEI recap of NCSY’s winter break Torah-learning extravaganza for public school teens.
NCSY GALA & BEN ZAKKAI HONOR 26 THE SOCIETY RECEPTION
Looking back at this year’s annual dinner honoring NCSY’s best and brightest.
ATLANTIC SEABOARD Over 2000 attendees came together on December 3rd, 2017 to show their support for Atlantic Seaboard NCSY and hear music from Eli Marcus, Mordechai Shapiro and Benny Friedman. This year, ATS NCSY had the opportunity to honor Robyn and Ed Hoffman with the Hakaras Hatov Award for their years of dedication and partnership with Atlantic Seaboard NCSY.
OREGON With nearly $24,000 raised, this year’s Kishka Klassic was Oregon NCSY’s most successful tournament to date. The day was filled with delicious food, awesome prizes, and wonderful memories. The winners of the 2017 Kishka Cup was “Team Sherman,” with Johnny Coppedge, Scot Gelfand, Bob O’Donnell and Mike Schladt.
MIDWEST Midwest NCSY celebrated a year of achievments at this year’s first ever NCSY Experience in Lincolnwood, IL. Pictured here (L-R) are Rabbi Donny Schwartz, honorees Ronna and Ely Cooper and Ari Shabat, chairman of the Chicago Advisory Board. Other honorees (not pictured) were Rabbi Ari and Avigayil Strulowitz.
PORTLAND With over 300 in attendance, this year’s The Q: Portland’s Famous Multimedia Trivia Competition, was the largest to date. This year’s 10th anniversary edition raised over $161,000 to support NCSY programming and activities in the region. Pictured here are this year’s winners Trudi and David Bloom, Lindsay and Ty Gluckman, Sonya and Zachary Horowitz and Aaron and Kristin Bloom.
NEW JERSEY NCSY teen and TJJ alumnus, Maya Steinberg, addresses the room at a fundraiser in Bergen County, discussing her transformative experience on TJJ and how NJ NCSY has helped develop her Jewish growth and pride.
SOUTHERN Southern NCSY supporters, donors and community partners from Palm Beach County gather at their annual brain trust to wrestle with new challenges and opportunities facing local Jewish teenagers. From right to left Joan Hoffman, Lynn Hahn, Marcy Gurspan (JSU student), Regional Director Todd Cohn, Larry Feldman and Melanie Kaminetsky.
CANADA Benny Friedman and Mordechai Shapiro rocked the house at the Toronto Centre for the Arts at NCSY Canada’s 36th annual fundraising concert. The event included a silent auction featuring exotic getaways, luxury watches and fine jewelry, and raised neccesary funds to ensure continued high quality NCSY programming in Canada.
HOUSTON Houston NCSY hosts their version of The Q. The evening honored Houston’s hardest working teens Tania Blanga, Max Felix, Gabe Gross, Carrine Hen, Jason Levine, Akiva Levy, Nathan Plumb, Bracha Teigman, Maya Teller and Daniel Wachsberg.
ATLANTA Hundreds of teens gathered to nourish the body and soul, decorating lunch bags with inspirational messages and filling them with sandwiches to be delivered to local homeless shelters.
DALLAS Dallas NCSY teens visit with the elderly once a month at the Legacy old age home. Teens share Divrei Torah and play games with the elderly.
CHICAGO Teens on Midwest NCSY and Springboardâ€™s joint Big Apple Adventure pack clothing for needy children at Yad Leah in New Jersey over Presidentâ€™s Day Weekend.
COLUMBUS Columbus NCSY teams up with international chesed organization GIFT, to cook kosher meals for Jewish patients in local hospitals.
DENVER Teens from Denver NCSY give out food to the homeless as part of Southwest Chesed Week. Pictured here (L-R) are Ariella Brown, Heidi Clayman, Shayna Stroll, Ellie Lowenthal and Elianna Lederman.
MIDWEST Minneapolis NCSY volunteeed at 2nd Harvest Heartland and packaged 6354 lbs of food for charity. The organization commented on the hard work and positive energy that the teens brought to the floor. Pictured here (L to R) are Sabrina Akselrod, Adi Dahan, Rabbi Tzvi Kupfer, Yonit Krebs, Jacob Sandler, Ruchama Borg, Jackier Fischer, Shira Kusnetz, Mrs. Mindy Daitchman, Sofie Geretz, and Masha Logman.
SOUTHWEST Southwest NCSYers visit with New Square Hatzalah and learn about the power of chesed and community.
HOUSTON Teens from Houston NCSY ran a Social Action Scavenger hunt, making bags with chocolates and treats and handing them to over 50 employees at Target. Together with a compliment card, NCSYers said thank you and wished employees Happy Holidays!
CANADA Teens from Canada NCSY make baked goods and give them out to residents of Louis Brier nursing home. SPRING 2018
NEW JERSEY NCSYers gather for havdalah at this year’s NJ NCSY Winter Regional in Hudson Valley Resort and Spa in Kerhonkson, NY.
DALLAS Dallas teens spend some time with their advisors on the green after an inspiring Winter Shabbaton in Dallas, TX.
ISRAEL Teens gather for the 3rd annual Jerusalem Shabbaton in the OU Center in Jerusalem. The weekend featured a Machane Yehuda scavenger hunt and a festive davening at the Kotel.
CENTRAL EAST More than fifty 6-8th graders attended the Central East Jr. NCSY Annual Shabbaton this past February in Toldeo.
NEW JERSEY New Jersey’s TJJ Bus 6 gathers for a reunion Shabbaton at the Torah Links shul in East Brunswick, NJ. 25 teens and staff came together to reminisce about their summer together, think about how they’ve grown since, and how they will continue to grow in the future.
MIDWEST Over 100 Midwest girls and advisors gather at Midwest NCSY 4G’s 4th annual Shabbaton this past December.
MIDWEST Havdallah Awardee Asa Abrahamson of Overland Park, KS and Regional President Batya Bosin of Memphis, TN at Midwest’s recent Winter Conclave in Schaumburg, IL.
NEW YORK Shira Greenblatt and Avi Bendayan capturing the moment on NY NCSY’s Winter Regional.
NEW ENGLAND/UPSTATE NY Menucha Krinsky (Providence, RI), Chavie Goldish (Newton), and Zoe Friedman (West Hartford, CT) celebrating before Shabbos at the New England and Upstate NCSY Winter Summit at the Heritage Hotel in Southbury, CT. The Shabbaton brought together 200 teens and advisors from 14 chapters across the regions.
NEW YORK New York 4G NCSY board gathers for a pre-Shabbos photo. Representing Shulamith, Shalhevet, TAG, Manhattan HS and SKA are (L-R) Ariella Lipsky, Shirly Kapetas, Leiba Weiss, Elaina Hirsch and Mindy Schreck.
ATLANTA 400 teens gathered to celebrate their Judaism this past December at Atlanta Region’s Winter Regional Convention in Roswell, GA. The highlight of the weekend was beautiful havdalah ceremony honoring 32 outstanding NCSY teens leaders for their contributions to the broader Jewish community. SPRING 2018
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
In response to in-school anti-semitism, JSU helped students bring in two Holocaust survivors to spread awareness about what anti Semitism can lead to. 20
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.
Dallas JSU Director, Rabbi Michel Lomner, poses with JJ Pearce JSUers this past Chanukah.
Schools from around the Greater Philadelphia area discussing the future development of JSU.
Arizona NCSY has grown over the past six months establishing two new JSU clubs, bringing the total of JSU clubs to 11 campuses weekly.
Junior from Towson High School, Felicia Zvagelsky, talks to a Holocaust Survivor at Atrium Village during a JSU club visit.
Atlanta JSUers make personalized menorahs to celebrate Chanukah with their families.
Hall High School JSUers gather for their annual Tu Bâ€™Shvat seder in West Hartford, Connecticut.
Stanton Prep JSU club showcasing their Chanukah themed t-shirts.
This past December, a record number of public school teens from across North and South America gathered 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 Jewish prayer, specifically the Shemoneh Esreh, and the contemporary relevance of our ‘Thoughts & Prayers.’ This year’s event kicked off with ‘The ExPrayerience,’ an immersive prayer experience where teens were placed into different environments and settings, each intended to elicit different emotional responses. Teens
were then able to compose original prayers based on their surrondings and emotions. Some settings included a forest, a hospital room, a classroom and a traditional synagogue. This year featured a new optional nightly-mishmar program where teens were able to select different areas of learning that appealed to them. Each participant was given their own set of seforim, sponsored and subsidized by Koren Publishers, to aid in their study during and after the event. Thousands of dollars of prizes were raffled off for teens who committed themselves to the extra learning, adding to an already electric environment. Thursday’s highlight came in the form of an interactive Express Your Prayer session. Teens chose from an array of artistic expressions poetry, filmmaking, painting, acapella performance, to name a few - and worked with experts in the field to channel prayer into those artistic modes. The event concluded with a talent show where Yarchei Kallah’s greatest acts performed before their peers, followed by a musical
performance by Yeshiva University’s acappella group, the Y-Studs. As in years past, this year’s Yarchei Kallah included a number of special scholar-in-residence guests, amongst them, Rabbi Judah Mischel, Executive Director of Camp HASC and Mara D’atra of Congregation Bnei Heichala, Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz, Mara D’atra of Beis Haknesses of North Woodmere, and renowned speaker Charlie Harary. “When nearly 400 teens come together during winter break to sutdy prayer, aside from the focus of learning Torah, it truly serves as a collective prayer for our community that there is hope for the Jewish future and there is greatness ahead for the next generation of Jewish youth,” noted NCSY’s Director of Education, Rabbi Dovid Bashevkin. “Yarchei Kallah is truly a magnificent experience, with hundreds of teenagers learning Torah in a miniyeshiva type of environment,” said International NCSY Director, Rabbi Micah Greenland. “I have no doubt that Yarchei Kallah 2017 has made a profound difference in the lives of the teens who participated and in the lives of their families.”
NCSYers from across the globe arrive in Stamford, Connecticut for the five day Torah-learning extravaganza.
Visiting scholar, Rabbi Judah Mischel, talks about making prayer relevant at Thursday night’s mishmar program.
NCSY teens host the first ever live-stream broadcast of Yarchei Kallah in the YK2017 LIVE Studio.
OU President, Moishe Bane, visits Yarchei Kallah to speak to staff and teens and take part in the magic.
NCSYers making challah at the erev-Shabbos ‘Shabbos Shuk.’ Teens had the opportunity to choose from an array of pre-Shabbos activities such as cholent making, challah baking and divrei Torah workshops.
NCSYers look on as International Director, Rabbi Micah Greenland, inspires before havdalah.
Students engage in prayer in a makeshift forest during the ExPrayerience at this year’s Yarchei Kallah.
Getting ready for an amazing and uplifting Shabbos at this year’s Yarchei Kallah.
Yarchei Kallah visits NYC! Teens head out Saturday night to Chelsea Piers in New York for an evening of ice skating, sports and fun.
Sabrina Vinokur introduces Thursday night mishmar to the Yarchei Kallah audience of nearly 400 teens.
Sabrina Vinokur Fuchs Mizrachi School Cleveland, Ohio
Delivered to Yarchei Kallah 2017 participants as an introduction to this year’s Mishmar Program. Last year was my first Yarchei Kallah. By the time it was mishmar on December 28, 2016, I was tired and just wanted to call it an early night. My rabbi, Rabbi T (Menachem Tenenbaum), told me: “Go to mishmar. The learning is like nothing you’ve experienced before.” I told him, “Listen, we’ve been driving and walking all day through Manhattan. There’s learning tomorrow - it’s fine.” After some convincing Rabbi T. got me to stay just for a little bit and that’s when I was introduced for the first time to the Messilat Yesharim: The Path of the Just - a book that teaches you how to acquire important attributes and how to be your best self and serve God. I joined a chaburah with one of my advisors, Daniel Gofman, and I guess he did a pretty good job because I came back to learn with him, the next night, the next night and the next night. When Yarchei Kallah ended, I took a copy of the book home with me. I started learning it on my own, and over the year I brought it with me to school for lunches, in between classes, on the road when there were long car 24
rides and set time aside for it at home. This morning, December 27th, 2017, I was able to finish it. One thing I found very interesting was this concept that was introduced to me about a metaphorical maze. We all start at the beginning of the maze with no ability to perceive which path is right. The goal is to reach the middle where there is this so-called platform. Those on the platform have gone through the maze and are able to see all the paths that lead to the right things. Since they’re able to see the path, it’s their job to help guide us – those of us still in the maze - and show us the right path. Tonight, we have the privilege to learn with many amazing people who have conquered this maze and stand in the middle on that platform, able to see the right path. I encourage everyone, no matter where you stand in your learning, to step out of your comfort zone, even if it’s learning for five minutes in a small group, and take advantage of all the opportunities that Yarchei Kallah is giving us for the next few days. Especially mishmar.
George W. Hewlett High School Hewlett, NY Written as a post-Yarchei Kallah reflection. I experienced the unbelievable power we all have to find meaning and create connection in our lives. Instead of sitting on the beach this winter break, I, along with 380 other public-school teens from all over America, Canada, Chile, and Argentina, came together to expand our understanding of Judaism and learn Torah for five days at NCSY’s Yarchei Kallah. No matter what background you come from, NCSY gives every Jewish teen the opportunity to explore their heritage. Whether you grew up in an observant household or know absolutely nothing about Judaism, NCSY collegeage role models and staff members are there to sit and learn with you and help you on your spiritual journey. While it is hard to sum up the incredible five-day experience in a short article, I will share with you some of the inspiring highlights from this amazing retreat. On the first day, everyone was welcomed into the beit midrash for orientation. Once we were all in one room, it was astounding to realize how many of us there are in the world. The sound of teens cheering for their region filled the air with excitement and anticipation for the amazing program
that would follow. Everyone began this journey one way and came out as wellrounded Jewish individuals. Throughout the week, we learned about the meaning and the essence of prayer, the way to pray, how Hashem answers our prayers and how no prayers are ever wasted. Prayers might not always be answered, but there always is a purpose. You never know. Your entire existence can be the result of someone else’s prayer. Your words never go to waste. Even if Hashem says no, your prayer can affect something or someone else who needs it more. In our morning chaburos (learning groups) we learned that in the Shemoneh Esreh, we pray for da’at (knowledge). We ask Hashem to give us the opportunity to understand what is holy and what is not. We also ask Him for teshuvah and to draw us closer to Torah. The most important thing to understand is why we ask Hashem for understanding before we ask Him to bring us closer. With understanding, it allows us to make the closeness last. Without understanding, there is no reason to want to be closer with Hashem. You cannot start a journey before knowing what the destination may be. I did not plan on going to Yarchei Kallah. I had no friends from my region going, so I went to my advisors and said there was no way I was going to Connecticut for my winter break. However, one of my advisers, Deeni Adler, approached me and said, “I’m coming to pick you up after Shabbos and we are going to Great Neck. You will meet some friends and then you will go!” I was like, “I’ll go with you but there is no way I’m going on YK.” I went out to dinner with Deeni and the girls from Great Neck and they turned out to be amazing people. I couldn’t be more thankful to Deeni Adler and NCSY for Yarchei Kallah. It was an unbelievable experience that’s hard to express in words. I have made friends that I feel will last a lifetime, as we try to advance our understanding of Judaism together. Through this experience, I realized that Judaism is alive. Many of us went beyond our comfort zones to explore something we could have never imagined. Some teens came on YK knowing nothing about tefillah, but left with new experiences and interest. Some of us had never lit Shabbat candles before, but were able to see the beauty and commitment by watching the staff and learning how to do it. Boys who never put on tefillin before became excited about doing it. Most of us, who never owned a Jewish book before, left with a nice start for our libraries!
This Yarchei Kallah marked the sixth month that I have kept Shabbat and it was the best one that I have had. I started keeping Shabbat during the summer, on NCSY’s Anne Samson TJJ Summer program. Having so many people by my side to celebrate Shabbat made me feel like I had accomplished something great. An important person once told me, “It’s not what you do, it’s how you come about doing it.” Teens out there who come from a background that is not filled with religion and decide to take it upon themselves to begin a journey of exploration inspire me every day. People ask how I have done it all on my own. My answer is that there is no such thing as doing it on your own when you have NCSY. Each staff
member and advisor has been there for me at all times, day or night, to learn with me on the phone or in person. They keep me going every day. By the end of Yarchei Kallah, we had created an unforgettable family. We hugged, said our goodbyes, and planned on keeping in touch, hoping to continue our Jewish studies in the future with the amazing people who were there from the start of our journey. While at Yarchei Kallah, Rabbi Lashak, one of NCSY’s senior educators said, “When Mashiach comes, he isn’t going to go first to Eliyahu, or Moshe Rabbeinu . . . He is going to go to all of the teens here on YK who chose to learn Torah during their winter break.”
Daniella and her Yarchei Kallah advisor, Deeni Adler, having a blast at Chelsea Piers on #YK2017.
The first ever combined NCSY Gala and Ben Zakkai Induction Ceremony was held this past November at the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City, NY. The event celebrated the tremendous growth of NCSY across the country, as well as NCSY’s vast summer programs and offerings. Honorees included Rabbi Moshe and Serena Benovitz of Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel; Jeffrey and Sharona Weinberg of Woodmere, NY; and Benyamin and Esti Kaminetzky of Teaneck, NJ. The program also featured a special Ben Zakkai Memorial Tribute to the late Joseph and Julia Macy, for their stalwart support of the New England chapter of NCSY. The efforts and support of this year’s honorees have made an impact on Jewish teens across the globe. Rabbi Moshe Benovitz has been the Director of the NCSY Kollel summer program for more than 18 years in Israel. He has learned with thousands of young men over the years, in addition to his senior role as Managing Director of NCSY. Both the Kaminetzky and Weinberg families have sent their children to various NCSY summer programs, and are generous supporters of the
organization. “Recently, NCSY was on the ground in Houston on a Chessed Mission. And quite frankly, NCSY is always on the ground making a difference in Jewish communities around the globe,” said Moishe Bane, President of the Orthodox Union. “As we continue to reach more and more teens through our innovative programing, we are proud to acknowledge all of our supporters and are especially grateful to our honorees, all of whom help to inspire our Jewish teens to develop a positive Jewish identity and embrace Torah as they journey into adulthood.” The NCSY Gala took place immediately following the 23rd annual Ben Zakkai Scholarship Reception honoring the newest members inducted into the Ben Zakkai Honor Society: Freda Greenbaum of Bal Harbour, FLA, Dr. Allan Jacob of Miami Beach, FLA, and Rabbi Ethan Katz of Bergenfield, NJ. In addition, Dvorah and Ben Gasner, who reside in Israel, will also be recognized at the event prior to the OU Israel Center’s Ben Zakkai Honor Society Induction Ceremony. “For over 63 years, NCSY has been part of the national fabric of American Jewish life,” said Avi Katz, Chairman of
NCSY. “Our gala on November 12th is an opportunity to ensure that Jewish teens today benefit from this powerful Jewish movement.”
Honorees Benyamin and Esti Kaminetzky (pictured center) with Gala chairs, Gila and Dovid Weinstein.
Honorees Jeffrey and Sharona Weinberg (pictured center) with Gala chairs, Lauri and Lewis Barbanel.
Honorees Rabbi Moshe and Serena Benovitz (pictured center) with Gala chairs, Seme and Bernice Joszef.
PROFILES OF THE PEOPLE AND PLACES THAT MATTER
28 AREAWAKENING tale of twin sisters’ faith. LIFE, A LASTING LEGACY 30 InA SHORT memory of Jennifer Mendoza Alkon a”h. A DRIVE FOR MAKING A DIFFERENCE 32 Eden Luvishis is using her personal drive to create change.
WEATHERING THE STORM 34 When hurricanes strike, NCSYers lend helping hands to regions in need.
AS A TEEN: RABBI NOSSON SCHERMAN NCSY Director of Education, Rabbi Dovid Bashevkin, sits with Rabbi Nosson Scherman to discuss his teenage years.
THE 3 VOICES OF IMPOSTER SYNDROME Debbie Stone discusses her process in coauthoring the new NCSY siddur.
LET’S TALK ABOUT PRAYER OU and NY NCSY host a day of discussion and best practices on Tefillah for high school girls.
BIG APPLE ADVENTURE A look into new exciting programming coming out of Midwest NCSY.
It took some near disasters to reawaken seventeen-year-old Erielle Harari’s connection to G-d and Judaism. Attending Jewish Orthodox schools until 9th grade in the Philadelphia area where she lives, she had the comfort of being surrounded by Jewish friends in a familiar, safe environment. That all changed when she had to switch from Kohelet Yeshivah to a public school, George Washington High School, after ninth grade. “My first year at Washington was extremely hard because of the drastic change from being in a religious school my whole life to public school where there were barely any Jews,” Harari, now a twelfth grade student, explained. “Out of about 3,000 students, sixty percent of them are Muslim or Palestinian.” As one of the only outwardly Jewish students, Harari didn’t have many friends and mostly kept to herself. In 11th grade she started forming friendships, but the two girls from the group who were actually Jewish kept it a secret. The one friend said she was Palestinian, the other girl denying that she was Jewish, because they were afraid for others to know. Although Harari remained brave, this proved challenging for her at the time. “I started losing my religious Jewish identity and stopped keeping many things to try to fit in with the kids in my school,” said Harari. “About three months into the 11th grade, everything began to go downhill. I started to get called anti-Semitic names in school, was pushed into lockers. I was getting so many threats on social media that I had to shut down my social media accounts for a while.” Even though Harari tried to defend herself and show Jewish pride, she hit rock bottom. “I wasn’t connected [to Judaism anymore] because I was blaming Hashem for everything going on. Out of anger, I was not keeping anything,” Harari said. “But in reality, I was just making things worse for myself.” Life got scary for the 11th grader. Palestinian students followed her out of school to the bus one day and tried following her home. Another time, one of them attempted to hit her with his car in the school parking lot. Harari was scared to return to school. Her father got the FBI and Philadelphia Police Department involved because of how dangerous things had become. Towards April, Harari began to realize that she needed to change and grow in her Judaism, but couldn’t muster the motivation to do so. It wasn’t until the following month, in May, when her twin sister, Marielle, found herself in danger that Harari experienced a life-altering miracle. When Marielle went into surgery
Erielle Harari (pictured far right) with her Atlantic Seaboard NCSY friends on the Brooklyn Shabbaton this past December.
for a simple procedure and didn’t wake up, the doctors realized that she had gone into a coma. “When I found out my heart dropped,” Harari said. “My sister was one of the closest people to me and meant everything to me and I was so scared to lose her. At this point I didn’t know what to do, so I started praying. Not with a siddur, not with Tehillim just me and G-d.” Feeling so desperate, Harari was ready to do anything for her sister to wake up. She opened up to G-d in a heartfelt way, crying and pleading for Marielle’s recovery. She promised on her behalf that if she recovered, she would change and become closer to the ways of the Torah and Hashem’s mitzvot. “About 15-20 minutes after I promised all this, Marielle woke up,” Harari continued. “That’s when it hit me. G-d has been with me all along. He was watching over me the whole time and I didn’t even realize it.” It was during those crucial moments that she realized that she needed to turn her life around. It was as though her twin, Marielle’s, physical awakening caused her own spiritual awakening. “As twins, we have that close connection,” Marielle said. “My going through this helped her become who she is today and without her prayers, I don’t think I would have woken up.” Together they went through a religious transformation and supported each other on their journeys. The day after Marielle awoke, was the first day of a new life for both Harari sisters. Erielle slowly began working on herself to become a better person - for herself and for G-d. She strengthened her ties to the Jewish community, and began attending NCSY’s Latte & Learning programs. She began attending NCSY Shabbatons and events, also becoming president of the Jewish Students Union (JSU) club in her area.
“When I first started NCSY in 10th grade I never thought it would change me the way it did,” Erielle Harari said at a speech she gave three months ago at an Atlantic Seaboard NCSY shabbaton in Brooklyn. “The advisors and rabbis were always there to help me with whatever I needed. I can say that NCSY has helped me so much in my transition to become closer to G-d.” Rabbi Yitz Levi, city director of NCSY in Philadelphia and Cherry Hill, helped Harari throughout the challenging time and is now raising money for her to attend seminary in Israel. “She made a lot of changes on her own,” Rabbi Levi insisted. “She’s a strong girl - she looked for guidance, but the decisions she had to make and the perseverance came from within her.” After the ordeal, Harari said the anti-Semitism in school didn’t bother her as much as it used to because of the bond she now felt with Hashem watching over her. Ever since becoming more religious, she stood out as “the Jew” at school because she wore long sleeves and skirts. “It makes me feel really sad that after the Holocaust people are scared to say they’re Jewish,” Harari shared. “Especially in America, you are not supposed to be afraid because of your religion, but when you have a group of boys follow you home or in the hallway, it’s very scary. It’s sad that in 2018 one has to worry about this.” Through it all, though, Erielle stood strong, never giving up, always remaining a proud Jew. “I never let them win,” Harari said. Her message to her fellow NCSYers who may encounter anti-Semitism is “to always stand up for what you believe in because what we believe in is right.”
Her radiant smile. Her genuine concern and caring. Her deep sense of humility. These are some of the images that came to mind when friends learned that Jennifer Mendoza Alkon, a longtime NCSY member and advisor, passed away at the young age of 24. She left behind a huge legacy that belied the number of years she had spent on this 30
earth, deeply impacting her former community of Seattle, where she grew up, and Los Angeles, where she lived after her marriage. “Jennifer was the epitome of humility, with scores of friends but never realizing just how beloved and popular she was,” said Ari Hoffman, former director of Seattle NCSY, who got to know Jennifer well from NCSY and
the many weekends she would spend at the Hoffman home. “She was a beautiful neshama who radiated love, compassion, humor and joy,” added Jessica Hoffman, Ari’s wife, who played den mother to Jennifer while she lived in Seattle. “Ari and I are too young to have a teenage daughter, but in essence, that’s what Jennifer became. She was a member of our family.”
Jennifer grew up in Seattle in a family that was in the process of converting to Judaism, and attended day school, but she sought a way to deepen her connection to Judaism—and she found it at NCSY. She took to the social nature of the Shabbatonim and events and responded to its spirituality. She chose to attend Northwest Yeshiva High School, while continuing her involvement with NCSY. Her growth in Torah observance and dedication was marked by various awards she won for her service to the organization. Rabbi Willie Balk, of Englewood, NJ, first met Jennifer as a young high school student when he was an advisor for Seattle NCSY in 2009. “Jennifer was the perfect personification of an ideal NCSYer,” recalled Rabbi Balk. “Her joy was infectious and attracted other people to events. My colleagues and I never had to convince her to attend something or buy into NCSY’s philosophy or mission; Jennifer was extremely enthusiastic and completely on board.” Rabbi Balk stayed in touch with Jennifer over the years, and she flew to New York to dance at his wedding in 2014. “Jennifer grew so much as a result of her time with NCSY,” he said. “It wasn’t just something she did in high school, but she took its impact and continually internalized it to grow as a person. Advisors aren’t supposed to pick favorites, but more than a few of my colleagues and I would be hard-pressed to deny that she was ours.” In her senior year of high school, Jennifer’s family moved to Arizona, but not ready to leave her Jewish high school and community, Jennifer asked to finish out the year in Seattle. It is a testament to her maturity and responsible nature that her parents allowed her the independence to live with different families during those months, most often staying with the family of Rabbi Ron Ami and Rebbetzin Miriam Meyers, of Congregation Ezra Bessaroth. “One remarkable thing about Jennifer was how supportive she was in helping NCSY activities and programs run smoothly, and didn’t seek the limelight or attention,” explained Rebbetzin Meyers. “She preferred to stay behind the scenes, managing the smaller details like picking up donuts or chauffeuring kids from the airport. It’s easy to remember the people on stage or those who are front and center at NCSY functions, but Jennifer didn’t mind staying in the background. She didn’t need recognition for her contributions.” After finishing high school, Jennifer moved to Arizona to be with her family, but she missed her hometown and “adoptive families” so fiercely that she
Jennifer a”h at one of the many NCSY Shabbatons she was a part of.
frequently flew back to visit and attend their smachot, eventually moving back to Seattle. “Ari and I were lucky to not only know her as one of our NCSYers, but to also become friends with her as an adult,” explained Jessica Hoffman. “Jennifer was ageless and got along beautifully with people of all ages. She could have wonderful long conversations with a 95-year old and then my young daughter, and they were all genuine interactions. One of her biggest middot was being able to maintain genuine close friendships. She gave everything to the other person and never wanted anything in return.” Jennifer trained to become a dental assistant, seeking a career with transatlantic practicality should she ever make aliyah one day. But her love of children proved stronger – she had spent countless hours working with children in Seattle day camps and schools like Yavneh, Sephardic Adventure Camp NCSY, and Torah Day School, and she loved nothing more than playing with the children of the hosts in whose homes she stayed. She returned to work at Torah Day School as a teacher’s assistant, and quickly proved to be one of the school’s most popular educators. At 23, while living with the Meyers family, Jennifer felt ready to seek her bashert. Rebbetzin Meyers spoke to her friend Kim Davis, a popular, Philadelphia-based matchmaker on the Saw You at Sinai website, who suggested Zvi Alkon as a potential match. Zvi lived in Los Angeles, where he was very involved with building up the Valley community and shul, Lev Simcha, to which he belonged, so the two met first via Skype, hitting it off immediately and spending the next several months flying back and forth between their two communities.
“Jennifer loved that Zvi was someone who naturally thrived on giving, like she did,” said Rebbetzin Meyers. In November 2016, Zvi and Jennifer were married in Seattle, then moved to Los Angeles to help Zvi continue contributing to his shul and community. Jennifer worked at Emek Hebrew Academy and volunteered to house a gown-gemach and lead the youth programming for the shul, which was housed in various locations as it looked for a more permanent home. “Jennifer unfailingly showed up to shul every Shabbos, no matter where the minyan was being held,” said Chelsea Rosenberg, Valley NCSY Director and a member of Lev Simcha. “We knew we had to have a women’s section no matter what because Jennifer always made sure to be there. Tefillah and talking to Hashem were extremely important to her.” When Jennifer died suddenly this past Chanukah at the age of 24, it understandably devastated her husband, family and close of friends. What quickly emerged was the reality that she had hundreds of friends in Seattle, Phoenix, LA, New York and Israel who were hugely impacted by her caring, her dedication to the Jewish community and the chesed she did, quietly, as was her way. The Valley community decided to re-dedicate the women’s Rosh Chodesh learning program as Ohr Leah in her memory (Leah was Jennifer’s Hebrew name). Inspired by this example, Rebbetzin Talia Mollot of Seattle founded a similar women’s Rosh Chodesh learning program based on Tehillim in her community, also calling it Ohr Leah. Jennifer’s husband, Zvi, her parents and her younger brother are comforted by these initiatives, feeling it’s fitting that a person who spent her life so immersed in giving and growing continue to inspire others to carry on those traits after her passing. “During shiva, even people who had maybe one interaction with her from years ago came to share the impact Jennifer left on them,” said Chelsea. “None of us knew these stories of chesed she did or the impact she had because she was so quiet about it and just generally modest in everything she did—but people realized who she was.” Editor’s Note: Those who are inspired by Jennifer’s life of commitment to Torah, mitzvoth and chesed are asked to consider founding a similar women’s learning program in her zechut. Please contact Rebbetzin Meyers at miriambmeyers@ gmail.com. There are efforts to found 25 such groups in time for Jennifer’s first yahrtzeit.
For 16-year old Eden Luvishis, a personal drive for seeking meaning from her Judaism led to an actual, tangible three-hour roundtrip drive to and from NorCal NCSY meetings in Oakland. NorCal events are the closest NCSY meetups to Eden’s home in Santa Rosa, California. But Eden is more than game for traveling the distance – both literally and figuratively – to continue her Jewish journey. “My parents emigrated from Russia while my mother was pregnant with me, and when they settled in California, they tried to celebrate as many Jewish traditions as possible, like lighting Shabbat candles and saying Shema,” explained Eden. “Because these traditions meant so much to me growing up, I knew I wanted to continue engaging with my Judaism and take it to a deeper level.” As a freshman in high school, where she is one of a handful of Jewish students, Eden tried participating in several different Jewish youth groups, but couldn’t find one that mixed the right amount of social programming with actual Jewish learning– that is, until someone told her about NCSY. NCSY’s closest chapter was in Oakland, about an hour and half drive for Eden each way. She gave it a try despite the distance. “I attended my first regional in the spring of 2016, and I loved it immediately,” recalled Eden. “NCSY was everything I liked socially and it was everything I was searching for spiritually. I finally had the opportunity to ask advisors and rabbis questions and expand my knowledge in the direction I was seeking. I was amazed by how receptive everyone was to my questions and how willing they were to have honest and open discussions about anything.” Eden’s parents willingly drove her the long way there and back many times for events such as Shabbatons, Latte & Learns, and meetings. To continue the momentum, she decided to spend this past summer participating in NCSY’s The Anne Samson Jerusalem Journey Ambassadors Poland (TJJ AP) program, in which she would spend a week touring Poland before going on to Israel for a month. Eden had long maintained a deep interest in reading books and viewing movies about the Holocaust, and had even facilitated a visit by a Holocaust survivor to her public high school during her sophomore year. “I thought I knew everything there was to know and I figured I could basically be the tour guide for Poland when the program was underway,” said Eden. “I was shocked, however, as to the amount of Holocaust facts and stories that I was made aware of that I had never learned about from 32
any of my studies.” One of the most significant experiences during her week in Poland was informed by her previous experience bringing the Holocaust survivor whom she had arranged to visit her school. The survivor’s father was murdered at Auschwitz, and the survivor had never returned to the site. When Eden knew she would be visiting there, she got in touch with him and he asked her to bring a small stone with her to place on the site in memory of his father. “It made the entire experience real for me” said Eden. “I wasn’t just listening to testimony, I was actually being an emissary for someone who survived the war and serving as that profound connection for him to be able to pay a tribute to his father.” Back home in California, Eden felt even more determined than ever to turn her passion for Judaism into tangible action. “When I returned home, I was both inspired to pursue the growth I experienced during TJJ AP and discouraged to see that it was difficult to maintain that momentum back in the ‘real world.’ I realized I couldn’t change my life in these drastic ways and expect real results,” she reflected. “I decided to focus on just a few projects that would pass on some of what I had learned on TJJ to others in my community.” Eden began working with a local artist on a Holocaust memorial and, with a grant from the Teen Curriculum Initiative of San Francisco, refashioned Project GenMix (https://genmix. weebly.com/about.html), an initiative she had founded in 2013 for her bat mitzvah that was meant to bridge the gap between today’s teens and senior citizens. “My contemporaries and I are really the last generation who are going to be able to hear firsthand testimonies from survivors,” said Eden. “I remember the way many of my peers tuned out when the survivor spoke at our school, and while I understood their lack of connection, it was discouraging. My trip to Poland helped me become more determined than ever to make GenMix a success so I can help close the huge generational gap between us and the older generations.” In true go-getter fashion, Eden called the three synagogues in her community to get the names and numbers of seniors belonging to their congregations, and got in touch with a couple of local senior living homes, too, seeking participants. GenMix held a successful Chanukah party in which seniors and teens participated in ice breaker games, told stories of their diverse life experiences, and enjoyed traditional kosher foods. Eden was encouraged to see one of her peers attend the Chanukah soirée and
Eden and friends of all ages at a Chanukah party for her Project GenMix initiative this past December.
then, on his own initiative, arrange a lunch with that same senior citizen the following week to continue their conversation. Eden also decided to take a new step in her NCSY involvement and serve on the NCSY board as the Vice President for Education, a role in which she is charged with creating the educational component of Shabbatons. “My goal is to create learning opportunities in which teens can engage with Jewish topics in a fun and meaningful way,” said Eden. “Instead of just sitting and listening to lectures, I try to create peerto-peer discussions and a lot of advisor sessions in which NCSYers can actively take ownership of their learning.” Eden clearly knows a lot about taking ownership of a journey. Now that she has a driver’s license, she makes the three-hour round-trip drive herself for NorCal NCSY events. She also founded a local Latte & Learn program in her immediate neighborhood this past September to bring the NCSY excitement to teens who might be motivated to become involved, but are not as motivated to drive for three hours, as she does, to do it. Rabbi Akiva Naiman, NorCal Chapter Director, only met Eden a few months ago when he returned to the Bay area and NCSY after a two-year
stint in Israel, but he was immediately struck by her passion for Judaism and her conviction for turning talk into action. “Eden is a real go-getter and just powers ahead after making plans for something,” said Rabbi Naiman. A few NCSY teens talked about founding more local Latte & Learn programs for their neighborhoods, but Eden is the first one of them to actually go ahead and do it. She’s great at communication, but she doesn’t just stop at talking. To me, that’s the mark of a great leader. Eden is looking to make a real difference in this world and make it a better place, and I already see her accomplishing that.” When asked where she gets her drive for action and her passion for Judaism, unique in anyone but especially a 16-year old in the world today, Eden didn’t hesitate before crediting her great-grandmother. “At 96, my great-grandmother is one of the smartest people I know and one who always told me that no matter what I do in life, I need to remember that I’m Jewish and appreciate how much easier it is to be a Jewish now in America than it was for my great-grandparents, grandparents and even parents in the Soviet Union. I took her words to heart and I let that be the guiding factor in everything I do.”
A work in progess: Eden’s Holocaust memorial for a local cemetary inspired by her time on NCSY Summer’s TJJ Ambassadors Poland program. SPRING 2018
When storms as large as Houston’s Hurricane Harvey and Florida’s Irma hit this past year, it took more than a village to assist in their road to recovery. Approximately 350 families in Houston’s Jewish community were stricken by Harvey’s flood waters and suffered significant damage. Through the Orthodox Union’s relief efforts, thousands donated money, recited Tehillim and volunteered to assist hurricane victims in recovery efforts. Seeing the need and heeding the call, NCSY regions from across the country planned chessed missions to the area as soon as it was deemed safe. Houston NCSY’s city director, Samy Sousan, said, “Even though individuals in the region were suffering and shared anguish from within the community, the affected teens opened up their homes and wallets and were ready to gut out and clean any place.” Jewish teens from all over, including Beren Academy, the Jewish day school in Houston, many who are involved in NCSY, created the group called MAD (Make a Difference) for helping people in need. They immediately mobilized to help get things off the ground where there were damages, sending volunteers to cut sheet rock, destroying ruined floors and doing whatever was needed. “Every single person was willing to help out,” said Sousan. “There was a lot of destruction, but more willingness to get dirty and do whatever they could do to help. It broke down all barriers that may have existed before.” Rabbi Gershon Meisel, regional director of Southwest NCSY, said that Dallas and San Antonio “were hands on involved with collecting food, preparing food, and shipping supplies out to Houston to provide free food and meals for Shabbat.”
Meanwhile, in the Midwest region, Chicagoland NCSY director Levi Zeffren and teens also collected supplies to ship out to Houston. New Jersey NCSY sent five relief missions of teens going back and forth to Houston. “They [NJ NCSY] were on the ground within days when help was needed and they kept coming back,” said Meisel. “They even joined our regional Shabbaton and walked over two miles to give chizuk (strength) to the rest of the kids.” NJ NCSY regional director, Rabbi Ethan Katz, also helped coordinate for other cities coming in with relief efforts. West Coast NCSY ran a relief mission to Houston while Atlantic Seaboard and Rockland County NCSY raised money for Houston teens with respective Learn-a-thons. “It was very moving to see so many Jews from different places across the
country with the sole focus of helping fellow Jews they had never met before, but who needed help and were in trouble,” said Meisel. “Specifically, seeing so many NCSY chapters and regions across the country to help by giving their time and resources really made me proud to be part of the NCSY family.” Donations through the OU fundraising site amounted to 1.4 million (the largest national Orthodox Jewish initiative) from 46 states and 4 Canadian provinces. An additional $40,000 was set aside for NCSY to assure that teens in the region could attend events and programs for free or little cost, providing a seamless experience of Jewish engagement without interruption. This was the third major flood to strike Houston in the last three years but was considered the most
catastrophic. “This is unlike anything we had seen here before,” said Rabbi Barry Gelman, rabbi of the United Orthodox Synagogues of Houston, the largest Orthodox synagogue in the area, which suffered the most damage. One third of its members’ homes flooded and the shul’s main sanctuary was destroyed under seven feet of water. Allen Fagin, executive vice president of the Orthodox Union, ran the OU emergency campaign with Rabbi Gelman, and offered on behalf of the OU to match any money raised by NCSY for Houston up to $50,000. “This city has gotten used to, unfortunately, storms and floods in just the last few years,” Fagin said. “This was qualitatively different than anything that’s taken place previously. The magnitude, the number of homes under water - literally hundreds of families displaced from their homes, and so the community
response has been truly overwhelming.” Meanwhile, on the East Coast, another hurricane was brewing and heading towards Florida. As the torrential rains and dangerous winds of Hurricane Irma descended upon Florida, most Jewish residents had already left in a mass exodus towards Atlanta. Rabbi Chaim Neiditch, regional director of Greater Atlanta NCSY, said that the Atlanta community was able to host 2,000 people from Florida. Neiditch’s family and NCSYers acted as leaders and welcomed everyone driving in, showing them where to get food, making sure they were ok. “My wife said: ‘Welcome to Atlanta’ and a woman broke down crying, hugging my wife,” said Neiditch. “One woman was in labor, stuck in traffic for 20 something hours to get there. Women had young babies crying hysterically for hours and they didn’t want to pull over
because of the traffic.” Atlanta NCSY ran six events, including an oneg Friday night with 250 kids in attendance. They also arranged for a teen minyan, a teen kiddush, a shalosh seudot and hosted a community wide concert Saturday night for almost 2,000 people. Rabbi Jake Czuper, the city’s director and a musician, performed both Saturday night and again Sunday morning for families, bringing a sense of unity and uplifted spirits. NCSY played a major role by providing programming and the OU paid for all the food trucks to feed 2,000 people meals for the week. “The Atlanta community’s hospitality is the hallmark of the city,” said Neiditch. “They really stepped up in major way and this event really demonstrated how we can really all take care of one another.”
NJ NCSY Regional Director, Rabbi Ethan Katz, with teens from New Jersey assisting in Houston relief efforts following the storm.
Teens from Atlantic Seaboard solicited donations in a Pirkei Avot Learn-a-thon. All proceeds went to help regions impacted by the hurricanes.
Teens gather to celebrate unity and raise spirits at a concert sponsored and hosted by Atlanta NCSY.
JSU clubs across the US and Canada run campaigns for the Houston community.
West Coast NCSY teens gather for a kumzitz after working in a damaged synagogue in Houston.
NCSY Director of Education, Rabbi Dovid Bashevkin, sits with Artscroll’s General Editor, Rabbi Nosson Scherman to discuss Rabbi Scherman’s teenage years. RABBI DOVID BASHEVKIN: We’ve been interviewing different Jewish leaders about what their experiences were like as teenagers and asking if they could give some advice to teens nowadays. I was wondering if you could begin by describing what the environment and world you grew up in as a teenager was like. RABBI NOSSON SCHERMAN: I have to begin before I became a teenager. I was born in Newark, New Jersey, grew up there, and when I was young, even though Newark at that time had a Jewish population of a little over 60,000, there was no day school for me. A day school opened later after I started school, so when I was in the 3rd grade they had a 2nd grade and so on. When I was ten, I went to Torah Vodaas and lived in the dormitory, just coming home for Shabbos. The environment in Newark at that time – although the older Jews identified it as Orthodox - there was a very, very small percentage of Jews who were Shomer Shabbos. Newark was a predominantly Reform and Conservative city and the Orthodox population was dwindling and obviously if there is no yeshiva you’re not going to hold on to your
young people. So when I was a teenager, I was in Torah Vodaas, and it was a very happy period of my life. I acclimated well to the yeshiva because I went to Talmud Torah when I was in public school – two hours in the afternoon after school – having to take two buses to get there. My parents were not worried about it - you know how different society was then. Would I let my 8 or 9-yearold take two buses?! But it was safe then. I had a pretty good background from the Talmud Torah - it was a Lubavitcher Talmud Torah - and when I came to Torah Vodaas, I was put in with my own age group. Baruch Hashem, I was successful and I was very happy. I was a teenager growing up in the yeshiva and felt part of the yeshiva. I lived in the dormitory and at that time, believe it or not, there were almost 300 boys in the Torah Vodaas dormitory. There were boys from not only all over the United States, but we had boys from Canada, we had many boys from Mexico, Panama, and South America. The reason we had so many South Americans was because there were Jews who emigrated to South America before the war or were able to get there after the war and there were no yeshivas there, there was no Orthodox life in South America and they wanted their children to have a Jewish education. So many of them sent their children to Torah Vodaas and many of them became religious. They were very accomplished people. They went back home and became rabbanim. The chief rabbi of Rio de Janeiro was one of these boys who came to Torah Vodaas from Rio or San Paulo – he became the rabbi of the city. I was in Torah Vodaas until I was 18 and then I went to Bais Medrash Elyon which was the, so to speak, post-graduate part of Torah Vodaas, equivalent to Lakewood today. Interestingly enough, to give you an idea of what the yeshiva population of the United States was in those days, we had approximately 60 talmidim when I came, and Lakewood at that time was even smaller. But because those who went on after beis medrash and went on to Beis Medrash Elyon in Monsey or Bais Medrash Govoha in Lakewood were
highly motivated - the tide was not with us, nearly all of our parents wanted us to go to college and reluctantly they let us continue in the yeshiva – but the ones who went were highly motivated and for the most part, many became roshei yeshiva in the United States and in Israel, and distinguished rabbanim. Looking back, it was really a golden era in my life. RDB: Did you have any particular mentors that stand out as having affected you during your teenage years? RNS: Well in my teenage years I became close to Rav Gedalia Schorr z”l. Not as close to Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky - although later I did, around the time that I was married and from then on, and especially when we started Artscroll, I became quite close to Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky. And then there were older chaverim in Torah Vodaas and Bais Medrash Elyon that I became very friendly with who had a really profound influence on my life. People often ask me how I became a writer, and I say – you cannot become a writer unless you write. And two of my very best friends were Rav Nisson Wolpin and Rabbi Mendel Weinbach.
Rabbi Wolpin was the editor of the Jewish Observer for well over 30 years and Rabbi Weinbach was one of the founders of Ohr Samayach and a prolific writer in his own right, and we corresponded. I was in Newark, and Mendel Weinbach was in Pittsburg and Nisson Wolpin was in Seattle, so during the summer we would write letters to one another and we tried to outdo one another and we all developed. I think that was a major part of my education. Not that the education in Torah Vodaas was poor - it was quite good, really good – we had professional teachers then, and they were quite accomplished people in their own right. We got a very good education and virtually all of us did very well on the regents. Regents were much tougher then than they are today. RDB: Did you have any struggles as a teen or were there any issues you had to confront or surmount, particularly as a teenager? RNS: I didn’t because I was a goody-goody boy. I was in yeshiva and I worshipped the rebbeim and the program of the yeshiva. I wanted to become a ben Torah, so I shut out the outside world to a degree. When I was a child, growing up in Newark, I went to the movies, because in Newark there was nothing else to do in the summertime. Once I got to the Mesivta, I cut out the movies and never went again. My parents never had a TV and I’m grateful for that because TV, first of all, can be all consuming like smartphones today. TV in those days was nothing like the mass entertainment today, not at all, but still not the most positive influence in the world. RDB: Were you a big reader as a teenager? RNS: Oh yes, I loved to read. I always loved to read. RDB: Were there any formative books or authors that you’d feel comfortable sharing that had an impact on your writing or thinking as a teenager? RNS: Well, we had, in Torah Vodaas - they had a subscription to the New York Times and I read the Times every day and tried to do the crossword puzzle. I especially enjoyed the sports department. I was a sports fan in those days. And when you read a newspaper like that – today, I would not look at the Times as it is anti-Orthodox, anti-Israel and pro-everything that we are opposed to morally – but in those days, the Times was different. Today, maybe the only newspaper that you can read with a clear conscience is the Wall Street Journal. Not because it’s a business paper, but because it’s very well written, very well edited, and of course, it’s almost the only major publication that’s pro-Israel and that means a lot.
RDB: So I guess that’s a good segway – your thoughts about television and mass media – maybe you can talk a little bit about how being a teenager has changed and what changes you’ve seen among teenagers and their personalities and their struggles from when you were growing up to what you see now. RNS: Well, when I was a teenager, the only distractions were the movies or TV or sports. As a teenager, I was really a sports fan. I went to Yankees games several times – not many, but several times. I even went to a Giants football game at a time when the stadium was two-thirds empty. Pro-football then was not what it is today. But nowadays, whether it’s – especially the smartphones, the media, the computers – children today are exposed to everything, and all the filters don’t help because young people know how to do with computers what their elders can’t even imagine. I remember a cartoon during the Clinton presidency, where Congress passed a law that TV is something which is in parents control to disable objectionable material, something like that, and the cartoon had a husband a wife in front of the TV and they say, “How can we shut that off and get the good stuff?” and the kid in pajamas at the top of the steps says, “You do…” and he tells them what to do. But young people today are subject to so many influences. It’s not only the things like the smartphones and the computers, but the general atmosphere of society is so different. I remember when I was a young child, ball players had – if they had press agents, if they could afford it – in those days, very few of them could – well for example, the highest paid ball player in the 60’s was Joe DiMaggio who got $100,000 a year. The owner of the Red Sox said, “Nobody is going to get paid higher than my star, Ted Williams,” so he paid him $125,000 a year. Today, a good batter gets $125,000 for hitting a double. The values were different. Even the immorality in the private lives of Hollywood was covered by press agents. Nobody bragged about it, they tried to cover it up, they tried to pretend they were good family people. Today, Clinton in the White House, Trump and his language and what he brags about - you reach a point today where the president says something and news media – radio, TV, the newspapers, magazines - have to debate: are they allowed to quote that word? That didn’t exist in the old days. So children are subject to so many attacks on their vulnerability because young people are vulnerable, they are growing up, the body is developing, the urges are developing, and society is feeding those urges. And for a kid to resist that, that is heroic. Nothing short of heroic. RDB: What advice would you give to teenagers nowadays? RNS: A couple of things: first of all – find someone, preferably more than one person,
that you can admire, that you can look to as a role model, someone that you can talk to. If you can find someone that you trust, that you can tell them what’s bothering you, what you’re finding hard to overcome and discuss it with an older person, with an adult, a sympathetic, wise person that can be the salvation for many, many things. Because teenagers feel and keep things bottled up because they feel it’s not right to talk about it. If it’s a parent, that’s wonderful, but most teenagers don’t feel free to talk to their parents about everything. It was always that way. That has not changed. Find some way to control yourself with the phone – texting…I read an article a couple of years ago that said that 40% of Modern Orthodox teenagers text on Shabbos. And there was a letter to the editor that said it’s not true, it’s not more than 25%. There’s a very powerful temptation to use the thing, to be on the phone. And you see kids in the roads walking and talking into the phone or typing. Try to control it. It’s not good. Not only that, it’s morally not good and it stunts your ability to think, it stunts your ability to measure your words. And avoid people - avoid friends who are going to lead you into things that deep down you don’t want to do. It’s very hard to say no to a friend you may become unpopular, and nothing is more important to a teenager than to be popular. I don’t say that to be critical – I was no different as a teenager - but have your values straight, and know what you want to become and what you don’t want to become and steer yourself in the right direction. It’s easy to give into your urges and temptations and have a lot of fun and whatnot. It’s like becoming a smoker. Because when you become a smoker, teenagers – always, historically - that was the symbol of being big, being an adult. You know, “I can smoke.” But once you become a smoker, you become addicted to it and eventually, when you get older, it’s going to affect your lungs, and your heart, and your general health. Teenagers think they’re indestructible. They can do anything. Once they get their driver’s license, they’re going 85 miles an hour without any hesitation. It’s hard, it’s hard, because a teenager is a teenager. I’m not critical of that, that’s a fact of life. But get your values straight, define what your goals are in life, and stick to them. And if it means losing a friend, so you lose a friend. You lose a friend, and you’re saving your life. RDB: Thank you so much. I guess we can end with one question. I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask, given your role in Artscroll, do you have a book – Artscroll or otherwise that you’d recommend a teenager to read to kind of learn about life, themselves, secular, Jewish, Artcroll, or otherwise? RNS: You caught me by surprise. I have to give that some thought. Maybe give me a call tomorrow.
Over the past 3 years, NCSY and Koren Publishers have been working to create the Koren NCSY siddur. Thanks to the generosity of the Rothner Family, the siddur is now a reality. Designed for teens, the full color siddur provides reflective questions, inspirational stories, learning and photographic commentary. The siddur is now available for purchase in stores and online. Below, the co-author of the siddur’s commentary, Debbie Stone, describes her experiences working on this exciting and most challenging project. I Don’t Belong Here The first time I drove a car I was fine. I was driving! And then, a moment of panic. A strong feeling hit me - “Who on earth are you kidding?” The little voice inside my head whispered, “You have no idea what you are doing. Every other driver is looking at you. They know you’re new and they know you have no idea what you’re doing. You can’t even park!” It was true. I couldn’t park. But it was also not true: I could drive. In fact, I was doing it without hurting anyone, albeit slower than most. The panicked feeling of “I am not supposed to be here” has a name. It is called imposter syndrome and is the fear that you are not qualified to do what you’re doing and being exposed as a fraud. Confronting Prayer’s Imposter Syndrome Through Writing a Siddur For the past 3 years, I had the incredible privilege and opportunity to co-author a commentary for the Koren NCSY Siddur. Even more than driving a car for the first time, working on such a monumental project - actually writing words that people would read when they daven - gave me strong
feelings of imposter syndrome. My three most prominent doubts were: Do my words have real value? Does anyone understand what I am trying to say? And is this project something I can actually achieve? While I felt this doubt in the process of writing a siddur, I soon realized that these feelings of inadequacy are mirrored in the experience of prayer itself. The challenge of the imposter syndrome is not dissimilar to some of the challenges we face in tefillah. The Magnitude of the Task: It Doesn’t Have to Be Perfect When we pray, sometimes there is a deep rooted sense of self-doubt. How can I stand in front of the Master of the Universe and speak my words? Is my prayer worthy of being heard by the Almighty? These are some of the self-conscience questions that arose as I wrote my commentary. When we begin to understand the purpose of tefillah and its power, it’s easy to instinctively panic and consider a real communication with God outside of our reach. Sometimes we are actually in the middle of prayer and we sneak a look at our fellow worshippers, looking at their
intensity and movements, suddenly feeling that I’m not really doing it right. I don’t have the right kavana. I don’t really understand what I am saying. This feeling of imposter syndrome in the world of tefillah is more common than we care to admit. But confronting this concern may be essential to developing a healthy relationship with prayer. Each and every tefillah cannot and need not be a perfectly crafted and profound moment of connection. It is simply not sustainable. In fact, the Jewish people operate with innate instinct for prayer. That instinct is not always polished but it is inside each of us and it is part of who we are as a nation. After the exodus from Egypt, Pharaoh had a change of heart and gathered his army to pursue the Jewish people. The people had camped by the sea and the Egyptian army approached them leaving them trapped with nowhere to escape. The Torah tells us, “Pharaoh approached and Bnei Yisrael raised their eyes and behold, Egypt was journeying after them, and they were very frightened. And the Bnei Yisrael cried out to Hashem” (Shemot 14:10). Rashi says that this means that “they grabbed onto the art SPRING 2018
of their forefathers”. The Maharal, in his commentary on Rashi, notes the interesting use of the word “art” to describe prayer. This art is not indicative of strong communicative or articulate prayers. Instead, the Jewish people instinctively cried out a primal scream that was the most basic expression of craft of the forefathers. We expect so much from ourselves in tefillah. We expect to say words and have intense kavana but tapping into the primal art form of tefillah, with our own style and artistic flair, is exactly what Bnei Yisrael at the Yam Suf taught us to do. There is no need for feelings of inadequacy, when you are drawing on the arts of the forefathers and realize that prayer is an essential and instinctive part of who we are. Loneliness: You Are Not Praying By Yourself One of the scariest parts of developing the siddur for me, were the moments when I felt like I was alone. I felt that I was trying to express something but no one understood what I was trying to say. Praying or trying to pray (with little success) by yourself, can be an incredibly difficult experience. When you feel that no one understands you and you are detached, the loneliness can be utterly overwhelming. Finding great prayer partners is one important way to address imposter syndrome. With a strong partner, a person feels less inclined to doubt their achievements and feels validated and understood. In working on this siddur, there were so many times when I doubted my qualifications to write the commentary. Who am I to write this idea, to connect this story, to suggest this photo? This self-doubt was really only soothed by the strength of the partnerships and supporting voices in the project. The collection of stories, questions, Torah ideas and pictures was an effort of many. So many supported, edited and suggested. It was with this medley of voices that the siddur felt like a joint achievement. And who am I to doubt such strong partners? When a person prays with others, even if he is saying his own prayer and using his own words, he has the strength of companionship and community. This is the concept of “tefillat be’tzibbur’ - the individual prayers of many said in the same place at the same time. R’ Yosef Dov Soloveitchik differentiates this from “tefillat ha’tzibbur,” the prayer of the community via the shaliach tzibbur (the leader). There is so much strength in praying with others. So much of the tefillah is in the plural and is designed to be said as a group. It is this group effort that makes it powerful. Each voice 40
forms part of the collective that makes the loneliest of prayers connect with community. Look Up: How Much Can You Achieve? For me, the most intense doubt that creates imposter syndrome is the voice that asks, “Isn’t this a bit of a reach for you? Surely you know this is beyond your capability!” When I was writing, I would often have this fear. In the most challenging moments, I would doubt that I was able to do this work at all. This voice of doubt is perhaps the most dangerous of all. This voice tells you that you are limited, you are small and you cannot grow. The voice of limitation inhibits us from making strides and achieving. We doubt that our prayers can achieve anything, we do not fully believe in our ability to make a difference with our words. Rav Chaim of Volozhin in his Nefesh Hachaim (1:4) cautions that a person should never say: ‘What am I? What power do I have to affect anything in the world with my lowly actions?’ Instead, he explains, it is our duty to recognize the epic potential within our actions. In Pirkei Avot (2:1), Chazal say, “Know what is above you.” Normally, this is interpreted as a reminder of God’s oversight above mankind. However, the Nefesh HaChaim explains that this does not just refer to the acknowledgement
that God is above you, but refers to you and your actions. “Know what is above you,” means that you need to be aware of the awesome possibilities your actions can cause. Potential is in everyone. The potential for the tefillah to be genuine and real is dependent on internalizing this sentence in Avo: “Know what is above you.” Know that your reach is high, your capacity is tremendous and that you can achieve greatness. Imposter Syndrome is the True Imposter These three doubts are the voices of imposter syndrome. They try to prevent us from achieving proper and real connection in tefillah. The truth is, we all have doubts and fears and when it comes to tefillah, we can sometimes become paralyzed by these fears. We let the fear of our prayer not being perfect stop us from saying the words at all. We let the concern that we are alone prohibit us from sharing our experience with others. We let the fear of inadequacy stop us from telling God all the things we hope and wish for. If we pause and realize that the fears and doubts we have about prayer are the only things holding us back, we might come to see that imposter syndrome is the true imposter.
More than eighty girls from nine different yeshiva day schools in the New York region participated in the first inter-school Girls Tefillah Yom Iyun this past February at OU/NCSY Headquarters in Manhattan. Students looking to grow in areas of tefillah were selected by their schools to represent their respective student bodies. The girls arrived for a full day of learning, networking, brainstorming and inspiration. The program kicked off with a shiur given by the OU’s Director of Women’s Initiatives, Rebbetzin Dr. Adina Shmidman. Rebbetzin Shmidman spoke to the group about growth mindset, types of tefillah and how to find meaning in regular daily prayer. “Having a metacognitive tefillah vocabulary helps students own their tefillah growth,” said Shmidman. “This NY NCSY Yom Iyun, in partnership with the Women’s Initiatives, helped students better understand their tefillah challenges and how to develop strategies to enhance their tefillah experience.” The girls learned in a peer-chabura, engaging with students from other schools and exploring their thoughts on tefillah. At the same time, faculty took the time to share ideas and brainstorm about tefillah education with one another, including discussions about its challenges and creative ideas for combatting them. The entire group traveled to the World Trade Center Memorial for an experiential session led by Dr. Rona Novick, Dean of Yeshiva University’s Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education & Administration. Dr
Novick invited students to reflect about the sanctity and potential inspiration in a space. The group returned to the OU for further reflection and sharing of ideas. The day concluded with choice sessions to prepare for a group mincha, including limmud Torah, inspirational stories, mindfulness, kumzitz singing
and self-reflection. “I want to express my hakarat hatov to the OU and NCSY for bringing together such an amazing group of women and educators,” said Novick. “They have given us the time and place to really think about sacred spaces and our sacred missions.”
Rebbetzin Dr. Adina Shmidman, newly appoimted director of the Orthodox Union’s Department of Women’s Initiatives, speaks to the girls at the Yom Iyun.
Dr. Rona Novick, Dean of Yeshiva University’s Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education & Administration, speaks to high school educators about prayer and best practices. SPRING 2018
BY: MALKA LEVITANSKY
What happens when you take 45 Jewish teens from public schools across Chicagoland – many of whom never heard of NCSY – and fly them to the country’s largest Jewish community for five days of adventure, social action and Jewish inspiration? A lot more good than we ever thought possible. Last February, Midwest NCSY ran Big Apple Adventure as part of Springboard, a program of JUF/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago and the Jim Joseph Foundation that offers spring break programs to local Jewish teens to increase Jewish engagement. Big Apple Adventure, a five-day trip held over Presidents Day Weekend, combined sightseeing, volunteering, and celebrating a traditional Shabbat in New York. Many of the activities were in keeping with the trip’s theme, “Be a Hero,” with the teens exploring Judaism’s take on heroism through education and hands-on experiences. Lizzie Doman, a freshman at Glenbrook North High School, said she decided to go on Big Apple Adventure because it sounded like fun and her friends were going. Her favorite part? “It’s hard to pick because the trip was full of exciting things to do,” says Lizzie, who mentions visiting Times Square, eating “delicious New York pizza,” and packing clothes at Yad Leah for poor families in Israel, as trip highlights. For Seth Flynn, a freshman at Oak Park and River Forest High School, Shabbat was one of the best parts of the trip, with an “amazing” prayer service, lots of good food, and a “beautiful” and “high energy” Havdalah. He said he also enjoyed Shabbat guest speaker Mr. Jamie Lassner, a volunteer EMT and first 42
responder at 9/11. “He was incredibly inspirational,” says Seth. “We then split into different small groups and got to talk about what it means to be a hero and how we can all be one.” Sammy Schwartz, a sophomore at Niles North High School, said he too enjoyed Shabbat, adding that while it was different than how he typically spends Shabbat, it was “meaningful and memorable.” Most of all, Sammy said, he appreciated the opportunity to make so many Jewish friends. “I came on the trip knowing no one, but I left with a multitude of new, close friends whom I’m still keeping in touch with,” he says. “And it showed me that Jewish people are always connected, regardless of their backgrounds or beliefs.” While Midwest NCSY has offered smaller-scale trips like these for public school teens in its Jewish Student Union (JSU) clubs for several years, this was the first time the program had the support and backing of local and national funders. “Being able to partner with the Federation and the Jim Joseph Foundation proved to be incredibly valuable to us, and to the success of the trip,” says Chicagoland NCSY Director Levi Zeffren, who ran Big Apple Adventure. “Not only did we receive funding, training, and guidance, but we were also able to reach a whole new audience of teens and give them the chance to experience Jewish New York – and what it means to be a Jew – in a meaningful, relatable way.” “My Jewish ties have been strengthened without a doubt, and it was meaningful to [see Judaism] with
a fresh set of eyes and new concepts,” said Lizzie Doman. “I feel it really brought me closer to who I am as a person and the potential I hold.” If there was any indication that the trip succeeded beyond expectations, it came this November when Midwest NCSY, in addition to launching a second year of Big Apple Adventure, introduced Hollywood Adventure, a new five-day trip to Los Angeles featuring visits to tourist attractions and the opportunity to meet Hollywood personalities who have succeeded in their careers without compromising their Jewish values. “Within days of opening the trip, we were inundated with applications from Jewish teens throughout Chicagoland, of all backgrounds, and from all youth groups,” says Levi Zeffren. “But what was most rewarding was that 22 of the original 45 teens from Big Apple Adventure were among the first to sign up.” What is Midwest NCSY planning to do next year? Levi Zeffren says that while it’s unclear how many trips the region will run in 2019 – there’s even been talk of taking the teens to Israel – one thing is certain: the program has helped Midwest NCSY reach more teens from more diverse backgrounds and locations than ever before, and its staff plans to build upon those relationships in any way it can. “This is just the beginning,” he says. “There are thousands of teens out there who haven’t yet had the chance to experience Judaism in a way that makes them want to make it a part of everyday life. But that’s what NCSY is all about. And with this program, we’re going to do our best to give that experience to as many teens as we can.”
HAPPENINGS FROM AROUND THE NCSY UNIVERSE
much more. Each volunteering event is accompanied by an educational program geared towards the event for example, elderly abuse.
Rabbi Jonah Lerner, Regional Director 410.358.6279 // email@example.com atlanticseaboard.ncsy.org
Greater Washington, MD
HAMILTON HEBREW HIGH
Rabbi Josh Stein -firstname.lastname@example.org
Rabbi Yudi Riesel - email@example.com
BEN CARDIN SCHOLARS PROGRAM The 2018 Ben Cardin Scholars Program has over 50 participants this year with teens from 10 different schools from all across Baltimore! Teens learn different Jewish leadership topics each week with mentors from the community, followed by a speech from different Jewish leaders in the community on that night’s topic. The program culminates with a lobbying mission to Capitol Hill in April. The first session was about judging others, with a speech from Judge Chaya Friedman, and kicked off the program in amazing fashion!
Philadelphia, PA Rabbi Yitz Levi - firstname.lastname@example.org Lea Bekhar - email@example.com
KOHELET YESHIVA HIGH SCHOOL INVITES NCSY TO TEACH TEFILLAH This year, Kohelet Yeshiva HS invited NCSY in to the school to help with their tefillah curriculum. This is one of the many partnerships between the school and NCSY. We are looking forward to many more opportunities to work with the school and continue this great relationship.
BEN CARDIN IN CHERRY HILL The Ben Cardin program in Cherry Hill has officially started and keeps on growing! Our 15 teens enjoy coming to learn about compelling Jewish topics and the importance of serving in our community. Their favorite part is hearing from the influential leaders in the fields of law, finance, government, medicine, and more, who come to speak and share their personal experiences of being a Torah observant Jew in their respective fields.
Hamilton Hebrew High, the after-school Judaic studies program through which Hamiltonian teens can earn Ontario Secondary School credits, has reopened its doors this year after a fresh “kippah-toboots” remodeling. HHH offers a variety of courses that encourage Jewish students of all backgrounds to engage in explorations of self, community, and life. Over the weekend of Nov 3, HHH students attended an exploratory education Shabbaton in Niagara Falls in conjunction with NCSY Canada. More than 200 Jewish teenagers from Hamilton, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal joined together to make the event a spectacular success. Students have enjoyed supplementary programming such as TGIFriday Night @ the Weisbrods, Latte & Learn at Second Cup Westdale, and numerous other holiday parties.
Montreal, QC Mindy Zobin - firstname.lastname@example.org
NCSYERS JUMPS FOR THE FIRST TIME
For the very first time, a JUMP (Jewish Unity Mentoring Program) team has been formed at Montreal’s Hebrew Academy! JUMP is a program that offers high school students the opportunity to make positive changes in their schools and communities.Thirty students showed up to hear NCSY advisor Danielle Rohr and Rabbi Eddie Shostak, Head of Judaic Studies Dept & Dean of Jewish Life at the Hebrew Academy of Montreal, about this special opportunity. The new team of 9 students came back eager from the NY for the JUMP conference, and have been brainstorming on their special initiatives for Tefillah and Kiruv. This team is going to go far!
OTTAWA CHANUKAH CELEBRATION IS A TRIUMPH NCSY Ottawa made a tour of local public high schools over Chanukah, sharing the story of Jewish triumph over the Greek persecution of our culture. Dozens of teens turned out for lively discussions about the holiday and enjoyed making Jelly donuts (sufganiyot) and eating latkes.
Toronto, ON Rabbi Gavry Mandel -email@example.com
ARCHAEOLOGY AND TORAH SEMINAR FASCINATES TORAH HIGH STUDENTS On November 9, Torah High students had the honour of hearing from David Willner, Co-Director of Foundation Stone.Arriving at Torah High straight off the plane from his home in Israel, Mr. Willner spoke to our students about Torah and Archaeology. Students studied maps of Israel and digital prints of artifacts, which are now located in the Israel museum. A highlight of the evening was learning about the origins of modern Hebrew letters in comparison with those found on artifacts in Israel. Teachers and students alike were left with a deeper understanding of archaeology, only scratching the surface of a topic to which many have not been exposed.
Vancouver, British Columbia Ariel Wilchfort -firstname.lastname@example.org
VANCOUVER TORAH HIGH WARMS UP THE HOMELESS Vancouver Torah High students spent a special evening helping the homeless by giving them toasty baked potatoes and new socks to stave off the Canadian cold. Very heartwarming!
Richmond, VA Ariella Sherman -email@example.com
TRIP Teen Richmond Israel Program (TRIP) is a three-part series explaining how Israel became a state, why we should care, and how we can help. We had over 20 teens attend.
CANADA Rabbi Glenn Black, CEO 905.761.6279 // firstname.lastname@example.org canada.ncsy.org
Calgary, CA LIVE2GIVE Uplifting performances by teens for seniors on Chanukah. Live2give is a monthly volunteering/ Educational program with JFS Calgary. We volunteer at feeding homeless, women shelters, clothing sorts, and 44
Vancouver NCSY teens bring out Shabbat with a ruach-filled havdalah at the annual Whistler Shabbaton this past January.
CENTRAL EAST Rabbi Tzali Freedman, Regional Director 888.471.4514 // email@example.com centraleast.ncsy.org
Cleveland, OH Rabbi Arieh Friedner - firstname.lastname@example.org
RECORD NUMBER OF TEENS SUMMER PROGRAMS
In the summer of 2018, NCSY hope to send 1,500 teens on Summer Programs from across America, Canada and Chile - to an array of amazing trips in Israel and Europe. This past summer, Cleveland set a new record of teens having a life changing experience with 39 Jewish teens! These teens from 9 different schools in Cleveland are highlighted by more than a dozen going on TJJ and half dozen going on TJJ Ambassadors Poland!
Columbus, OH Rabbi Dovid Kimche - email@example.com
COLUMBUS NCSY COOKS KOSHER HOSPITAL MEALS Columbus NCSY teamed up with international Chessed organization GIFT, and spent a Sunday morning giving back to the community. Over 30 teens came together to cook kosher meals for Jewish patients in local hospitals. Some teens learned how to cook, and some found out that they didn’t quite know how to cook! Over 300 hundred units of food were made and incredible fun was had by all!
Detroit, MI Rabbi Dovid Lichtig - firstname.lastname@example.org
DETROIT CITY SHABBATON ATTRACTS OVER 70 TEENS In what has become a fixture in the teen calendar across Metro Detroit, the Detroit City Shabbaton hosted over 70 teens from across the spectrum of schools on December 9th. Teens from Berkley High, Bloomfield Hills High, the Frankel Jewish Academy and Farber Hebrew Day School came together for a weekend of fun and inspiration complete with acclaimed speakers and fantastic activities. Advisors flown in from New York and five star catered food completed the star studded line up.
Pittsburgh, PA Rabbi Chaim Strassman - email@example.com
JUNIOR & SENIOR NCSY SNOW-TUBING
Junior and Senior NCSYers hit the slopes for an afternoon of awesome snow tubing! It was a great way to get excited ahead of the Jr Shabbaton!
GREATER ATLANTA Rabbi Chaim Neiditch, Regional Director 404.486.8787 // firstname.lastname@example.org atlanta.ncsy.org
Dunwoody, GA THE LIGHT OF 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, Rabbi Neiditch also relayed and reviewed the special laws of lighting the menorah. Each teen was given a free box of colored Chanukah candles and a free wooden menorah to decorate and personalize. Many teens reported including their families in home menorah lightings, some for the first time.
warmed by the Torah learning and unity.
South Bend, IN Akiva Gutnicki - email@example.com
SOUTH BEND NCSY SHABBAT SHABANG South Bend NCSY has brought Shabbat Shabang to the community this year. It has been met with excitement and rave reviews. The combination of having great advisors, fun outings, and Ruach has been growing each month.Many teenagers attend the monthly Shabbat Shabang and it has brought South Bend NCSY to a new level bringing a sense of family.
MIDWEST Rabbi Donny Schwartz, Regional Director 847.677.6279 // firstname.lastname@example.org midwest.ncsy.org
Chicago, IL Levi Zeffren - email@example.com See story on page 42.
MIDWEST NCSY’S 4G SHABBATON- A GOLDEN SUCCESS 106 frum NCSY 4G girls plus their advisors and staff gathered together at Midwest NCSY’s 4th annual 4G Shabbaton in early December in Northbrook, IL. Girls from Chicago were joined by girls from South Bend, Indiana, Memphis, Tennessee, and even Des Moines, Iowa! The girls were encouraged to “Go for the Gold” and push themselves in order to be the best they can be. 4G runs many smaller-scale programs throughout the year, but because of the success of the annual 4G shabbaton, a second Shabbaton will be held shortly after Pesach.
Kansas City, KS Rachel Prero - firstname.lastname@example.org
Ten Kansas City teens completed an eight-week course about Israel’s history and it’s complex relationship with their Palestinian neighbors and surrounding Arab countries. The teens were fully engaged during classes and asked excellent questions. As the weeks went on, teens paid more attention to Israel in the media and brought up current events during class. As the final piece of the program, the teens look forward to meeting with Senator Jerry Moran.
Memphis, TN Daniel Epstein - email@example.com
PAINT NIGHT IN MEMPHIS The girls of Memphis NCSY had a Sunday night Paint Night event, given by their very own Chapter Board CoPresident, Yehudit Fleishhacker. The girls enjoyed a night of art, refreshments, and time with their advisor.
NEW ENGLAND Rabbi Simon Taylor, Regional Director 617.332.6279 // firstname.lastname@example.org
Boston, MA Hodaya Blau - email@example.com
NEW TO BOSTON: NCSY JUMP! Boston NCSY’s brand new JUMP teams at Maimonides School and Gann Academy have been off to a great start! Both teams are working with shuls and organizations in the Greater Boston community to host a truly special event. JUMP is another example of the great partnership NCSY has with both of these schools, where there are weekly NCSY club meetings, chaburahs, and much more.
REVAMPED AND ADVANCED NEWTON NORTH JSU CLUB Newton North JSU club has been tackling some hard issues - from teen mental health, to Israeli policy. Students have been coming together each week for an hour (and sometimes more!) after school for an interactive shiur to discuss and debate some of today’s most pressing issues along. Everyone is excited to see what these motivated teens do next!
Providence, RI Shira Krinsky
YACHAD JOINS NCSY FOR CHAPTER SHABBATON Providence NCSY was proud to work with New England Yachad for a co-hosted Roadshow! The greater Providence community opened their homes to Yachad participants and advisors who joined the NCSYers and advisors for an amazing program. Shabbos included epic ruach, exciting games, interesting discussions, and a fun ice cream and waffle bar party on Motzei Shabbos. NCSY and Yachad had an amazing time together piloting this new model of local programming, and everyone is excited to see similar opportunities in other chapters across the region!
Rabbi Tzvi Kupfer and Mindy Daitchman - firstname.lastname@example.org
NEARLY 30 MINNEAPOLIS TEENS JOIN FOR SUSHI IN THE SUKKAH
Yaakov Faratci - email@example.com
Close to 30 teens braved the sub zero temperatures and visited the Kupfer sukkah for delicious sushi and an inspirational discussion with a guest speaker. For many teens this was their 1st time in a sukkah ,which made the evening that much more special. Teens learned about the beauty of the yom tov and were
In a community with many teens from different schools who spend most of the week at a big distance, NCSY is a source of bringing together Jews who normally would be strangers but have the opportunity to form genuine friendships. Partnering with Congregation Agudath Sholom, we had a wild time at an arcade,
NCSY LASER TAG BONANZA
NEW JERSEY Rabbi Ethan Katz, Regional Director 201.862.0250 // firstname.lastname@example.org newjersey.ncsy.org
East Brunswick, NJ TJJ REUNION SHABBATON
New Jersey’s TJJ Bus 6 got together for a Shabbos at the Torah Links shul in East Brunswick, NJ. 25 teens and staff came together to reminisce about their summer together, think about how they’ve grown since, and plan together for the future. While the TJJ teens have been to many other shabbatons and conventions, the intimate weekend with their bus was a special experience.
Metrowest, NJ JOINT SHABBAT ONEGS
In an effort to grow the NCSY oneg, Metro West NCSY partnered with local shul youth directors, Josh and Naama Gurin of Suburban Torah Center, to attract the local shul teens to onegs as well. The effort was worth it as between 20-30 public school and private school teens have gathered twice a month since the beginning of the school year to celebrate with an oneg shabbos.
Teaneck, NJ Rabbi Reuven Lebovitz - email@example.com
This year Teaneck NCSY launched two exciting new programs: Friday Night Lights and NCSY 4G. Teaneck NCSY launched a new initiative for Yeshiva Day School teens in Bergen County. Teens get the opportunity to be role models for JSU teens. These unique group of teens attend JSU programs and monthly Shabbat dinners. Some members of the Mashpia program even invite JSU teens to their own home for Shabbat meals. This program has been a smashing success and allows both JSU and Yeshiva teens to grow in their Judaism.
NEW YORK Rina Emerson, CEO 646.459.5149 // firstname.lastname@example.org newyork.ncsy.org
Brooklyn, NY Nechama Kamelhar - email@example.com Rabbi Moish Zucker - firstname.lastname@example.org
BROOKLYN NCSY TAKES ON THE SHABBOS PROJECT!
Over 60 Brooklyn NCSY teens participated in the Shabbos Project. Friday night Parshas Lech Lecha, over 60 teens joined NCSY staff in Brooklyn for a Shabbos meal they wouldn’t forget. Chaim Deutsch and Rabbi Steven Burg both gave them inspiring words of Torah. Afterwards, a world renowned illusionist performed and had them sitting at the edge of their chairs. The teens all left eager to return to further programming with NCSY.
Five Towns, NY Yossi Schwartz- email@example.com
SOUTHERN The Bostener Rebbe flew in from Yerushalayim to address the TJJ Alumni, the Rebbe spoke about the importance of Torah learning. The Rebbe finished off by teaching us his song and leading us in a dance!
TJJ FOR MOMS
Over 60 people came to hear Rav Gav Friedman speak about having an attitude of gratitude at the home of Ezra and Limor Karako in Hewlett Harbor this past November. Limor was a participant on NY NCSY’s first TJJ for moms trip. NY NCSY partnered with JWRP to empower women to change the world through Jewish values. TJJ for Moms gives NCSY the ability to incorporate teens and moms in the growth that they experience on TJJ. The event was a tremendous success with many attendees registering their teens for NCSYs summer programs and year round programming.
Boca Raton, FL
Great Neck, NY Jon Zar - firstname.lastname@example.org
TU BISHVAT WITH GREAT NECK NCSY Great Neck had a Tu Bishvat seminar club-wide that discussed environmental importance and seeing G-d through the natural world. They did a dried fruit tasting and learned how to check dried fruit for bugs.
Rabbi Eli Zians - email@example.com South Palm Beach Director
ROOTS Under the guidance of R’ Eli Zians,the NCSY Boca Raton Chapter has launched ROOTS, a bi-weekly visit to a local old age home in Boca Raton. The program consists of students coming consistently to share their experiences, build a relationship, as well as learn with and from the residents. There is a weekly Shabbat prayer service that the NCSYers help run, as they sing with and spread joy to all those around them. The bonds and relationships that have been created will ensure the fluid transition of the generations for many years to come. The program is climaxing towards the end of the year with a video where the students interview the residents about their life and share how much they have gained from one another.
Coral Springs, FL
Shmuel Barak - firstname.lastname@example.org
TJJ BIRTHDAY PARTY
Rockland County, NY
On December 5th we threw an awesome TJJ open house at our Coral Springs Latte and Learn. Not only was this one of the first times in NCSY history that Coral Springs has had a latte and learn, but this was the first time 25 NCSYers attended. The goal of the open house was to sign up a teen or two for TJJ. One of the potential teens also happened to be celebrating her birthday that day. This teen wanted to go on TJJ so badly that she asked her mother and father if she would be able to go on TJJ as a birthday present. Her parents quickly said yes which caused a domino effect and caused three other teens to instantly register that night with their parents permission.
FNL IN ROCKLAND NCSY
Rockland NCSYers, advisors, and staff joined in New Hempstead in December for the chapter’s first ever FNL experience. The night was full of delicious homecooked food, great friends, a Jewish “Would You Rather” face-off, uplifting Torah learning, singing, and more. A second FNL held in Forshay/Wesley Hills in February recreated that family feel of a chapter Shabbos spent together. Rockland teens are excited to keep the FNL program running strong as it continues to grow throughout the course of the year.
Jason Segelbaum- email@example.com
Queens NCSY had its first Shabbaton of the year at Congregation Etz Chaim. The NCSYers enjoyed eating great food, playing fun games, but most importantly sharing meaningful Divrei Torah. From the ruachfilled Kabalas Shabbos to Ebbing and the classic NCSY Havdalah, the NCSYers, advisors, and even shul congregants had a truly inspiring Shabbos. After Havdalah, everyone was singing “Six more days till Shabbos,” but many couldn’t help but wonder, “How many more days until the next Shabbaton?”
See mini story SOUTHERN Todd Cohn, Executive Director 1-866-887-5788 // firstname.lastname@example.org
EMTZA WINTER NCSY SHABBATON - ALL MIDDLE SCHOOL ALL THE TIME
Beginning of December in South Florida means many things to many people. To NCSY it means a huge Winter Shabbaton for Middle Schoolers at Boca Raton Synagogue. Whether it was learning together, eating together, or davening together the participants had a incredible time. After Shabbos a trip to Skyzone where the students were able to show off their acrobatic skills was the right way to finish up an awesome event.
Hollywood, FL Eli Albert - email@example.com
BBQ WITH FIREFIGHTERS AND POLICE OFFICERS Hollywood’s chesed event was LIT this year as we had over 15 firefighters come to a local Hollywood park for an outdoor barbecue! NCSYers along with the inspiring firefighters got together for amazing activities and amazing food! From teaching these firefighters new Hebrew and Jewish phrases to making colorful friendship bracelets, Hollywood definitely hosted an unforgettable event!
BREAKING RECORDS IN HOLLYWOOD
Hollywood broke records with over 100 teens showing up to a single Latte and Learning! Latte and Learning is a weekly event located in the kosher Dunkin Donuts in Hollywood,where students can go to eat donuts,drink coffee, and hear words of Torah from the Hollywood Chapter Board. Hollywood Latte and Learning is also know to bring guest speakers from various organizations such as Stand With Us.
Jacksonville, FL AY Cohen - firstname.lastname@example.org
Miami Beach, FL Adir Shimon - email@example.com
MIAMI BEACH BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT Miami Beach NCSY recently hosted a fun-filled basketball tournament as a community event. Over 10 teams comprised of teens from various different backgrounds and schools throughout the local area came together at the Hebrew Academy Gymnasium in Miami Beach for a 3-on-3 tournament and 3-point shooting contest. The event attracted more than 15 new teens to NCSY. Participants saw that not only does NCSY promote Jewish social gatherings for teens in the Miami Beach area, but that physical fitness and taking care of one’s body is a great mitzvah too!
Orlando, FL ONE DAY STARTS TODAY
A student named Sami Kuperberg was a victim of anti Semitism at her school- Oviedo High school. In response to this JSU helped Sami bring in 2 holocaust survivors to her school on Monday December 11th, to spread awareness about what anti Semitism can lead to. A common theme throughout the evening was that one day we can live in a world with no barriers between people, but our efforts must start today. 600 people attended! The event also made it to the local news, and mentions Jsu being behind the program.
Palm Beach, FL FIRST SOCIAL KICKOFF EVENT 30 teens from various JSU clubs in North Palm Beach county came together for a beach BBQ social event the 1st of it’s kind in the community. It was a fantastic success with teens playing bonding/communication games like sandcastle city-building competition and ultimate Frisbee. It led to an easy transition into the following (first of the year) JSU Friday night dinner which had 44 teens from public schools register with minimal recruiting.
Savannah, GA Rabbi Eli Lob - firstname.lastname@example.org
THE GREATER SOUTH IS BURSTING WITH SHABBATONS Savannah middle schoolers and teens are having a great time bonding with neighboring Chapters such as Jacksonville and Charleston through enjoying numerous Shabbatons together. Savannah has already hosted 3 inter-Chapter Shabbatons this year, with more brewing on the horizon. Savannah NCSYers will be heading south for a Shabbaton in Jacksonville soon, and North for a Sunday get-together in Charleston together with Myrtle Beach NCSYers. Savannah teens have also been reaching out to teens in other budding Chapters across the Greater South, with the goal to assist in creating and boosting more and more Chapters.
Daniel Nabatian - email@example.com
SOUTHERN NCSY GAP YEAR WEEKEND Southern TJJ hosted a Gap Year Shabbaton in Orlando Florida. 33 public high school teens joined us for Shabbas. The teens learned all about the concept of gap year and strategies for a successful gap year. We stayed in luxury villas for Shabbat and headed to Downtown Disney on Saturday night. Before heading back on Sunday we stopped by Orlando TreeTrek to tackled one of the biggest ropes course in South Florida!
SOUTHWEST Rabbi Gershon Meisel, Regional Director 972.934.9143 // firstname.lastname@example.org southwest.ncsy.org
Dallas, TX Rabbi Michel Lomner - email@example.com
DALLAS NCSY ESCAPES THE ROOM Over 25 Dallas NCSYers enjoyed a Shabbat Shebang at Rabbi Lomner’s house filled with4ee inspiration and great food. After a riveting ebbing and emotional havdalah, the excited teens enjoyed the challenging escape rooms in Plano, TX.
Denver, CO Yisrael Katz - firstname.lastname@example.org
DENVER NCSY GROWING AT A RAPID PACE Within the first seven months of it’s existence, Denver NCSY has grown at a rapid pace. Starting with 40 NCSYers in August, Denver NCSY has added over 100 teens and many more programs. Along with the two Latte N’ Learnings a week, Denver NCSY has added a bi-weekly Beit Midrash night, a once a month Melva Malka, two Shabbat ShaBangs every month, and much more! Additionally, after sending 53 NCSYers to the Southwest NCSY Winter Regional Shabbaton,
NJ NCSY LEADERSHIP RETREAT
NCSY prides itself in unlocking teens inner strengths and leadership qualities. There is no program that achieves these goals more than our Leadership Training Retreat. This year, nearly 50 teens from various chapters within NJ NCSY embarked on a 24 hour all-inclusive, leadership building and character development retreat at Kirkwood Campgrounds in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. The teens were removed from of their comfort zone by sleeping in tents in the woods and preparing their own meals. Furthermore, they were involved in collaborative teamwork activities such as, canoeing, where teens debriefed their successes and failures and how that relates to being leaders among the Jewish people. In such a short period, teens felt empowered and were able to tap into their inner leadership qualities. SPRING 2018
HOUSTON BEGINS NEW PARENT/TEEN BETH MIDRASH NIGHT
Rabbi Gershon Meisel, Regional Director 972.934.9143 // email@example.com southwest.ncsy.org
Dallas, TX Rabbi Michel Lomner - firstname.lastname@example.org
DALLAS JUNIOR NCSY TAKES SHAARE TEFILLA Over 40 middle schoolers joined for a wonderful Shabbaton at congregation Shaare Tefilla in Dallas.
Denver, CO Yisrael Katz - email@example.com
DENVER NCSY CONTINUES TO IMPACT OUR FUTURE
We are extremely excited that within the first sixmonths of Denver NCSY 17-18 year, we have reached and impacted more teens than that of our past twelve months! Our Shabbat Shebang Shabbaton proved that our first six-months have been a success with 60 NCSYers attending an inspirational and fun-filled Shabbos experience. In addition, we have 14 NCSYers registered for NCSY Summer Programs, ready to take the next step in their Judaism. We look forward to continuing our growth for years to come.
Houston, TX Samy Soussan - firstname.lastname@example.org
Rabbi Aharoni Carmel head of school at Robert M Beren Academy in Houston, learning together with Shaked Carmel at Houston NCSY’s Parent and teen Beth Midrash Night.
SNOW TUBING! The Albany chapter went snow tubing on a Saturday night, following an incredible chapter Shabbaton. Over forty people filled a bus to West Mountain, and enjoyed hanging out as they went up and down the mountain. They even got to enjoy some hot cocoa with marshmallows as they came in from the cold!
HOUSTON BETH MIDRASH Houston NCSY began a new education project aimed at allowing teens to study bi-weekly in an open beit midrash environment. The program allows the teens to explore new areas of Torah that they would like to learn about. The teens meet in a local shul and are either paired with a chavruta, learn with a friend or an advisor on the phone, or even just pick up a book and learn. The atmosphere allows teens to gain a deeper appreciation and and be impacted while making it their own personal Torah! The program has attracted over 200 teens since the beginning and averages between 20 to 25 teens at each program.
San Antonio, TX
Rachel Hoffman - email@example.com
Asher Gluck - firstname.lastname@example.org
NCSY SAN ANTONIO COMING ALIVE NCSY San Antonio has come alive, and is creating a buzz throughout the city. Jewish teens are starting to feel part of a community, reigniting their Jewish pride, and having a blast together. Some of the events held this year have included: Corn Maze, Fall Regional in Denver, Paintball, Spurs game, Sisters Sesh (Classes for girls), Beit Medrash Torah Chill (for boys), Super Bowl Party, and a Shabbat Shebang. Events are averaging over 20 teens per event.
Devora Weinstock - email@example.com
ROCKING WINTER REGIONAL
Buffalo NCSY had an awesome winter event with a night out at laser tag! Teens came out for this teen-run event featuring snacks, an epic laser tag tournament and great chapter pride. Buffalo had it’s largest group ever at Winter Regional in Hartford, even though they had the longest trip!
Junior NCSY in Rochester is really rocking! At the Winter Chapter Shabbaton, chapter board members organized tefillah workshops and a Shabbaton afternoon hangout for Junior NCSYers. They also had the chance to join an inter-regional Shabbaton with Canada & Central East NCSY in Ohio!
WEST COAST Rabbi Derek Gormin, Regional Director 310.229.9000 // firstname.lastname@example.org westcoast.ncsy.org
UPSTATE NEW YORK
Los Angeles, CA
Devora Weinstock, Regional Coordinator 646.459.5175 // email@example.com upstate.ncsy.org
FIRST JWRP TRIP
Albany, NY Jeanette Goldstein - firstname.lastname@example.org
Yosef Miller - email@example.com
LA Valley NCSY went on West Coast NCSY’s first JWRP trip! 10 women joined the Israel trip experiencing the culture, learning and being inspired! Lifelong
friendships and increasing commitment to personal growth in Torah where created on this trip.
YUM VALLEY LATKAS AND LEARNING LA Valley held its own Girls Program for Hanukah named Latkes and Learning! It was a super powerful program, the teens learned about Yehudis and the power of a Woman. There were yummy latkes, donuts, and a good ol’ fashioned dreidel competition.
BRAND NEW CHAPTER LAUNCHES IN SILICON VALLEY LA Valley held its own Girls Program for Hanukah named Latkes and Learning! It was a super powerful program, the teens learned about Yehudis and the power of a Woman. There were yummy latkes, donuts, and a good ol’ fashioned dreidel competition.
THIRD BIRTHRIGHT ISRAEL FREE SPIRIT WORKING WITH WEST COAST NCSY CONNECT Birthright Israel Free Spirit working with West Coast NCSY Connect embarked on the third trip to Israel implementing life changing Jewish experiences to inspire. During the 10 days the participants were enthralled by Israeli culture, absorbed by Jewish history, captivated by the locals, and overwhelmed by emotion. They left with an increased sense of connectedness to Jewish heritage, unexpected friendships, a wealth of new knowledge, and an intense desire to return.
Norcal, CA Rabbi Akiva Naiman - firstname.lastname@example.org
AMERICAN NINJEW WARRIOR SHABBATON The NorCal chapter had an inspiring Shabbaton in Berkeley learning what it means to be a “Jewish Warrior,” followed by a Saturday night activity challenging our inner physical warrior. We were joined by 35 amazing teens and 5 of our fantastic advisors!
SAN FRANCISCO FNL 38 NorCal teens spent an amazing Shabbos in San Francisco at Congregation Chevre Thillim followed by some bouncing fun at House of Air!
AMAZING OC CHAPTER GROWTH! The teens are proudly celebrating the tremendous growth of the Orange County NCSY chapter this year. Four new JSU clubs weekly are reaching out to public high school teens on campus, and weekly Latte and Learning nights have been well attended. The chapter has grown with more than 80 public school teens!
Las Vegas, NV Rabbi Yehuda Maryles - email@example.com
THE LAUNCH OF NCSY 4G IN VEGAS Las Vegas NCSY is excited to have launched NCSY 4G, a new all female program. The program included over twenty public girls who participated in a challah bake, followed by a shabbaton at the Mitzmann home and concluded with a relaxing spa night.
Shmuli Josephson - firstname.lastname@example.org
THE UNSTOPPABLE ARIZONA CHAPTER! Arizona NCSY has grown over the past six months establishing two new JSU clubs, bringing the total of JSU clubs to 11 campuses weekly. The impact these clubs are having is evident by the 20+ teens heading to Israel for the summer with NCSY! Many Arizona leadership teens from the 2018 graduating class are heading to Israel for a gap year. They made this decision after having fallen in love with the land of Israel through NCSY summer programs.
reaching out to public school teens with nine JSU clubs weekly on high school campuses.
Carol Mirkin - Mirkinc@ncsy.org
TUBING WITH SEATTLE NCSYERS!
Seattle Chapter hosted a Shabbaton including Portland, Arizona, and Orange County NCSYers had the best time bonding over Shabbat, and snow tubing at Snoqualmie Saturday night, and creating an atmosphere of excitement to take back to their home chapters. The Seattle Chapter is successfully running and reaching out to public school teens with seven JSU clubs weekly on high school campuses.
CHILE Michael Bengio, Regional Director 011.56.99.186.5575 // email@example.com chile.ncsy.org
Santiago, Chile Alan Geni - firstname.lastname@example.org
2017 is in the books now, and what better way to end it than a spectacular New York City trip with 16 of our most distinguished 12th graders. It all began with a few days of fun in the Brooklyn/Manhattan area, followed by NCSY’s best Shabbaton ever: Yarchei Kallah 2017. After that, Chile wasn’t ready to leave the party so we stayed a couple more days touring in New York. It was absolutely phenomenal.
In March, we are going to start our new school year with our traditional “all you can eat Pizza & Sushi.” We are expecting to welcome more than 200 students, including the new 9th graders who are about to begin their 4 year journey with us, full of learning, experiences and amazing trips! We can’t wait to meet all of them! There is no doubt that 2018 will be beyond amazing, full of inspiration and unforgettable experiences!
ISRAEL Rabbi Yosef Ginsberg 054-9538225 // email@example.com Rabbi Michael Kahn 052-5085091 // firstname.lastname@example.org israel.ncsy.org
GEVURAH SHABBATON IN MODIIN 45 NCSYers and Advisors came together for the NCSY Israel Gevurah Shabbaton in Modiin, highlighting the strength of the Jewish nation. The Shabbaton took place where the Chanukah story all began, we were excited to greet Chanukah together that Motzei Shabbat.
NATIONAL Eleven Broadway, 13th Fl New York, NY 10004 212.613.8233 // email@example.com ncsy.org
Portland, OR Doovie Jacoby - Doovie@ncsy.org
“WHAT YOUR TEENAGE DAUGHTER WISHED YOU KNEW”
Thanks to the generosity of Women Making a Difference in Portland, the “What Your Teenage Daughter Wished You Knew” course was a tremendous success. Though grounded in practical skills and techniques, this class was not only educational, but a source of much needed support for parents, and an incredible exercise in community-building. The Oregon Chapter is successfully running and
Teens of the new Silicone Valley NCSY Chapter.
THE NCSY BENCHER APP Dedicated in loving memory of Sami & Charlotte Rohr z"l by George and Pamela Rohr.
With over 100 recorded versions of your favorite Jewish songs for Shabbos, Yom Tov and the rest of the year. Music produced and recorded by Aryeh Kunstler
FREE DOWNLOAD AVAILABLE TODAY NCSY is the international youth movement of the OU.
BY RABBI MOSHE BENOVITZ
Who is buried in Grant’s Tomb? What color was Washington’s white horse? (In our family lore, there is a special place for the director of the father-daughter learning sessions we attended some 15 years ago. He always welcomed my then 4 year old at sign-in by asking, “Atara, what’s your name?”) So in a season of questions and answers, and in the spirit of some of the absurdly easy ones quoted above, let’s try another: What is a youth group? Doesn’t seem particularly challenging. But the truth may be deceptively complex, and perhaps there are some insights that relate to the most successful educational models and the holy work of engaging our children in the narrative of our exodus. A number of years ago I came cross an anecdote in a journal of religious education. I cannot attest to the veracity, nor do I remember the specific sourcing. Yet the lesson remains. A church in the Midwest was serious about their youth programming and set out to hire a couple to lead the charge. After an extensive search, they nominated a dynamic candidate with all the right experience and credentials. They joined the congregation for a trial weekend and hit all the high notes. They sat with the executive board for the final interview. It was going well. The very last question was, “What will you do as Youth Director?” Broad visions and specific programs were ventured before the board member interrupted. “Can you just define for me, in a sentence or less, what it is that you imagine a Youth Director does?” The candidate was flummoxed. Wasn’t it obvious? He finally offered, “a Youth Director creates programs for youth…no?” “Ok,” the board member conceded, “but can you offer examples of what you mean?” 50
Still confused, but on somewhat stronger footing, the young man responded, “weekend retreats, trips to the bowling alley, pool parties, and the occasional study group - all tailored for our children.” The board member respectfully thanked him, and then informed him that he was not what they had in mind. He explained that they were grappling with a problem. Children were disinterested and uninspired. There was disconnect between their lives and the traditions of their parents. If the root of the problem is here, the solution is not likely found there. Taking the teens out of the milieu of the family and community will provide a temporary fix at best. It will prove to be shortsighted if there is no reintegration into the community that remains the center of their focus. Youth programming is best defined not as events and opportunities for our children removed from context and source, but as programs that reintroduce our children to their birthright and legacy, and challenge them to contribute to the development of our communal narrative. There will always be room and need for getting away and for children to develop outside of the pressures imposed by adult life and communal structures. But if this remains the totality of our programming, we may well be self-defeating, even while celebrating great success. A youth minyan might be great (and often is not), but a youth Shabbos in the main sanctuary would be more in line with this approach. For all of the good intentions behind isolation, and the real generation gaps that motivate great specification in our youth offerings, we lose something significant when we don’t empower and engage in a more unified fashion. At the conclusion of the dramatic events on Mt. Sinai, Moshe offers sacrifices as fitting tribute to the awesome spectacle of our acceptance
of Torah tradition. Remarkably, he charges the attendant youth with the responsibility of performing the service. Why were children invited to the party? Some commentators (see Chizkuni, Exodus 24:5) portray the vital need to include our youth in the religious experiences we enjoy. Of course, they are our future and will one day step into our shoes. We can ill afford to banish or relegate them, even with whatever immaturity or superficial understanding we attribute to them. Without disagreeing with this notion, Nachmanides goes a step further. It is not merely an investment in the future that should motivate our inclusivity. These children were right for the job today. Their innocence and exuberance, their optimism and vitality, all provided unique and irreplaceable elements to the service. It simply would not have been the same without them. True empowerment, not to mention true engagement, harnesses the awesome power of our children and students, and directs it to areas of our community that need it more. Our conversation with them evolves from monologue to dialogue. We listen as well as we preach. We share with them from the bounty of our legacy, and draw from them to ever improve the quality of our offerings. The horse is indeed white; Grant (and others) lie beneath his eponymous tomb. But a youth group is never just a group of or for youths. It is an integral part of our community and a full partner in the give and take that has enriched Jewish life and learning for all time.
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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