THE MAGAZINE OF NCSY
Rosh Hashanah 2011 // VOLUME 5 ISSUE 1
NCSY is the International youth movement of the OU
Executive Leadership Rabbi Steven Burg, International Director, NCSY Keevy Fried, Associate International Director, NCSY Joseph Stechler, National Youth Commission Chairman, OU Rabbi Steven Weil, Executive Vice President, OU Dr. Simcha Katz, President, OU David Frankel, Chief Operating Officer, OU Shlomo Schwartz, Chief Financial Officer, OU David Olivestone, Senior Communications Officer, OU
National Leadership Rabbi Dovid Bashevkin, Associate Director of Education Rabbi Moshe Benovitz, Dean of Summer Programs Rabbi Glenn Black, Director of Strategic Planning David Cutler, Director of NCSY Summer Programs & Finances Marc Fein, Director of Advisor Development Rabbi Dave Felsenthal, Director of Alumni Rabbi Yaakov Glasser, Director of Education Dan Hazony, Director of Information Systems Ronit Meitlis-Hofer, Assistant Director of Program Development, OU Jenni Richton, Associate Director of Special Projects Duvi Stahler, Director of Marketing
Regional Leadership Atlantic Seaboard..........................Rabbi Jonah Lerner Argentina........................................Rabbi Marcelo Krawiec Canada...........................................Rabbi Leib Irons Central East....................................Rabbi Tzali Freedman Chile................................................Michael Bengio Germany.........................................Josh Spinner Israel...............................................Rabbi Yisroel Goren Midwest..........................................Rabbi Micah Greenland New England..................................Rabbi Shmuel Miller New Jersey....................................Rabbi Yaakov Glasser New York........................................Rabbi Aryeh Lightstone Southern.........................................Todd Cohn Southwest......................................Rabbi Israel Lashak Upstate NY.....................................Marc Fein West Coast.....................................Rabbi Effie Goldberg
Summer Leadership GIVE................................................Erin Cooper ICE...................................................Rabbi Israel Lashak JOLT................................................Rabbi Nahum Zak Kollel...............................................Rabbi Moshe Benovitz Michlelet.........................................Rivkah Yudin SEG..................................................Yael Gelernter Shakespeare in Jerusalem...........Yoni Coleman Camp Sports..................................Rabbi Jon Green TJJ & TJJ Ambassadors.................Rabbi Ben Zion Goldfischer
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PREVIOUS ARTICLE Update: David Storfer: From Transylvania to Teaneck to Israel David continues to build on the strong Jewish foundation his parents, Bennett and Linda, instilled in him. From the time he was born, David was raised in a kosher home and attended Solomon Schechter Day School of Bergen County. After forging strong relationships with his NCSY rabbis and receiving ongoing support from his family, David spent the year abroad studying in Israel. David is currently spending his second year in Israel and plans to attend Yeshiva University in the fall of 2012.
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890 Jewish teens were inspired on NCSY Summer Programs in 2011. Thatâ€™s a 24% increase from 2010.
Your ongoing support is transforming Jewish teens everyday.
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an overflow of support
power play in portland
Rabbi Steven Burg writes about NCSY’s focus for 2011 on text-based Torah study, social action, Israel advocacy, and NCSY 3.0
NCSY ran its first all-girls social action mission to Minnesota where the girls painted houses, participated in the Susan G. Komen Cure 5K Walk, and played with children in a homeless shelter.
Portland NCSY has grown exponentially and has become one of the strongest NCSY cities in the country. Under the leadership of Meira Spivak, a young mother of seven, unaffiliated teens are engaging in Friday night dinners, Jewish summer programs and weekend conventions.
faces in the crowd
the new teen scene for scholars
interview with elliot and lillian hahn
Longtime supporters and Chairman of NCSY Canada, David and Fran Woolf talk about their 40-year involvement with NCSY. Also, read about NCSY’s new Director of Education Rabbi Yaakov Glasser’s life-long journey through NCSY.
Baltimore NCSY’s “Senator Ben Cardin Jewish Scholars Program” trains future teen leaders through mentoring, culminating with a mission to Washington, D.C.
Once a year, Elliot and Lillian Hahn partner with Southern NCSY to host a Shabbaton exclusively for public school students. Two teens from Southern NCSY sit down with the couple to find out more about how it all began.
from the desk of J. Philip Rosen
Stepping up Israel education
Successful attorney and Jewish leader Phil Rosen writes candidly about the two greatest challenges facing the Jewish people and how he sees NCSY addressing them.
NCSY sent a former Israeli soldier around North America to speak to high school students about Israel advocacy. Up next: a new curriculum for teaching Israel to teens.
A mother of two teenage girls navigating public high school’s spiritual abyss and a son contending with the challenges of autism speaks about the impact NCSY has had on her family’s life.
making president obama laugh
Religious Determination in the Digital Age
Allison Josephs is Jew in the City
Amanda Esraeilian reflects on her personal highlights from this past year as International Teen President including her experience at the White House.
After Upstate New York NCSYer Ben Balderman faced antiSemitism in his public high school, he took his message to the social media world.
NJ NCSY alumna Allison Josephs is leveraging the power of the web to rebrand Orthodox Judaism.
IVY LEAGUE JUDAISM
Photo memories from NCSY’s 2011 Summer Programs
Judy Greenbaum pursues active Jewish life and elite academics
Happening from around the NCSY universe
and the winner is...
eye on advisors
the education of inspiration
Ivanka Trump and other prominent guests judged this year’s JUMP competition finale held in NYC. Rambam Mesivta beat out four other teams for the trophy.
Meet four advisors from around the country and find out how they got started in NCSY and what keeps them going.
Rabbi Moshe Benovitz explains what it means to be an organization focused on inspiration but committed to education.
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In American culture, one might make a “New Year’s resolution” to quit smoking or lose weight. In Judaism, a similar though profoundly different concept exists. Rosh Hashana marks the start of the Ten Days of Repentance, culminating in Yom Kippur, when our slates are wiped clean. This gives us the opportunity to spiritually reinvent ourselves every year. We are given the opportunity to try again, to recommit ourselves, and to do even those things we do well, better in the coming year. Rosh Hashana represents a new beginning for us as individuals and also for NCSY. It serves as a reminder to reinvent ourselves with each new programming year. If something doesn’t work, even if beloved to us, we must discard it. If something new and innovative can help us reach out to more young Jewish teens, we must embrace it. It’s a cycle guaranteed to work so long as we don’t confuse our mission with our methods. This coming year, NCSY plans to strengthen its work in several areas. The first of these is text-based Torah study. Working closely with our Atlantic Seaboard Region, we have developed education modules that re-emphasize the centrality and relevance of Jewish text study. Atlantic Seaboard has demonstrated great success with this model through their Ben Cardin Jewish Scholars Program and we are eager to replicate its success throughout North America. Areas of study include a broad base of interesting topics and the participants’ enthusiasm underscores the importance of returning to textual sources as a core educational tenet for NCSY. The next area undergoing intensification for the coming year is Israel advocacy. Israel education has always been an inherent component of the NCSY experience, but the current climate necessitates giving NCSYers practical responses to the anti-Israel rhetoric they are likely to encounter. College is too late for us to arm students with the facts needed to confront those who would delegitimize Israel. The new NCSY Israel Education Initiative will address the matter with a multi-faceted approach including grasstops engagement, experiential teaching and formal classroom teaching. Social action is another area in which NCSY is focusing even greater attention. We have already begun a partnership with NECHAMA, a Jewish volunteer organization offering assistance to areas affected by natural disaster. NECHAMA engages in recovery and rebuilding in the
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Photo: Avi Stahler
Rosh Hashana is a time for new beginnings.
wake of disaster. NCSY provides education in the Jewish ethos underlying such activities. These trips provide relief to the residents of affected areas and provide NCSYers with profoundly moving opportunities to engage in community service. Finally, this year we are launching NCSY 3.0, which is NCSY designed to engage teens in the online world. Utilizing such tools as social media, user-generated content, video, and more, NCSY can better connect with, inspire and empower many to embrace their Judaism. NCSY 3.0 will enable us to interact with Jewish teens all over the world who lack the physical resources in their own communities. NCSY 3.0 will supplement the existing Regions and chapters, so look out for Virtual Latte & Learnings! There are just some of the ways in which we at NCSY have asked ourselves how we can improve what we already do well. At this time of year, each of us should likewise ask, “What can I do better in the year ahead?” With my sincerest wishes for peace, health and prosperity in the coming year,
Rabbi Steven Burg
ACTION STEPS! Arrange a speaking engagement with the expert on Jewish teens. For over 20 years, Rabbi Burg has been educating and inspiring thousands of teens from all different backgrounds to live passionate Jewish lives.
To hear from Rabbi Burg on how to relate, inspire and educate Jewish teens in your community, shul, or school, please call 212.613.8329 or email email@example.com.
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What most inspires you about NCSY? 23 hours ago via HootSuite · Like
Shira Nesenoff In NCSY we are taught to appreciate that everyone has a purpose wherever one is in their life of religious discovery. NCSY has never judged only inspired growth, compassion and sincere friendship. 20 hours ago · Like ￼ Molly Sonenbery The fact that I can go somewhere and no one will judge me, and where I can be myself is amazing, and it inspires me to try and create such a welcoming atmosphere in school. 23 hours ago · Like ￼ Sam Ryaboy the kavannah and closeness of everyone singing at kumzits and havdallah, it really is amazing. its like... we are a giant family fighting through the challenges that we face in our every day lives, together. 23 hours ago · Like
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The New Director of Education for NCSY There are few people inside NCSY with as much knowledge of the organization as Rabbi Yaakov Glasser. His father, Paul Glasser, served as the National Executive Director and his mother was a Regional president. Coming from an active NCSY family, Rabbi Glasser has been involved in the organization since he was a child. With his natural musical ability, Rabbi Glasser began working with NCSY as a member of the band. Afterwards, he spent several years working with Junior NCSY. Since 2005, as Regional Director of New Jersey, Rabbi Glasser has revitalized the Region by reaching out to parents and children from all backgrounds to create an inspiring, empowering and safe environment for growth. Rabbi Glasser is a man of many “educational hats.” In addition to serving as a Regional Director, Rabbi Glasser is the Rabbi of Young Israel of Passaic-Clifton, a burgeoning young synagogue in Passaic, New Jersey. Instead of viewing his different jobs as competing responsibilities, Rabbi Glasser approaches it as a challenge to take the best practices from each venue and inform the other. “I strive to bring the passion NCSY has fostered for decades into my shul while taking the content and Torah normally reserved for the shul and share it with my NCSYers,” says Rabbi Glasser. Undoubtedly, after receiving ordination from RIETS, earning his Master’s in Education from Azrieli, and spending several years studying in Kollel LeHora’ah in Yeshiva University, Rabbi Glasser is uniquely suited to enrich and enliven the quality of NCSY’s education. Along with his wife, Ruth, who has a Ph.D in child psychology and is a former Regional president of West Coast NCSY, and their children Rina, Chaim, Neima, and Meira, Rabbi Glasser’s home has been a welcome spot for hundreds of teens and congregants. With his new role in the International office, Rabbi Glasser says he is excited to “empower teens to make good decisions and find their own personal narrative in our timeless tradition.” In case you’re wondering, where did Rabbi Glasser and Ruth meet? NCSY. Of course.
for longtime Chairs of NCSY Canada
DAVID AND FRAN WOOLF Q: How did you get involved with NCSY? A: When we got married in 1968, we moved to Windsor, Ontario, where we were employed as teachers in the local Hebrew school. While there, we heard about an NCSY Shabbaton taking place at the Taylor Road Shul in Cleveland. We took 15 teens there; it was an inter-regional with about 450 attendees. It was our first Shabbaton; the first time we saw pre-Shabbos ruach, Shabbos ebbing away, and experienced an NCSY Havdallah. We were so moved by the ruach, the singing, the learning, the advisors and the rabbis and we personally witnessed the very positive effect that it had on the kids that we took there. Q: What most impresses you about NCSY? A: The selfless dedication of everyone involved, from the professional staff to the advisors to the technical staff to the Regional Board. They are at every event and many times at programs in-between events, doing whatever is required of them to ensure that the program is a success. Q: What message do you have for those who support NCSY? A: As supporters of NCSY, we recognize that there are many causes in the Jewish community that are worthy of support and not everyone will place support for NCSY at the same level of priority as we do. We have tried, at NCSY Canada, to showcase NCSYers at our Annual Concert and Dinner and at other events so that supporters can meet real-life examples of young men and women who have overcome tremendous obstacles in school, at home and in their social sphere, becoming more proudly aware of their Jewish heritage and identity. By supporting NCSY, we all have a part in guaranteeing a better Jewish tomorrow. IGNITE
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Attorney, Jewish leader, and NCSY supporter
hat are the two greatest problems facing the Jewish nation? Surprisingly, they don’t involve Palestinians, al-Qaeda or any other traditional form of antiSemitism. Rather, our largest existential threats are (1) Jews leaving the faith by intermarriage or otherwise and (2) Jews who stop caring (or who never cared) about their fellow Jews. These problems are gigantic; some people think they’re insurmountable. Fortunately, there are hundreds of Jewish organizations today, doing good work and raising hundreds of millions of dollars. Few of these, however, change the path that the Jewish people are on. NCSY is a game changer. By teaching young Jews about their heritage and their responsibility toward their fellow Jews, our greatest challenges can be overcome. I’m especially excited about the cutting-edge programming that NCSY brings to the table. In the three years I have been actively involved with NCSY, it seems as though every six months there is another major initiative addressing the pressing needs in the Jewish community. I have dedicated my life to the betterment of the Jewish people. As such, I have the opportunity to see the real difference-makers that are out there. One of my daughters had the opportunity to attend one of the first NCSY chesed missions to Berlin. She then engaged in a back-and-forth with other participants in our local print media, learning how to articulate and defend her views. One of my nephews was among the first day school participants involved in the clean-up in the lower ninth ward in New Orleans. I have personally had the opportunity to serve for all three years of its existence as a mentor and judge in what may be the most important day school initiative of the past decade: NCSY JUMP, a program designed to build leadership skills, and the JUMP Challenge.
Through JUMP and its participants, I have become involved in many programs under the direction of New York NCSY Regional Director Rabbi Aryeh Lightstone and I am thrilled to be part of something so important and impressive. When I host the public school students on NCSY’s Israel summer program TJJ Ambassadors in my house in Jerusalem, I see in their eyes a change in attitude that is mind-boggling. It is these teens who will be leading the change on their respective high school and college campuses. They will be the ones igniting passion for and commitment to Judaism in both America and Israel. When we invest in our future today, we will reap the dividends for a long, long time. Yasher Koach to NCSY, and thank you for involving me in the great work you do. Philip Rosen is one of the premier corporate and property attorneys in the United States. He heads the Property Group and is one of the coordinators of the Corporate Department of Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP, one of the largest and most successful law firms in the world. Mr. Rosen is one of the most prominent leaders in the Jewish communal scene. He is founding and current Vice Chairman of the Board of Yeshiva College, Chairman of the Board of American Friends of Likud and an active member of numerous other organizations. President George W. Bush appointed Mr. Rosen to the Board of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council and the governing board of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. Mr. Rosen is also one of the key power brokers in the Israeli business and political communities. He and his wife, Malki, have four children, Rachel, Miriam, Isaac and Joseph, and live in New York.
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By: Amanda Esraelian
s year a y m m ries fro resident o m e ther m onal Teen P And o i ternat n I Y S NC The experience taught me that if I, a mere high school student, can go to the White House and meet the President of the United States of America, then anything is possible.
If I had to pick one word to describe NCSY, I would fail. NCSY is one of those things you just can’t define. When looking back on my year, it all seems like a dream. Going to Shabbatonim across the country and connecting to peers in ways I never thought possible was an unbelievable experience. Every Region has something unique about it and every NCSYer brings something special to our NCSY family. In NCSY, you can be yourself and be happy with who you are. What were my personal highlights of the past year? Here are just a few: The Day of Learning for Gilad Shalit was incredible. The idea of teens from across the US and Canada coming together to learn for a fellow Jew is so incredibly beautiful. Participants had such a drive, desire, and passion to learn Torah for Gilad. Several of the pairs formed to learn together that day even continue to have steady chavrusas! The fundraiser for the Malka family in Israel was also very inspiring. We ran a different chesed project in every Region to raise money for this extraordinary family that has dedicated itself for the past decade to the Jewish people. Rabbi Malka tragically died in the fire in Northern Israel earlier this year, leaving a wife, several small children, and a major void in the Jewish people. NCSYers selflessly raised money to help this equally selfless family. My experience at the White House representing NCSY for Jewish Heritage Month was certainly one I’ll never forget. As I made my way through security three times, I still couldn’t believe it was really happening. Entering the White House was surreal, but I was also moved that it was for the purpose of preserving our Jewish nation and the identity of the Jewish people. To be able to greet President Obama and make him laugh, to invite Senator Joseph Lieberman to a Shabbaton, and to tell Elie Wiesel what an inspiration he has been is a rare opportunity. The experience taught me that if I, a mere high school student, can go to the White House and meet the President of the United States of America, then anything is possible.
Amanda Esraeilian poses with Senator Joseph Lieberman at the White House during Jewish Heritage Month.
Saying goodbye to NCSY after this unbelievable year is one of the hardest things I will ever have to do. Looking back, there isn’t one thing I would change about my journey. The person I am now and the person I was four years ago are worlds apart. Someone once told me never to underestimate how much I can accomplish. It’s taken me until now to realize how much potential we each have. Each of us has a purpose and a niche. My message to you is this: Find what works for you and rock at it, because you can! Amanda Esraeilian graduated from New York’s Roslyn High School in June. She will be attending Stern College for Women this Fall
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Major events around NCSY
10 SNAPSHOTS Photo memories from NCSYâ€™s 2011 Summer
Programs. THE winner is... 12 AND The JUMP Champion is announced.
overflow OF SUPPORT 14 AN Twelve students from Maâ€™ayanot Yeshiva High
School for Girls head to Minnesota. new teen scene for scholars 16 the Senator Ben Cardin Jewish Scholars Program trains
future leaders through textual study, mentorship and political advocacy.
stepping up israel education Two new initiatives to teach teens about Israel before they go to college.
s from Photo memorie mmer Programs NCSY’s 2011 Su
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Photo credits: BenjiCheirif.com
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The finalists gathered in the boardroom of a major New York law firm as NCSY’s Project Jump approached its completion. Their judges – Phil Rosen, attorney and philanthropist; Rabbi Steven Weil, Executive Vice President of the Orthodox Union; and celebrity judge and successful businesswoman, Ivanka Trump – greeted the teens, who enthusiastically launched into their presentations. JUMP is the Jewish Unity Mentoring Program, established by New York NCSY under the leadership of Regional Director Rabbi Aryeh Lightstone. Its goal is to introduce meaningful and creative venues that bring leadership opportunities to yeshiva day school students. Since its inception in 2006, it has grown into a national program with over fifteen participating schools. The final round of this year’s competition was narrowed down to four participating schools: The Hebrew Academy of Nassau County (HANC), Rambam Mesivta of Lawrence, Weinbaum Yeshiva High School of Boca Raton, FL, and Kohelet Yeshiva High School of Merion Station, Pennsylvania. Several guests joined them in the boardroom, including Rabbi Steven Burg, International Director of NCSY, and Esther Gerson, NCSY lay leader and respected executive coach.
Rambam Mesivta was deemed this year’s JUMP champion. The judges emphasized that the ambition, creativity, and accomplishments of all the schools merited awards and recognition. As Ivanka Trump pointed out, “Although the day judged the success of the various achievements of the students, it’s important to remember that it was the good acts, leadership opportunities, and skills built throughout the year that will be the legacy of this year’s JUMP Challenge.” The finale closed with a note from Rabbi Lightstone: “Perhaps more exciting than the thousands of dollars you raised are the new cheseds you initiated, the greater awareness and accountability for Israel you established, and the fire and excitement you instilled in over 120 JUMP participants from across the country who now realize that with a little effort and a lot of heart, they can and will accomplish whatever they set out to do.”
ACTION STEPS! • Support the JUMP leadership development program • Start a JUMP team in your school Email Carol at RhineC@ncsy.org
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The winning NCSY JUMP team from Rambam Mesivta poses with special guest judges Rabbi Steven Weil, Mr. Phil Rosen, and Ms. Ivanka Trump.
JUMP participants from Weinbaum Yeshiva High School sit on some of the many bags of clothing collected for Aid to Victims of Domestic Abuse (AVDA).
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As part of their Chesed challenge, the HANC JUMP team and other students packed over 400 food packages for needy families.
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This past May, NCSY and twelve students from Maâ€™ayanot Yeshiva High School for Girls partnered with NECHAMA, a Jewish organization dedicated to disaster relief, to participate in a disaster relief mission. The girls spent five days in Minnesota providing aid and support to victims of the Red River flood. New Jersey NCSY Assistant Regional Director, Rabbi Ethan Katz, NCSY Fair Lawn advisor Miriam Apter, and Maâ€™ayanot faculty members Rabbi Zev Prince and Eileen Schwartz joined the girls on this life-changing and eye-opening experience.
As part of their mission, the girls supported the fight against breast cancer by participating in the Susan G. Komen Cure 5K Walk in Bloomington, Minnesota. There, the girls had the opportunity to represent Jewish women while walking among hundreds of other women.
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Throughout NECHAMA’s relief mission, the girls painted houses and cleared debris from buildings damaged by the flood.
This mission gave students the opportunity to apply the values of chesed and community service in a context different from their own. The students learned to think more broadly about ways to contribute to the world and develop a greater sense of empathy and connection with communities both near and far.” - Mrs. Rivka Kahan, Principal of Ma’ayanot Yeshiva High School for Girls
The girls spent an afternoon playing with children at Mary’s Place, a homeless shelter for children and adults. The children were thrilled to have new faces visiting them. As the girls were preparing to leave, one child asked, with tears in her eyes, if they could stay for “just one more game.”
ACTION STEPS! • Support social action missions • Plan a social action mission for your school Email Ronit at MeitlisR@ncsy.org
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Photo: Freed Photography Sam Minkin (left), a sophomore at McDonogh High School, and Cara Mazor (right), a senior at Owings Mills High School, enjoy the engaging words of a guest speaker.
Clutching a tuna sandwich, a girl laughs happily as her friend pours himself some soda. Other teens spread egg salad onto their bagels. They chat and laugh as they mill around Goldberg’s Bagels, socializing and having fun. The clock strikes seven and the teens disperse, seating themselves with their mentors. They study sheets containing Jewish concepts and texts in preparation for a lecture that will be given by an important or famous person later that evening.
By: Olivia Wiznitzer
Senator Ben Cardin Jewish Scholars Program trains future leaders through textual study, mentorship and political advocacy.
This is a typical scene for the Senator Ben Cardin Jewish Scholars Program, an innovative initiative to promote Jewish teen leadership through text-based study with mentors and leaders of the local Jewish community. Now in its second year, the program has more than doubled in size since its first run. The 44 students who took part this year are a testament to its increased success. Rabbi Jonah Lerner, Regional Director of Atlantic Seaboard NCSY, explained that the program is designed to show teens that anyone can be a leader. “We took kids to D.C. so that they could see that they can literally go to Congress and make a difference.” Involving community members as mentors also allows students to see that “Judaism can be a part of your life no matter who you are. You don’t have to be a rabbi to be Jewish and even religious in today’s world.”
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This attitude is epitomized by Ben Cardin himself, a Jewish senator who demonstrates the concept of Jewish leadership in his every action. It was thus befitting that the club bear his name.
Robyn Lessans, a senior at Owings Mills, agrees with Sam. “I learned a lot,” she says. “One day we talked about the universe and whether or not God existed and how science actually goes to prove that God does exist. I thought that was cool.”
“Our young people are our future and it is important that we make them understand that they can make a difference,” Senator Ben Cardin stated. “I particularly want our young Jewish leaders of tomorrow to understand they can have an impact and they should set their sights high on whatever they decide to pursue. Our nation can be changed by people who have hope, confidence and a commitment to making a difference.”
Speakers and topics at the program included Chaya Friedman, a judge in Baltimore City, speaking about times when Jewish and secular law collide; Dr. Michael Elman, a retina specialist and OU National Vice President, speaking on leadership; Dr. Julian Jacobowitz, an internist, speaking about end-of-life issues and organ donation, and Rabbi Menachem Goldberger, Rabbi of Congregation Tiferes Yisroel, addressing Jewish mysticism. Organizations such as Hatzalah and Friends of the IDF also made an appearance.
The recipient of a generous Jacob and Hilda Blaustein Foundation grant, the Senator Ben Cardin Program runs for a twelve-week duration. It features one-on-one learning between participants and volunteer mentors from the Baltimore community, weekly speakers and a lobbying mission to Washington, D.C. Students who attend ten of the twelve sessions and come on the trip receive a $150 stipend.
The Ben Cardin program was created through the joint efforts of Atlantic Seaboard NCSY and Inspiration Express. Inspiration Express is a local Baltimore organization founded by Rabbi Moshe Markowitz in memory of his father Rabbi Hirsch Markowitz, a man who devoted his life to Jewish education and outreach. Its staff is comprised of volunteers, some of whom are NCSY alumni themselves.
Yehudah Leib Katz, a business, estates & trusts attorney, served as a mentor on the program. “I found the experience very rewarding. I had two mentees who were both very engaged and they demonstrated a real interest in the topics we discussed.”
When asked whether NCSY plans to expand the program, Rabbi Lerner answered affirmatively, “Other regions have contacted me to find out how we structured it and how they can recreate it. I’m delighted to think we will soon have the Senator Ben Cardin Program throughout the country!”
Students joined the program from a plethora of schools: Beth Tifiloh, The Cardin School, Pikesville High School, Owings Mills High School, the McDonogh School, Gilman, Baltimore Lab School and Baltimore School for the Arts.
Those interested in applying for next year’s program in Baltimore can do so at www.cardinscholars.com in December and January. The program itself begins in February.
Sam Minkin, a sophomore at McDonogh, got involved in the program after hearing about it at his local JSU club from NCSY Associate Regional Director Rabbi Rocky Caine. “I went and the first week really hooked me because the speaker was a true businessman and was particularly inspiring to me. The title of the session was ‘Jewish Business Ethics: Kosher is not just about food’. This discussion included aspects of doing business with people, but also the proper way to handle your business in the eyes of Judaism including a strong work ethic and good values.”
Photo: Freed Photography
Senator Ben Cardin addresses the group of Jewish teens during the program’s Washington lobbying trip.
Yehudah Katz (right), a mentor from Baltimore, learns with Owings Mills High School sophomores Jared Smelkinson and Brett Leibowitz.
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ACTION STEPS! • Sponsor a Jewish Scholars Program in your area • Join a Jewish Scholars Program as a mentor or mentee Email Dovid at firstname.lastname@example.org
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NCSY LAUNCHES TWO NEW INITIATIVES TO TEACH TEENS ABOUT ISRAEL BEFORE THEY GO TO COLLEGE
This past year, NCSY hired Sergeant Benjamin Anthony, a former Israeli soldier, to go on a three-month speaking tour around North America. The tour was primarily focused on educating high school teenagers about the importance of Israel and giving them the tools to become Israel advocates. While on tour, Sergeant Anthony also spoke at synagogues and communities. At the conclusion of his three-month speaking tour, Sergeant Anthony spoke to over 15,000 people in 25 cities in the United States and Canada. The tour represents NCSY’s shift in educational programming to emphasize the importance of Israel education. Sergeant Anthony spent the majority of his time discussing misconceptions circulating about Israel, the realities of what happens on the front lines of the IDF, and how to properly advocate for Israel. He encouraged teens to serve as ambassadors for Israel and the Jewish people in their communities by being both knowledgeable about their heritage and prepared to advocate on their behalf. Joey Cassel, an active NCSYer and a sophomore at Columbus Torah Academy, explains that Sergeant Anthony “taught me that hesitation is a catalyst for destruction… if Israel is to survive, the global Jewish community must show its constant support for Israel vocally.” In addition to the tour, NCSY has hired Richard Bass, a curriculum author from Toronto, to create an Israel education curriculum that will be taught in schools starting this fall.
ACTION STEPS! • Support NCSY’s Israel education initiatives • Bring the new Israel curriculum to your school Email Dovid at email@example.com
THE MAGAZINE OF NCSY
Profiles of the people and places that matter
determination in the 20 religious digital age
A 17-year old finds his voice online. LEAGUE JUDAISM 22 IVY Judy Greenbaum pursues active Jewish life
and elite academics. on advisors 23 Eye Meet four amazing advisors.
play in portland 24 power A young mother of seven is on a mission to
transform the lives of Jewish teens. spotlight 27 Donor An interview with Elliot and Lillian Hahn.
profile 28 Parent Teen Triplets: A Momâ€™s Tale.
in the city 30 jew Alumna Allison Josephs.
Photos: Kruter PhotographY / www.kruter.com
A 17-YEAR OLD FINDS HIS VOICE ONLINE
By: Dovid Bashevkin & Duvi Stahler
THE MAGAZINE OF NCSY
en Balderman is not your typical 11th grader. While most guys his age stress about grades and girls, Ben is busy dealing with a much larger issue: anti-Semitism. And, in the process, he’s been able to spread a message of hope to a generation of teens raised on the Internet. Ben’s powerful story of identity started two years ago when Ben began attending NCSY events. As Ben recalls, “Convention after convention, I would go to make new friends and encounter inspiring advisors, and in turn, I gained an integrally stronger connection to my Jewish roots. My newfound role models’ genuine desire to teach me to be an independent thinker was the most heart-warming and loving act I had ever experienced.” Problems, though, began towards the end of last November when Ben, a public school student in Buffalo, NY, started wearing a yarmulke to school. Every day was fraught with challenges both emotional and physical. Students would call him derogatory names or throw coins in front ot him as he passed in the halls simply because Ben associated with his Jewish identity. After being told by his school’s guidance counselor and administration that there is nothing they can do, he decided to take his story to a different community: the blogosphere. Ben found his 21st century voice by creating a blog called “Life So Far,” through which he recounts his struggles and frustration with anti-Semitism and bullying.
The most complex aspect of being a solitary visible Jew in a public high school is having to carry the weight of an entire nation upon your shoulders
Through the power of digital media, an unprecedented community was able to form before Ben’s eyes. The blog allowed Ben to captivate and exchange ideas about his struggle with others from across the world. And the response, Ben says, has been amazing. “I have received over sixty emails from people saying how surprised they are that such acts happen in America … while others have sent in personal stories of having to struggle with similar issues.” The small Buffalo Jewish community that Ben grew up in, coupled with the vast world of social media, has given Ben a unique perspective on the responsibilities of being a Jew. “The most complex aspect of being a solitary visible Jew in a public high school is having to carry the weight of an entire nation upon your shoulders,” Ben thoughtfully said. Thankfully, through Ben’s ingenuity with digital media, his solitary voice has been amplified and heard. Visit Ben’s blog at http://benbalderman.tumblr.com/
Ben attributes the empowerment NCSY gave him as a key factor in starting the blog. “Because of my heavy involvement as chapter president and growing responsibilities as a regional board member, I felt compelled to be an advocate for Jewish understanding of anti-Semitism in America,” Ben recalls. R o s h H a s h a n a h 2 0 11
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By: Dalia Caplan
Judy Greenbaum pursues active Jewish life and elite academics “I just never wanted to feel like I was missing out—like I was missing life’s opportunities. I wanted to take every chance I could get,” exclaims Judy Greenbaum. Judy spent the last few minutes on the phone talking about the whirlwind of her extracurricular activities and interests over the past few years—all of her ideas and goals are clear-sighted and big-picture oriented. The fact that Judy, a recent high school and NCSY graduate, has yet to step foot in college is impressive in its own right. One thing is clear: this is a girl who knows where she’s going, and knows how to get there. Judy, the youngest of four siblings, grew up in Los Angeles, California. She attended Yavneh Day School and YULA High School for Girls. Judy is a gifted and involved student, and all of her tremendous involvement meant she often had to give of her free time. Judy didn’t mind and says, “In the long run, you’re not going to remember what you gave up, or what plans fell through and what plans worked out. What you will remember are all of the things you accomplished because of the work you put in and, ultimately, the goals you will achieve.” She began her NCSY journey in 9th grade with a bang, attending freshman Shabbaton after hearing about it from friends and in the community. “I remember hearing about NCSY and freshman Shabbaton, about how it was the best thing ever, so when freshman Shabbaton rolled around, I went.” That was the beginning of a long NCSY career for Judy, steadily growing through high school. Judy served on various local and chapter boards, and her NCSY career culminated in being co-Regional President of West Coast NCSY. Meeting new people, becoming involved, being challenged—all of these things speak to Judy in a special way that fueled her NCSY journey. “I love NCSY—it’s really the place where you can let loose. I mean, how often do you just get to go crazy dancing with your friends, all together? I love that!” Citing ebbing and then havdalah as her favorite moments on a Shabbaton, Judy’s voice sparkles with enthusiasm for one of her greatest passions. In fact, Judy has spent her summertime involved in NCSY as well, going on NCSY’s JOLT program for Jewish leadership. Indeed, Judy’s determination and drive have helped her achieve a tremendous amount, and she has no plans to stop. “I don’t sleep much,” she sheepishly admits.
Judy’s dedication towards seeing the end result drives much of her life’s accomplishments. It also guided her college decision, which turned out to be an unusually difficult one. “Thank God, I got in everywhere I applied. And I was so torn. My father said to me, ‘May this be the worst of your problems.’ And he’s right.” Judy’s options were among the top schools in the country, and her final two choices were daunting in their immensity: Harvard and NYU. “I sat in front of the Harvard application for 40 minutes,” she relates. It was a big decision for a future business major to make, and Judy made it with her usual big-picture focus. “I wanted the Jewish communal experience of New York. I wanted to be a part of that larger community, and I wanted opportunities to push myself to grow and be active in the Jewish community and, generally speaking, it’s modeling what my real life will look like. Because of the type of community and the place where I want to ultimately live, the balance between social, religious, and business pursuits is modeled by my experiences at the respective New York campuses rather than that of Boston.” At the end of the day, Judy turned down Harvard to attend NYU. After she had made her decision, she received her acceptance to Columbia University in New York, where she had originally been waitlisted. Judy will attend Columbia University after spending next year in Michlelet Mivaseret Yerushalayim (MMY). From the thoughtful way Judy answers questions and discusses her life, it is clear that she is not the sort of person who takes any decision lightly. Anything that comes her way is balanced on the scales in her mind and weighed according to her big-picture plan. And what exactly is that plan? Judy answers, “Listen, going to a good college, having a job, becoming a business manager… that is not the end result. That is a means to an end. At the end of the day, I want to be able to have a family and be very involved in the Jewish community.” Clearly, a past heavy in community involvement and NCSY colors how she wants to live her life in the long term. “I love being a part of this. That is the big picture for me, and that’s what I’m working towards.”
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Gabriella Bernstein, West Coast NCSY
Jonathan Teitelbaum, New York NCSY
Gabriella Bernstein of Los Angeles, CA is the third of her siblings to serve as an advisor for West Coast NCSY. Originally known as “Yirme’s sister” or “Josh’s sister,” Gabriella has now, after two dedicated years, earned her own name within the region after winning the coveted “Advisor of the Year” award. Despite being dragged to her first West Coast NCSY Shabbaton, she felt “hooked” after participating in her inaugural NCSY Havdala. Since that event, Gabriella formed positive relationships with NCSYers in chapters throughout the region and became a staple figure at every Shabbaton in Southern California as well as weekly events. Giving up time, energy and sleep to be as involved as Gabriella is difficult. So what helps keep her going? Her philosophy is simple: “I get so much more than I give. You go in thinking ‘I’m giving back.’ In reality you learn quickly that the NCSYers are giving to you, and I’m so grateful for that experience. They allow me to be proud of the person I am.” Gabrirella is currently studying at UCLA for her bachelors in Psychology.
Born and raised in Denver, Colorado, Jonathan Teitelbaum blazed a trail in New York NCSY that will be difficult to replicate. Jonathan combines humor and fun to connect with high school teens. He stresses how “incredibly important it is to be normal. It’s possible to be normal, and funny, and still be Orthodox.” Soon after returning from yeshiva in Israel, Jonathan spent a Shabbat with his good friend Sam at his brother’s house, who just happened to be Rabbi Aryeh Lightstone, Regional Director of New York NCSY. It was there that Jonathan decided that NCSY was something he had to be a part of. While some advisors will tell you about the hard work it takes to be an advisor, Jonathan revels in a different approach. He says he likes “helping people connect to their roots, all while having a good time.” His advice to anyone interested in being an advisor is that “you can’t always see an NCSYer’s personal growth right away, but if you stay committed, and you stay involved, that’s when you see that you played a pivotal role in changing someone’s life. There’s just nothing better.” Jonathan is attending Yeshiva University, majoring in Math and expected to graduate in May 2012.
Ari Clark, Southern NCSY After traveling the country staffing different NCSY regions, New Jersey native Ari Clark settled on NCSY’s Southern region. From only two short years working for NCSY, Ari can tell you about the amazing programming each region runs and the inspiration he gains from every individual he meets. You might ask, what is so special about Southern NCSY? It stems from his first Shabbaton experience in Southern’s region. Ari explains that “the kids I met on that Shabbaton literally changed my life. They were genuine people, passionate Jews, and they continue to inspire me to greater heights. I have given them nothing, they have given me everything, and for that I owe them tremendously.” His love and dedication to each NCSYer is evident on every Shabbaton whether you observe his chevruta sessions or engage in conversation with him. Ari’s favorite part of NCSY is “learning from the kids. I believe that I gain something from each Shabbaton. NCSY helps me grow as a more committed and passionate Jew, making it an indispensable part of my spiritual life.” The most important piece of advice Ari can offer to anyone interested in becoming an advisor is “be yourself, not who you think other people want you to be. Oh, and a chicken suit makes for the world’s best shtick.” Ari majored in Accounting and is a member of the 2011 Yeshiva University class and aspires to teach in Israel.
Rifka Weider, Midwest NCSY Rifka Weider hails from Monsey, NY and is a star advisor in Midwest NCSY. She was recruited to the region and was immediately hooked. The two best pieces of advice she received as an advisor were: it’s all about the NCSYers and the kesher, connection, to the NCSYers is the most important part of the job. These are the words she lives by in her daily life in NCSY. Rifka realizes her role extends much further than her role as an advisor; you become an active contributor to the Jewish community at large. Additionally, “when you become an NCSY advisor, you are officially a role model and a person upon whom NCSYers rely on. I try to lead by example and impress upon them the amazing impact that Torah and halacha has in my life, the sense of value it provides me and the sense of meaning.” Rifka realized at the age of 12 that chinuch, education, was something she loved. She says, “I love hanging out with kids, listening to any issues they may have, and explaining the power that Judaism can have in their lives.” Rifka majored in Judaic Studies while fulfilling the prerequisites for medical school at Stern College for Women. She hopes to continue to work in kiruv and education throughout her life.
ACTION STEPS! • Apply to be a NCSY advisor Visit www.ncsy.org/advisors
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A young mother of seven is on a mission to transform the lives of Jewish teens Five years ago, Meira Spivak made a commitment to develop, expand and enrich Portland NCSY. Today, her goals have been patently realized. Starbucks serves up four times as many coffees at Latte & Learning and the number of JSU clubs has increased from one to seven. Twenty Portland teens are going on NCSY Summer Programs and 70 are attending Shabbat Shebang. The number of miles a teen will walk to synagogue on Shabbos? Five. If Portland’s change since 2006 could be quantified, those would be the telling figures. But to express Portland’s growth in digits would paint an incomplete picture. “It’s incredibly rewarding to see the NCSYers and graduates who are now more committed to leading a strong Jewish lifestyle,” Meira explains. One teen, determined to consume only kosher-for-Passover food in her non–kosher-for-Passover home, bought a box of food from which she ate exclusively. Students whose parents cannot afford to pay for Shabbatons will sell raffle tickets to cover the costs. Teens raised with limited access to Judaism are choosing to learn in Israel and attend YU and Stern, options they did not even consider prior to becoming involved in NCSY. Meira insists that these accomplishments are far from her own. Number one is her husband, Rabbi Chanan Spivak, who “spends so much time on NCSY – advising, Skyping with graduates…he
Teens stand in front of their stretch limo at Portland’s annual Limopalooza.
It is very hard for me to offer you a quotation or tell a story regarding Meira’s effectiveness and devotion to our Jewish high-school-age youth. That requires simplifying and condensing the leadership and devotion of one human being who is larger-than-life, has enough heart for a hundred teenagers (and their parents), is tireless in her work to make Judaism relevant and engaging, maintains a happy home that smells of cinnamon rolls in the mornings, always takes care in her dress and appearance, never rushes a conversation, is continually open to new ideas, reaches across Jewish boundaries that others might view as dividers, juggles competing priorities well and is even willing to fund-raise from new sources as opportunities present. Every word of this is true, without exaggeration, and I could easily add more.” -Marti Rosenthal, Community Member
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THE MAGAZINE OF NCSY
By: Yakira Apfel
Portland teen Talia Davis (right) learning with a friend on NCSY’s summer program TJJ Ambassadors.
MEIRA SPIVAK, Portland Director Changing the face of Portland NCSY emerged out of a relatively spontaneous decision. Meira and her husband were living in Israel when they heard of a new Kollel opening up in Portland. While visiting Portland to check out the community, they decided to stop by an NCSY Latte & Learn. As Meira recalls, “I saw kids having a good time, but also saw how much untapped potential there was. That was actually the factor that convinced us to move.” Since their arrival in Portland, the Spivaks have moved much more than themselves: their influence has brought many more teens, both demographically and geographically, under the NCSY umbrella. And that’s what keeps the Spivaks there, knowing that every year they are presented with the opportunity to affect a new set of teenagers. “It’s not only about the now,” Meira says. “It’s about the long-term relationship. We’re here for the teens, even when they graduate.” Life in Portland isn’t always an inspirational picnic though. When the Spivaks first arrived, there was no eruv, the shul was four-and-a-half miles away, and it always poured. “My husband would walk nine miles and come home drenched and exhausted,” Meira says. The Spivaks also keep chalav yisrael, which is not always available. “We can go for a few weeks without milk - very annoying if you like coffee,” Meira jokes. Meira feels very grateful towards the OU and for all that they have invested in Portland. “They send the message that Portland NCSY is valued,” Meira says. Prior to her involvement in Portland NCSY, Meira served as a Long Island advisor and ran the Great Neck chapter for a year. She has a BS in Media Studies from Queens College and a graduate degree in Jewish Education from Touro College. Meira’s seven kids, ranging in age from six months to ten years, are a testament to what it means to live in Portland. “What’s funny is when my kids go to New York to visit, they look out the car window and say ‘Mommy, I see a Jew!’” Meira laughs. “At that moment I realized that we really live out of town.”
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made up our Q event!” she exclaims. The advisors who fly in are extremely dedicated to keeping up with the NCSYers; their committed involvement, Meira asserts, is a “strong reason we’ve been having success.” Although she has now moved away, Sorah Edeltuch assisted with JSU clubs and ran Jr. NCSY, and the Portland kollel continually opens up its resources, either through teaching or hosting Shabbos guests. Last but not least, Portland has recently hired a full-time NCSY director, Rabbi Dov Chastain, to take on some of Meira’s responsibilities, allowing her to spend more time working on Regional programming. “He has already been so helpful. I can’t wait to see all the results of his efforts,” says Spivak.
“Meira Spivak put in an abundant amount of time and energy to make NCSY and JSU the supportive community of friends and advisors that now so strongly inspires Portland’s Jewish youth. I’ve seen NCSY grow from a small group of Jewish kids to a large, constantly expanding, eclectic combination of teens. It was a place where I could grow, learn, think, discuss and ask questions about the meaning of my heritage. NCSY motivated me to change the way I live.” -Ilan Swartz-Brownstein, NCSY Graduate
To fully credit what Portland NCSY has grown into, it is important to look at its roots. In 2003, Congregation Kesser Israel and Matthew Rosenberg made NCSY part of their community. Through their tremendous fundraising efforts, the duo initiated a Latte & Learning and other programs that involving many local youth, a number of whom were from families not affiliated with the shul. That was the revolution in 2003. Since then, Portland’s NCSY has been revolutionized all over again. The events keep growing. The community keeps developing. The numbers keep soaring. And so do the teens. Since their arrival in 2006, Rabbi Chanan and Meira Spivak have been a major force of innovation, growth and inspiration. Talking to kids around town, it almost seems to me that every teen in Portland has been inspired by them. Their personal commitment to the well-being of the youth here has been a driving factor in their phenomenal success. Numerous young men and women have connected with the Spivaks and the connections have led to very tangible growth for the kids. All of a sudden we see these kids, previously unconnected, coming to shul and planning trips to Israel. Most of all, they have a surge of pride in their Jewish identity.” -Rabbi Kenneth Brodkin, Rabbi of Congregation Kesser Israel
Portland NCSYer Sammy Aronson stands at the kotel on NCSY Summer Kollel.
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Two teens get to know the couple behind the Hahn Family Shabbaton Once a year, Elliot and Lillian Hahn partner with the Southern Region of NCSY to host a Shabbaton exclusively for students in public school. The Shabbaton is held in North Miami Beach, a welcoming community that aspires to help teens connect to their Jewish roots. For five years, the Hahns have been the backbone of this program. They not only give of themselves financially, they also devote their time and effort to coordinating the Shabbaton, spending time with the teens and harnessing community support. As they share below with two Southern NCSY regional board members, Elliot and Lillian truly believe that their annual encounter with NCSY through their Shabbaton awards them with much more than they could ever offer the teens.
Lee Sahar: Dr. and Mrs. Hahn, thank you so much for meeting with us. Would you mind telling us how you first fell in love with NCSY and why you support it? Lillian Hahn: Certainly. We were good friends with Rabbi Tully Bryks, former Southern NCSY Regional Director. He introduced us to NCSY and we were intrigued. One of our primary philanthropic focuses is kiruv, and we saw this as an opportunity to help teens experience Shabbat and kashrut as well as experience the warmth of a beautiful Jewish community. Elliot Hahn: Also, we loved the concept of sponsoring a Shabbaton as an honor to my parents. I believe it is a fitting tribute because, growing up, they would invite kids who were less connected into our home to help them experience Shabbat. They, too, were dedicated to continuing the link in the chain between generations. In fact, we personally get such nachas from watching our own family attain inspiration from the Shabbaton that we try to schedule it when our family can be in from out of town! Julie Harary: What’s your best memory of NCSY’s teen outreach? Lillian Hahn: I remember once watching the complete transformation of a particular teen. Initially, this kid was uninterested in being a part of the Shabbaton; he probably only came for his friends and the trip to Orlando. But, by the end, he was inspired and motivated, especially at ebbing. It was after that that I watched him actually pick up a siddur and try davening!
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Lee Sahar: What do you wish other people knew about NCSY’s teen outreach? Do you have any messages for potential supporters? Elliot Hahn: I wish other people could see the phenomenal results, as that should motivate them to participate. And I don’t just mean financially; they should come and see the spirit and excitement the teens exhibit. Watching them inspires and excites us. It’s exhilarating to see them connect to Judaism and our community. Lillian Hahn: We also believe that money comes from Hashem and He directs the ways we use it. We are blessed to be able to give and help others. NCSY has become an essential part of our lives. NCSY thanks the Hahns for their support and dedication. Their unwavering support continues to reconnect teens to their heritage and community. Dr. Elliot Hahn currently serves as the Executive Chairman of the Board at AccuBreak Pharmaceuticals. Prior to this position, Dr. Hahn co-founded Andrx, serving as the President, Chairman of the Board and CEO for the past 10 years. Dr. Hahn was also responsible for the evaluation and licensing of product opportunities and maintaining intellectual property at IVAX. He has served as an associate professor at the Rockefeller University, an assistant professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and is a member of Institute for Steroid Research at Montefiore Hospital. He received his Ph.D in organic chemistry from Cornell University. Lillian Hahn is a graduate of Brooklyn College and the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT). Her career spanned positions in the fashion industry and she subsequently established her own successful interior design business which she currently maintains in Florida. Together, Elliot and Lillian are the proud parents of three children and are pillars of their North Miami Beach, FL community.
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Southern NCSYers Julie Harary and Lee Sahar.
Moth By: B er’s T ayla Shev ale a Bre nner
NCSY has given our children empowerment over their Jewish identity,” says Julie Rubenstein of Beachwood, Ohio. “They’re known as the ‘Jewish kids’ at their school – and this is a predominantly Jewish school! NCSY has changed the future of our family lineage; it brought us back home.” Bryan and Julie Rubenstein and teen triplets, Hannah, Emma, and Jonah epitomize the phrase, “What you see is what you get.” They are no-holds-barred truthseekers, with a nonstop passion for Torah. With two teenage girls navigating public high school’s spiritual abyss, and a son contending with the challenges of autism, the Rubensteins haven’t had it easy. But, they cherish each victory – inspiring everyone they meet along the way. Born in Mount Lebanon, Pittsburg, to a “very secular” family, Julie Rubenstein led the pack back to Yiddishkeit. Despite her sparse Jewish background, she sent her children to a Conservative day school. A fellow mom at the school invited Julie to hear a Torah class. Curious, she acquiesced. “I’m listening and asking questions, and for the first time, I was getting answers,” she says. “I thought – this can work, incorporating the morals and values of Torah.” By the time the triplets hit junior high school, Julie realized the negative secular impact public school was having on them. “Emma started wearing black pants with chains,” says Julie. “I knew what was on the inside was luscious, but she was covering it up.” Searching for a way to spark their Jewish interest, she had heard about NCSY’s Latte and Learning program for teens and presented the idea to Emma. “It’s a bunch of high school kids just like you,” urged Julie. Although wary, Emma decided to try it.
With two teenage girls navigating public high school’s spiritual abyss, and a son contending with the challenges of autism, the Rubensteins haven’t had it easy. THE MAGAZINE OF NCSY
The Rubensteins concur that their children’s involvement in NCSY has drawn the whole family closer to Judaism – and each other. Triplets (top row l-r) Hannah, Emma, and Jonah together with parents Bryan and Julie Rubinstein and pet-therapy dog Breezy.
Making Life-Changing Choices
Turns out, mom was right. “The rabbi was so chilled and down to earth,” says Emma. “I was sitting there looking all rebellious, but I’m listening and he’s getting me interested in going on NCSY’s Yarchei Kallah.” Two weeks later, she and her sister, Hannah, attended Yarchei Kallah. It changed their lives.
Touched by his sisters’ positive experiences, their brother, Jonah, wanted to find his place, as someone with autism, in NCSY. “There are some days in everyone’s life when they feel different,” he says. “I feel that way many times. Autism, to some people, is a disorder, but to me, it’s normal; it’s who I am.” He attended Yachad for a year, including an invaluable month at Camp Morasha, all the while demonstrating great leadership potential. Sarah Taub, Regional Director, thought he was ready to take the next step. “Jonah has normal intelligence and would fit in with NCSYers,” she says. “I felt he should go on Yarchei Kallah.” Up to that point, NCSY had never taken a Yachad member. According to his mom he “had the time of his life.”
“They couldn’t talk enough about the people they met,” says Bryan. “They were so inspired, so illuminated.” Despite Emma’s qualms of not feeling “Jewish enough,” she made friends quickly amongst the diverse group of teens and felt more comfortable than she had expected. Their Jewish pride increased with each event. “I respect myself a lot more,” says Hannah. “I like the person I am now. I hold myself with confidence that I’m doing the right thing.” Not an easy feat in public high school. Despite the challenges, the Rubenstein sisters have come to appreciate the opportunities. “Kids tell me they respect me for how much I value my religion,” says Emma. “They see how much I care about what I’m doing.” Hannah concurs. “I like being a role model for kids who have the potential to be inspired and go along the same journey,” she says. Hannah, an avid cheerleader since seventh grade, quit varsity cheerleading because it would have meant attending games on Shabbos. “It didn’t jibe with her choices now; their life is different,” says Julie. “Emma’s at Arieh Friedner’s house (Director of Cleveland NCSY) every other day helping the family. Hannah’s now on chapter board. They’re not just going through the motions of Judaism; they’re owning it. You see it in their smiles and in their talk.”
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“NCSY inspires you,” says Jonah. “The classes, the people you meet and the stories you hear during Havdala. It makes me stop and think of how to make myself a better person. I feel closer to Hashem every time I’m with NCSY. It can change anyone.” The Rubensteins concur that their children’s involvement in NCSY has drawn the whole family closer to Judaism – and each other. The family davens at NCSY headquarters in Beachwood, Green Road Synagogue (an OU shul). The triplets continue to chart their lives NCSY-style. Emma and Hanna attended GIVE this past summer and plan to go to seminary after high school; Jonah went to Yad B’Yad and is on his way to becoming a leader in his Yachad chapter. “Relatives and friends look at our lives now and see it works,” says Julie. “Our children are kind, respectful and doing mitzvos. Our children are where they are because NCSY educated them, inspired them, and gave them life.” Bayla Sheva Brenner is the senior writer in the OU’s department of communications and marketing.
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Allison Josephs is
New Jersey NCSY alumna Allison Josephs is using her talents and passion for Jewish outreach and education in a cuttingedge way. Harnessing the power of new media, Josephs is the creator of a YouTube series called “Jew in the City.” The episodes feature a Q&A video blog between non-Orthodox characters and the eponymous “Jew in the City,” all portrayed by Josephs. The questions address common misconceptions about religious Jews and Judaism. In a warm, friendly, and clear manner, Josephs breaks down stereotypes and misconceptions. Josephs says that her journey from non-observant Jew to outreach professional was caused by an existential crisis she suffered from as a child. At the age of 8, Josephs started asking questions about the meaning of life and her purpose in this world. She quickly realized that no one she knew had any answers. She spent years suffering from insomnia, lying awake, thinking about eternity and how the life she was living wouldn’t matter once it was over. A well-rounded honors student, Josephs loved performing. It was a class at her after-school Hebrew high school on “Taoism and Pirkei Avot” (Ethics of the Fathers) that opened the door to the answers she was seeking. In this class, Josephs saw that there was depth and meaning within her heritage that she never knew existed. A subsequent family trip to Hawaii connected her to God in a way that would change her life. The never-ending waves crashing on the beach reminded her that there is a constant force in the world. When she saw a tree so beautiful that it looked as if it must have been painted by an artist, Josephs was filled with an intense love and appreciation for Hashem. After that trip, Josephs wanted to hold on to the spirituality she had felt in Hawaii and mitzvos seemed to be the appropriate vehicle to achieve this. She spent the summer in Israel where she started increasing her observance in kashrus, daily prayer, and Shabbos. When she got back from Israel, she struggled to keep Shabbos each week as she had no community to spend it with. At the end of the school year, Josephs realized she’d have to spend the Shabbos of her senior prom alone too. Prom occurred the same weekend as New Jersey NCSY’s Spring Regional. When Josephs found out that there was a place for someone like her to go to instead of prom, she was ecstatic. She didn’t know what went on at an NCSY Shabbaton. “I had only met a handful of Orthodox Jews my entire life and suddenly, I was surrounded by 300 skirts and yarmulkes. I was pretty overwhelmed,” admits Josephs.
NCSY Alumna Allison Josephs (right) with Blossom and Big Bang Theory actress Mayim Bialik. The two have been learning together for over five years through the organization Partners in Torah.
Josephs spent the first part of the Shabbaton convinced that these people were not for her, but in every speech, there was talk of “Hashem,” whom she longed to connect to. By the time shalosh seudos came, Josephs was so overwhelmed with emotion that she ran out of the room hysterically crying. “I knew that these were my people, but I didn’t yet know how I’d fit in. I knew the people back home would never understand why I would choose to become like this, but I was afraid that the people at NCSY would never understand who I was and where I came from.” The weekend was especially moving for Josephs as the theme of the weekend was kedusha, translated as “holiness” but literally “separate.” As her classmates were busy with prom, Josephs chose to separate herself. When she got back to school, she realized that she could never go back to seeing things the way she had before. After high school, Josephs enrolled in Columbia University and served as an advisor for both the New York and New Jersey NCSY Regions. She learned at Midreshet Rachel v’Chaya College of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem to further her Jewish education. The idea for “Jew in the City” was born when Josephs interviewed close to 3,000 Birthright Israel alumni, who consistently repeated the same stereotypes about Orthodox Jews. Given the opportunity to educate on a large scale using the internet, Josephs realized Torah would sell itself. Josephs shared, “I was educated, funky, and fun. I wanted to grow up and be an actress, so I chose to use that side of myself to serve Hashem.”
THE MAGAZINE OF NCSY
Happenings from around the NCSY universe
COLUMBUS: CHAPTER OF THE YEAR Rabbi Tzali Freedman announced that this year’s “Chapter of the Year” award went to Columbus NCSY.
REVAMPING EXECUTIVE LEADERSHIP Midwest NCSY has a new Executive Leadership Structure.
largest community Shabbaton to date West Hartford, CT hosts the largest gathering.
HUGE TURNOUT FOR CONVENTION Over 250 students attend Midwest Spring Regional Convention.
INTERNATIONAL NCSY International creates two new positions: Director of Education and Director of Advisor Development In an effort to strengthen education and advisors around the globe, NCSY has promoted two of its Regional Directors to oversee education and advisor development. Rabbi Yaakov Glasser, who has been with NCSY for over 10 years, will now serve as the Director of Education for NCSY, in addition to his current role as Regional Director of New Jersey NCSY. Marc Fein, having spent six years working with Upstate New York NCSY, will now oversee volunteer advisor development by helping recruit and train the hundreds of volunteer advisors. He will likewise continue to serve as the Regional Director of Upstate New York NCSY.
NCSY AND OU HOST INAUGURAL YOUTHCON CONVENTION In an effort to strengthen informal and experiential education, NCSY created YouthCon – an informal Jewish educators convention. The one-day convention took place in the Stamford Hilton and featured hundreds of educators from around the world. This year’s convention focused on the paradigm shift in Jewish education in the 21st century. For more information, please visit www.YouthCon.org.
NCSY 3.0 LAUNCHES AS NEW PLATFORM FOR JEWISH TEEN PROGRAMMING Under the direction of Adam Simon, West Coast Director of Internet Media and NCSY San Diego City Director, NCSY 3.0 rethinks the way traditional programming has been presented to teens. With the cyber world playing a central role in the modern teenage experience, Jewish content needs to be better integrated to fully connect with our youth. NCSY 3.0 features innovative content and programs designed in a forum NCSYers already use. With this fresh and transformative platform, NCSY 3.0 opens new doors for connecting, inspiring and empowering today’s Jewish teens.
Rabbi Nissim Levin // firstname.lastname@example.org
Rabbi Binyamin Pinkus // Binyamin@ncsy.ca
Jewish Culture Club students are going to Israel
STEAK & SCOTCH DINNER RAISES MONEY FOR NCSY
Many Jewish public school graduates in the Greater Washington area are going to Israel with trips from their college campuses. Graduates from Blair, Northwood, Walt Whitman, Walter Johnson, Richard Montgomery, and Rockville’s JSU clubs are involved in planning Israel trips this coming year.
NCSY’s Steak & Scotch fundraising event for parents and community lay leaders in Morty’s Steakhouse was an evening filled with fun and inspiration for all. Guest speaker Sergeant Benjamin Anthony, an IDF reservist, moved the audience when sharing his experiences in relation to Jewish values and identity. Rabbi Binyamin Pinkus, Director of Montreal NCSY, arranged for him to return several weeks later to speak to teens and community members. His lasting impression continues to raise funds for JSU clubs.
Philadelphia, PA Rabbi Yitz Levi // RabbiYitz@ncsy.org
Teens raise over $1,500 for terror victims and collect over 500 toys for children’s hospital
NCSY Canada runs first official March of the Living Reunion
Over 200 teens attend Spring Regional Convention Over 200 teens attended this year’s Spring Regional Convention in Hagerstown, MD. The NCSYers were engaged in inspiring group discussions, skits, and one-onone learning about the importance of keeping our bodies holy. Additionally, the teens spent Sunday afternoon at an outdoor sports facility where they enjoyed basketball, mini-golf, go karts, and a large barbeque. The convention concluded with a banquet where NCSY teen leaders were recognized for their hard work and dedication.
275 Attend 5-Year Celebration of Torah High Ottawa In 2006, NCSY started Torah High in Ottawa, a supplementary Jewish high school course offering credits to Jewish teens in public high schools. Ottawa, with a Jewish population of 15,000, began the program with 52 students. It has continuously grown every year reaching a peak of 101 public school Jewish students this year. 275 students, parents and community members attended a five-year celebration on June 14th that was both inspiring and fun.
NCSY Ottawa has a Record high Number of 100 Teens Attending Shabbatons this Year Jewish teenagers in Ottawa attended more Shabbatons this year than ever before. Forty-five attended the New York Shabbaton, 27 attended Canada’s Yarchei Kallah, 14 toured Washington over March break, 12 joined Spring Regional at Camp Northland, one student attended National’s Yarchei Kallah, and one student attended the Regional Board Shabbaton.
Rabbi Leib Irons, Regional Director Rabbi Glenn Black, CEO 905.761.6279 email@example.com www.ncsy.ca
Rabbi Jonah Lerner, Regional Director 410.358.6279 firstname.lastname@example.org www.ncsyseaboard.com
Thirty-five students from the Senator Ben Cardin Jewish Scholars Program attended the first annual mission to Washington, D.C. where they met with Senators and Congressman to lobby for important issues relevant to the Jewish community. The highlight of the trip was a Q&A session with program namesake Senator Ben Cardin (DMD). The students left feeling empowered and ready to take on active roles in Jewish leadership.
Bram Bregman // email@example.com
Senator Ben Cardin Jewish Scholars Program Students attend first annual lobbying mission
This year, Philadelphia NCSY teamed up with Kohelet Yeshiva High School (KYHS) to participate in the annual JUMP program, an NCSY leadership-training seminar. With eight teens representing KYHS, the students organized a successful basketball tournament fundraiser, raising over $1,500 for NATAL, a relief organization for terror victims. In addition, they collected over 500 toys to donate to the children’s hospital in Philadelphia. As part of the JUMP program, these students also ran a Latte & Learning and school assembly promoting Israel advocacy on college campuses. KYHS ranked among the top four schools, allowing them to move on to the finals held in New York City.
Rabbi Shmuel Soroka Associate Regional Director - NCSY Canada Director - Torah High Toronto firstname.lastname@example.org
Rabbi Rocky Caine // email@example.com
CENTRAL EAST Rabbi Tzali Freedman, Regional Director 888.471.4514 firstname.lastname@example.org www.ncsyce.com
NCSY Canada ran its first official March of the Living (MOTL) reunion with 200 participants, chaperones, and survivors attending. Guest speaker Sergeant Benjamin Anthony, a former IDF soldier, blew the crowd away with the message of the importance of Israel to diaspora Jewry. It was the perfect follow-up to the students returning from Poland who are inspired to become more involved. NCSY also ran a Shavuot all-night learning program for 35 MOTL participants. Mo Lidsky, NCSY alumnus, spoke about Jewish identity and anti-Semitism, followed by chaburas, small group sessions, on the topics of of mussar, reward and punishment, and Megillat Ruth.
Columbus, OH Rabbi Jesse Boiangiu // email@example.com
COLUMBUS NCSY TAKES HOME CHAPTER OF THE YEAR With pride and excitement, Columbus teens held their heads high as Regional Director, Rabbi Tzali Freedman announced that this year’s “Chapter of the Year” award went to Columbus NCSY. Rabbi Freedman explained that Columbus NCSYers would not take status quo for an answer, but rather united to build up their chapter. There was a strong feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction for their efforts and incredible achdus (togetherness) as kids from all types of backgrounds, affiliations and levels of observance came togehter on stage to receive this prestigious honor.
NCSY Toronto introduces IMPACT Fellowships NCSY Toronto now offers IMPACT fellowships in three tracks: Leadership, Israel, and Tefilla and Spirituality. IMPACT is a program designed as an informal educational project that combines one-on-one learning/mentoring with a group-learning dynamic. The objective of the IMPACT Fellowships is to organically transition top students from entry-level programming into long-term learning opportunities. The Leadership track offers students an opportunity to meet and converse with various leaders in the community as well as learn to cultivate their own leadership potential. The Israel track examines the historical and religious attachment the Jewish people have to the land of Israel and the Tefilla and Spirituality track allows students to understand the structure and meaning of specific prayers, enabling them to navigate the siddur and prayer service.
Cincinnati, OH Rabbi Pinchas Landis // RabbiLandis@gmail.com
Cincinnati wraps up a great first year As Cincinnati NCSY wraps up its first year reincarnation, there is much to celebrate. This year, 13 participants attended Regional programs, 13 participants attended Junior Regional Shabbatons, eight participants attended NCSY Summer Programs, and more than 50 students participated in local NCSY programming. With these inroads made and reputation established, Cincinnati NCSY hopes to double their numbers coming year.
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Kansas City, KS Hillel Goldstein // firstname.lastname@example.org
Kansas City Has Record-High ncsy Summer Programs Participation A record high of 16 students from Kansas City attended NCSY Summer Programs this year, 15 of which attended TJJ.
JUMP Raises $250 to Help Rebuild Northern Israel Kansas City NCSY and Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy sold mishloach manot packages for Purim and donated all the proceeds to the Jewish National Fund. The money went towards rebuilding communities affected by the forest fires in Israel.
Memphis, TN Marc Lennon // email@example.com
Detroit Director Rabbi Dovid Lichtig surrounded by teens from Frankel Jewish Academy at Central East’s Spring Regional Convention.
Nearly 250 teens attend Midwest Spring Regional Convention
Rabbi Dovid Lichtig // firstname.lastname@example.org
Midwest’s Spring Regional Convention highlights included sports, a huge all-you-can-eat barbeque and bonfire, a trip to the Wisconsin Dells, and a formal banquet honoring all graduating seniors. Many first-time NCSYers attended and have already made connections with other NCSYers and advisors that will last a lifetime. The theme of the convention was Israel. Special guests Richard Bass and Rabbi Phil Karesh provided educational material that led to a very spirited debate among teens on Israel’s current situation.
Detroit NCSYers raise $3,000 in Spring raffle In April, ten students collected prizes from sponsors including a GPS, gym membership and gift cards to the hottest stores in town for raffle prizes. After selling hundreds of tickets, the proceeds raised nearly $3,000 for NCSY Summer Programs scholarships and future programming.
27 MEMPHIS NCSYERS ATTEND MINI-SHABBATON FEATURING GUEST SPEAKER DAVID BEISS On May 6-7, 27 local NCSYers, together with senior advisors, Milwaukee’s chapter advisor, Shelley Israel, and guest speaker David Beiss, gathered for a Shabbaton in Memphis. David Beiss was born with a rare skin condition and demonstrates through his everyday attitude that obstacles are only challenges that need to be overcome. The Shabbaton was highlighted by what one NCSYer called “The most insane NCSY activity ever: Fear Factor!” By the end of the evening, every NCSYer was successfully filthy and needed to explain to their parents why they want to attend the next Shabbaton.
Indianapolis, IN Sam Zitin // email@example.com
Pittsburgh, PA Rabbi Ari Goldberg // Arig526@yahoo.com
Midwest NCSY Teens attend AIPAC
OVER 50 TEENS ATTEND SHAVUOT ALL-NIGHT LEARNING WITH NCSY NCSY organized an engaging night of learning for over 50 teens. The evening began with a kumzits around a bonfire as teens roasted marshmallows. Following a night of inspirational Torah learning, the all-night event concluded with a pancake breakfast and parsha session.
Midwest NCSY teens traveled from the greater Chicago area to the nation’s capital on May 22-24 to attend the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference. Attendees assembled to hear from top Israeli and American policy leaders, to discuss timely issues, and to lobby members of Congress. The Chicago teens played an active role as they were part of the largest student delegation.
Buffalo Grove, IL
Rabbi Arieh Friedner // firstname.lastname@example.org
Jenny Serle // email@example.com
CLEVELAND WELCOMES NEW NCSY FAMILY
Buffalo Grove End-ofthe-Year BBQ Sizzles
NCSY is proud to announce the arrival of Yoni and Devorah Spinka who will be joining the Cleveland NCSY team. Yoni, who hails from England, and Devorah, originally from Miami, are joining NCSY from the holy city of Jerusalem to continue NCSY’s mission of bringing passionate Judaism to Cleveland and its surrounding communities.
Jewish teens learn through new NCSY tradition: Chametz-fest Nearly 20 teens attended Indianapolis NCSY’s new annual tradition: Chametz-fest. Chametz-fest is a special Friday night dinner program the Shabbat before Pesach. The dinner consisted of all chametz-oriented courses including pasta, garlic bread, and breaded chicken, and was topped off with the last piece of chametz cake the NCSYers would likely have until after Pesach. The evening included a d’var Torah about the deeper meanings of carrying on tradition and why it is important as Jews to remember the Exodus. The night was filled with learning, laughter, and songs.
While the hot dogs and hamburgers sizzled, 20 teenagers from Buffalo Grove gathered to reminisce about the good times they had as a chapter and to elect next year’s chapter board. Everyone left feeling proud of last year’s accomplishments and eager to see the great heights they are going to accomplish this coming year.
MIDWEST Rabbi Micha Greenland, Regional Director 847.677.6279 firstname.lastname@example.org www.midwestncsy.com Moshe Isenberg // Isenbergm@ncsy.org
Midwest NCSY revamps executive leadership After searching for the best of the best, Midwest NCSY has a new executive leadership structure. The new structure allows the region to maximize its impact on Jewish teens, in addition to strengthening the region’s fundraising, programming, and educational components. Midwest NCSY’s goal is to double their current number of 2,400 teens impacted annually within three years. Rabbi Micha Greenland of Chicago is now Regional Director and CEO; Rabbi Moshe Isenberg of Chicago took on the role of Chief Communications Officer; Rabbi Donny Schwartz of Skokie is now Associate Regional Director; and Rabbi Yehuda Polstein of Chicago has been named Director of Chicago’s Torah High.
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A group of Midwest NCSY teens enjoy the Spring Regional Convention Banquet with CEO Rabbi Micha Greenland. Nearly 250 teens attended this year’s convention, which was held at Camp Chi.
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Teaneck NCSY lands new location for Latte & Learning
Rabbi Shmuel Miller, Regional Director 617.332.6279 email@example.com www.nerncsy.org
After running a very successful Latte & Learning with Fair Lawn NCSY last year, Teaneck NCSY started their own weekly Latte & Learning. “After outgrowing our rented location at Starbucks, we were very lucky to be offered the ultra-trendy Mocha Bleu Patisserie Bistro and Café on Queen Anne Road,” said Rabbi Dovid Cofnas, Director of Development for New Jersey NCSY. Besides being a chic local cafe offering great coffee and fabulous food, running Latte & Learning there also means exposing public school students to kosher establishments,” said Rabbi Cofnas.
Elisha Rubin // firstname.lastname@example.org
New England NCSY holds largest community Shabbaton to date Jason Dov Greenblatt, Executive Vice President and General Counsel of The Trump Organization, with his son Noah and Englishtown NCSY’s Latte & Learning participants.
Skokie, IL Shosh Friedman // email@example.com
Skokie NCSY wins “Chapter Excellence Award” During the closing banquet at Spring Regional, Skokie was given the “Chapter Excellence Award” and Ilana Katzin of Chicago, IL, was elected as next year’s Midwest NCSY regional president. Skokie’s amazing year included two incredible mini-Shabbatons, exciting events such as Comedy Sportz and Limo Road Rally, monthly Shabbos onegs, a weekly Dinner and Learn program, and special girls-only events.
St. Louis, MO Rabbi Mike Rovinsky // Rovinskym@ncsy.org & Rabbi Gershie Meisel // Meiselg@ncsy.org
75 teens learn all-night with NCSY for Shavuot This past Shavuot, the city of St. Louis blew the roof off the Young Israel of St. Louis as 13 NCSY staff members and the international teen president of NCSY, Amanda Esraeilian, joined forces to host a non-stop Shavuot-athon filled with excitement, learning and growth. The allnight Torah learning included approximately 75 NCSYers, a 2:30am barbeque and an inspirational 4:30am kumzits in anticipation of receiving the Torah. The following two days, NCSYers bonded with the staff at the home of one of their local chapter advisors, in addition to having a luncheon at the Young Israel of St. Louis. The Shavout-athon brought together numerous students from all walks of life, creating a big family and bringing inspiration to the entire community.
South Bend, Indiana Rabbi Fred Nebel // firstname.lastname@example.org
South Bend NCSY hosts its first local Shabbaton in over 24 years South Bend NCSY brought NCSYers together from around the area and showed the community what NCSY is really about with its first Shabbaton in over 24 years. South Bend NCSY continues to host its monthly Lounge Night, a night where both Senior and Junior NCSYers come together to enjoy pizza, snacks, Wii, pool, and other activities. The chapter ended the year with a rocking Lag B’Omer barbeque.
Over one hundred NCSYers and staff took over the quiet town of West Hartford, CT for New England’s largest community Shabbaton. The davening was electric and the ruach throughout the weekend was inspirational. NCSYers had the privilege of hearing from IDF reservist Sergeant Benjamin Anthony who shared some of the struggles that Israeli soldiers, many of whom are the same age as the NCSYers, go through on a daily basis. He inspired participants to stand up for their Israeli brethren. Parents, rabbis, and teachers joined NCSY for a beautiful community-wide havdalah packed with dancing and ruach. They were blown away by the experience and are looking forward to spending many more Shabbatot with New England NCSY.
Fair Lawn NCSY Raises Scholarship Money A successful parlor meeting was recently hosted by Dr. Zvi and Linda Fischer to raise scholarships for 30 Fair Lawn High School students. The funds raised enable the students to attend Shabbatons and Regional Conventions as well as The Jerusalem Journey (TJJ), NCSY’s popular summer program for public school teens in Israel. The parlor meeting is a yearly event held in memory of Zvi’s father, Shlomo Fischer z”l.
Rabbi Aryeh Lightstone, Regional Director 516.569.6279 email@example.com www.nyncsy.com
Rabbi Yaakov Glasser, Regional Director 201.862.0250 firstname.lastname@example.org www.njncsy.com
NCSY RUNS RELIEF MISSION TO ALABAMA FOR LOCAL STUDENTS
Donald Trump General Counsel Speaks to NJ NCSY Students
Just weeks after a vicious tornado destroyed many rural areas in Alabama, a team of eight high school girls from Stella K. Abraham High School for Girls (SKA) and Hebrew Academy of the Five Towns and Rockaway (HAFTR) arrived on scene with a New York NCSY relief mission. The students, along with NECHAMA, the Jewish disaster relief organization, were assigned to a home in Pratt City, Alabama. As they pulled up to the home, the girls were shocked by the devastation before them. “The home was completely knocked down, with only a doorway and a staircase remaining,” describes Adina Hart, a senior at SKA. As the workdays progressed, the students were able to see the progress made in helping rebuild and organize the home. The homeowner, Kellie, and her family thanked the girls profusely for all their efforts.
Jason Dov Greenblatt, Executive Vice President and General Counsel of The Trump Organization, spoke to NJ NCSY’s weekly Latte & Learning about the importance of making Shabbos and Yom Tov a priority while working. Mr. Greenblatt is one of the top executives working with Trump and was involved in structuring Mr. Trump’s side of the transaction for the popular television program, The Apprentice. Greenblatt shared personal stories with the NCSYers, one of which involved traveling the world working on a multi million-dollar business deal but still returning early in time for Yom Tov. Following his discussion, Greenblatt held an open question and answer session.
Mrs. Sherman Legacy Fund Awards Rebecca Tanzer Scholarship to Israel
Monmouth County Directors set the bar high
On Thursday, June 2, 20 JSU and NCSY teens gathered together for the 2011-2012 JSU Israeli Culture Club elections for Oceanside High School. This end-of-the-year celebration took place at the home of Marylin Sherman in Oceanside and highlighted the achievements of the students. Rebecca Tanzer, a senior at Oceanside High School and president of the JSU club, was awarded an $1,800 scholarship to use towards studying in Israel this year. Rabbi Aryeh Lightstone, Regional Director of New York NCSY, Adam Jerozolim, Director of South Shore NCSY, and Aryeh Smith, Director of Mid-Island NCSY, presented Rebecca with the check. The scholarship was provided by the Mrs. Sherman Legacy Fund and honored Rebecca for her commitment to Judaism and Jewish values, as well as her continuing education in Israel.
Since November 2010, Yardena and Ariel Bannett, the new Monmouth County directors, have made a strong impact with the teens in the local communities. Together, they run six Jewish culture clubs at local public schools and a Latte & Learning at Englishtown’s Baskin-Robbins/ Dunkin’ Donuts. Approximately 50 public school and yeshiva day school students attend for free coffee and ice cream followed by a short inspirational talk. At the end of February, the Bannetts hosted 55 students from around the community for their first Shabbaton, eating all meals in their home. For many of the teens attending, it was their first Shabbat experience. All of the students left with a strong feeling of unity and, of course, new Jewish friends. The secret, according to Ariel and Yardena, is that “we treat every NCSY student as part of our family and develop real connections.”
NCSY TEENS MARCH FROM AUSCHWITZ TO BIRKENAU On May 2, a delegation of local NCSY teens marched through Auschwitz death camp in Poland on March of the Living (MOTL). “I had a feeling of strength knowing that Jews survived the Holocaust,” said YU High School for Girls junior Michelle Weisblum. “If we survived the camps, we can survive anything.” Prior to MOTL, these NCSY teens took a course taught by the Associate Director of New York NCSY’s Judaic Scholars Institute (JSI), Rabbi Dovid Bashevkin, which focused on chassidus, mysticism, and Jewish philosophy. Through JSI, the students earned college credits, learned about the history of European Jewry, and familiarized themselves with the cities and sites they would see in Poland. “JSI helped me understand the Holocaust in a new way. When I saw the concentration camps with my own eyes, I understood how much more I have left to learn,” said Rebecca Grossman, a junior at the Hebrew Academy of Nassau County (HANC).
Minneapolis, MN Rabbi Tzvi Kupfer & Mrs. Bella Smith // email@example.com
Minneapolis NCSY JOINS the MJF in the CHAG SAMEACH PASSOVER PROGRAM A group of Minneapolis NCSYers represented the Jewish youth of Minneapolis at the annual Minneapolish Jewish Federation (MJF) Passover Wrapping and Delivering Program. The students spent several hours packaging gifts that were delivered on erev Pesach. To quote one NCSYer, “The smiles on the faces of the recipients made all the hard work worthwhile.” NY State Assemblyman Dov Hikind speaks to students of Brooklyn NCSY and JSU about what it means to be a Jew in the US Government.
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SKA & NCSY TRAVEL TO BERLIN The Lauder Yeshurun Midrasha Berlin, designed for young women on a quest to discover their Jewish identity, was the destination for twelve Stella K. Abraham High School for Girls sophomores and juniors. This joint SKA-NCSY program was spearheaded by Rabbi Aryeh Lightstone, Regional Director of New York NCSY, and Ms. Leah Pariser, an SKA teaching intern who taught at the Midrasha the previous year. “Each side taught the other how to be moser nefesh for Torah,” said Ms. Pariser. “One of my students commented, ‘I thought we came here to do kiruv, but we’re the ones getting the kiruv!’” The trip included a visit to the Sachsanhousen labor camp, a bike tour of the famous sites in Berlin, challah baking with the Midrasha students, programs with Jewish nursery and elementary school students, and shiurim taught by a variety of women and Holocaust survivors.
Rabbi Stephen Berger, Regional Director 604.736.7607 firstname.lastname@example.org www.northwestncsy.com
Todd Cohn, Executive Director and Regional Director 305.940.6566 email@example.com www.southernncsy.com
Rabbi Ben Gonsher // Gonsherb@ncsy.org
Meira Spivak // firstname.lastname@example.org
Rabbi Menachem Nissel Provides Chizuk and Entertainment to New NCSY Teen Officers
Portland Teens Attend AIPAC National Policy Conference Though Portland JSU has attended AIPAC’s high school summit for the past three years, this was the first year teens attended the National Policy Conference. The students returned inspired after hearing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu address the crowd of 12,000.
Shavuos Learning Program Dedicated in Memory of Jewish Philanthropist Harold Schnitzer
Rabbi Moshe Zucker // email@example.com & Mrs. Nechama Kamelhar // firstname.lastname@example.org
Holocaust Survivor Speaks to JSU Students
When Harold Schnitzer, Portland’s greatest Jewish philanthropist, passed away at the end of April, NCSY dedicated the Shavuos learning program to his memory. Upon the advice of his wife, Arlene, the topics of “Jewish ethics” and “tolerance for all” were discussed. The program was a huge success.
The second semester of the 2010-2011 academic year was a busy time for JSU students in Brooklyn and Staten Island. Each week, Holocaust survivor Mrs. Sylvia Weiss spoke to different JSU clubs about her experiences as a child in the Holocaust. The effect of Mrs. Weiss’ visits and the stories of her great struggle and survival left an impression on over 500 students throughout the semester, some of whom had never met or heard from survivors. “As long as people like Mrs. Weiss continue telling their stories and educating teenagers, we can be sure that the sho’ah (Holocaust) will not be forgotten,” said Dalia Kagan, a senior at Brooklyn Tech High School.
Seattle, WA Ari & Jessica Hoffman // email@example.com
Annual “Basarfest” Attracts Over 300 Participants and Raises Scholarship Funds Seattle NCSY’s annual fundraiser, Basarfest (BBQ and meat cook-off), attracted over 300 people at Sephardic Bikur Holim Congregation and raised funds for NCSY scholarships. Cook-off winners included NCSY parent Dahlia Amon and NCSY alumnus Larry Russak. Grand prize in the chili cook-off was awarded to Yoni Goldstein, alumnus of Dallas NCSY. Seattle NCSY paid tribute to long-time Basarfest volunteer and NCSY parent Robert Gladstein with the “Carnivore of the Year” award.
NEW YORK STATE ASSEMBLYMAN SPEAKS TO BROOKLYN TEENS Dov Hikind, a New York State assemblyman, spoke to Brooklyn JSU and NCSY teens on what it means to be a Jew in the United States government and how to help the Jewish people through legislation and lobbying. “I want the students to understand that it is important to always make a kiddush Hashem (sanctification of G-d’s name) when you’re in my position,” says Hikind. The program was followed by the Regional Board Leadership Shabbaton where the students participated in workshops and seminars geared towards leadership, advocacy, and outreach. Hikind encouraged the students to take advantage of leadership opportunities, as well as to get involved in advocacy for American Jewry and Israel.
Rabbi Menachem Nissel, a noted speaker and educator, came to Bal Harbour for an afternoon barbecue to celebrate the installation of NCSY’s new officers and to offer them chizuk. Tammy and Aaron Attias, long-standing friends of Southern NCSY and parents who appreciate the work NCSY does with teens, hosted the event. Opening their home, kitchen and trampoline to the event, they were thrilled to be included. “It is truly inspiring to see the enthusiasm these teens show about being part of NCSY and the meaningful relationship they have with the rebbeim and staff.”, says Mrs. Attias.
Southern NCSY Participates in AIPAC’s Policy Conference “The experience of a lifetime,” said Jonathan Kennedy, a student at Spanish River High School, when asked how he’d describe his trip with NCSY to AIPAC’s Policy Conference in Washington, DC. “It was an honor to represent Southern NCSY at such a momentous event – and as Rabbi Gonsher kept reminding us every time we saw a young leader on the dais, ‘that will be us’ in a few years!”
Advisors Train for Spring Regional Before teens boarded the buses for Southern NCSY’s Spring Regional Convention, the advisors gathered for a workshop designed to empower them with the tools necessary to inspire NCSYers. Advisors were treated to a presentation by Rabbi Aharon Ungar, author of the Jewish outreach book “Putting out the Fire,” and were introduced to the three biggest challenges in engaging the unaffiliated. “Our advisors are the key to success with NCSYers,” said Todd Cohn, Executive Director. “We’ve talked for months about how we can complement their passion for outreach with the skills necessary to move kids along in their journeys, so this is a true cause for celebration.”
Atlanta, GA Rabbi Chaim Neiditch // firstname.lastname@example.org
13 JSU Kiddush Seminars Impact and Educate 400 Teens Over 400 teens learned about the mitzvah of reciting kiddush, the ritual blessing over grape juice recited on Shabbos, in 13 public high school JSU clubs in Atlanta, Georgia. While learning about the significance of this tradition, teens decorated and personalized their own glass kiddush cups. Teens left their clubs with a deeper appreciation for Shabbos, its blessings, and significance. Many of these unaffiliated teens use their kiddush cups to make kiddush every Friday night and Shabbat day.
Over 300 Teens Decorate Pillowcases for Chai Lifeline Children Over 300 teens made decorative pillowcases for children attending Chai Lifeline’s Camp Simcha, a camp for Jewish children that either battle or have survived cancer and other debilitating conditions. The activity took place at 13 JSU public school clubs and was a meaningful and moving experience to all. Teens learned about the mitzvah of bikur cholim (caring for those who are sick) and discussed their own experiences with family members that have or had serious illnesses and why bad things happen to good people from a Jewish perspective.
NCSYers volunteer to serve guests at Seattle’s annual BBQ fundraiser. The event was a phenomenal success, attracting 300 participants this year.
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Solly Hess promoted to Associate Regional Director
Stuey Einhorn // EinhornS@hollywoodncsy.org
After watching his NCSY chapter grow by leaps and bounds, Solly Hess, City Director of Los Angeles, has been promoted to Associate Regional Director of West Coast NCSY. Solly joined the NCSY team as the city director of Los Angeles in 2007. In addition to running Shabbatons and chapter activities, Solly created numerous weekly learning and leadership training programs. NCSY is excited to see the new heights West Coast NCSY reaches as Solly takes on this new role.
Latte & Learning becomes D’Liteful Learning
Southern NCSYers Liron, Sarah, Jonathan and Corey pose with AIPAC Board Member Mark Cohan at AIPAC’s Policy Conference in Washington, DC.
Savannah, GA Rabbi Eli Lob // email@example.com
Savannah, GA NCSY wins Chapter of the Year The South is rising again as Savannah, the oldest chapter in the country, took home the “Chapter of the Year” award with its new chapter board, recently launched website, and high attendance in both Regional Convention and teens going to Israel on summer and year long programs.
NCSY TEENS SPEAK OUT ABOUT ISRAEL The two teen speakers at The Jewish Education Alliance Israel Independence Day Celebration were NCSY chapter president Benji Garfunkel and chapter board member Natalie Eichelbaum. Benji and Natalie have both become excited and passionate about Israel after their transformative experience on NCSY’s Summer Programs, TJJ, TJJ Ambassadors and Israel XP.
Kendall, FL Simcha Silverman // firstname.lastname@example.org
70 NCSYers and Yachad members attend Kendall Shabbaton Kendall, a small yet vibrant city, is the southernmost fullservice Jewish community in the US. Earlier this year, it was privileged to host 70 NCSYers and Yachad members for a Shabbaton at the Young Israel of Kendall. The teens enjoyed an uplifting and energetic Shabbat and are excited about future events in their area.
Boca Raton, FL Nachum Zak // RabbiZ@ncsy.org
ONCE AGAIN, ANOTHER SUCCESSFUL YEAR NCSY Boca Raton hosted 12 Shabbat onegs with over 100 participants and created a Yom Tov teen minyan in the Zak home. Twenty NCSYers participated in the “Shabbat challenge” by attending the local teen minyan for the first time. Additionally, Latte & Learning grew from 15 to 50 local teens and NCSYers raised money for tzedaka by shaving Rabbi Zak’s beard!
Last year, Hollywood NCSY started up Latte & Learning at Starbucks with less than ten teens in attendance. The crowd nearly tripled in size over the year and outgrew the Starbucks location. A new venue was sought, and D’Lites of Hollywood became the place for the Jewish teens of Broward County to be on Thursday nights. After enjoying the D’Lites ice cream instead of lattes for a few weeks, the program was officially renamed D’Liteful Learning.
Los Angeles, CA
Simcha Nikravesh // email@example.com
Hollywood NCSY wins “Most Significant Growth”
Los Angeles creates new program focusing on jewish women
In recognition of its tremendous growth, Hollywood NCSY was given the “Most Significant Growth” award at Spring Regional.
City NCSY confronted the questions and doubts teenage girls have about what it really means to be a Jewish woman. Simcha Nikravesh, Assistant Director of LA NCSY, is much attuned with this challenge and led the sessions. Women in the community joined the students and discussed the significance of being a bat Yisrael in a fun and comfortable environment. As the women of NCSY met for challah baking or sushi night, important topics such as tzniut and how they can better their relationships between friends, family and Hashem were discussed. “This year, I wanted to create sessions and classes for girls only,” Simcha explained. “It was something I always wanted when I was in NCSY and I am happy I can create it for these students. Living in LA comes with many challenges, especially for girls. The girls learn that they are not the only ones with questions, creating a safe environment for them to grow.”
SOUTHWEST Rabbi Yisroel Lashak, Regional Director 972.934.9143 firstname.lastname@example.org www.southwestncsy.org
Southwest NCSY Takes a 3-Day Trip to Yosemite National Park The Southwest Region of NCSY traveled to Yosemite National Park from May 29-31. Over 20 students from Dallas spent three days learning about Torah and ecology, the six-days of creation and respect for animal life. They witnessed the famous redwoods and sequoias, some of which are over 1000 years old, visited Alcatraz, and ate at a kosher restaurant in San Francisco. The group also hiked, visited waterfalls, and saw beautiful lakes and mountains. “It was a great trip, one of our best,” said NCSY teen leader Leon Menevitch. “Yosemite is a wonder of Hashem,” said Rabbi Israel Lashak, who led the group. “We learned about the beauty of Torah, the richness of nature, and how the two interact.”
South Bay Area, N. California Baruch Noy // Baruch@bayncsy.com
ISRAEL IN THE GARDENS NCSY and JSU joined the Israel festivities with the Bay community at Israel in the Gardens in San Francisco on June 5. Tens of NCSY and JSU club participants were among the crowd, enjoying the spirit and connection with Israel.
UPSTATE NEW YORK Marc Fein, Regional Director 585.615.7237 email@example.com www.upstatencsy.org
Las Vegas, NV
UPSTATE NY NCSY GOES “INTO THE WILD” FOR SPRING REgional CONVENTION 2011
Las Vegas Jewish Student Union (JSU) runs two thriving Jewish high school clubs that reach over 100 public school students each week. Recently, Las Vegas JSU had their first mission to emphasize the importance of leadership and vision. The students were privileged to meet and hear from Jewish leaders including President of the Las Vegas Jewish Federation, Elliot B. Karp; Las Vegas Mayor, Carolyn Goodman; Educational Dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Rabbi Abraham Cooper; and the national treasurers of JSU, Mr. and Mrs. Craig and Yael Ackermann. Each message helped further implant the vision of teen leadership and its effect worldwide. As the mission closed, the students felt empowered and were discussing the differences they can make in the future.
R’ Yehuda Maryles // LasVegasNCSY@gmail.com
LAS VEGAS NCSY RUNS ITS FIRST MISSION
More than 70 teens from seven cities combined to make Spring Regional Convention the most meaningful Shabbaton of the year. A tearful goodbye banquet for the seniors topped off a Shabbat of singing, dancing, and learning about Judaism’s perspective on the environment.
ROCHESTER NCSY LEARNS ALL NIGHT Over 30 teens stayed awake all night to learn Torah with their advisors and each other on Shavuot night. The inspiration, sound of Torah learning, and cheesecake, contributed to a memorable evening and connected everyone to the vibrancy and vitality of Torah learning and our tradition.
ALBANY BBQ AND CHAPTER BOARD ELECTIONS
Shmuli Josephson // firstname.lastname@example.org
Phoenix NCSY is back on the map
Albany NCSY chapter closed out the year in style with a trip to Great Adventure, barbecue, and chapter board elections. All the teens left full and excited for another year of amazing chapter leadership and growth.
The spirit of NCSY has risen once again in Phoenix. Under the leadership of director Shmuli Josephson, the chapter has seen significant growth with many excited students meeting weekly for Ice Cream & Learning. Community members are extremely receptive and are eager to support the revival of NCSY in the area. Josephon is very pleased with the teen response noting, “For the first time in over five years, we had Phoenix NCSYers at Regional Convention! Teens were thrilled to join hundreds of their peers and are ready to sign up for the next Shabbaton.” Additionally, Pheonix JSU has over sixty teens participating weekly.
WEST COAST Rabbi Effie Goldberg, Executive Director 310.229.9000 email@example.com www.westcoastncsy.com Samantha and Alexa join 300 JSU Atlanta teens in decorating pillow cases for children attending Chai Lifeline’s Camp Simcha.
THE MAGAZINE OF NCSY
Valley JSU, CA Derek Gormin // Derek@jsu.org
First Annual Israel Advocacy Training Boot Camp Jewish Student Union hosted the first annual Israel Advocacy Training Boot Camp. The camp was geared towards high school seniors who will be attending college the following year. The goals of the day were to increase awareness of anti-Semitic and anti-Israel sentiment on college campuses, to educate students about the historical truths of Israel, to explore propaganda and media bias, and most importantly, to empower students to feel proud to support Israel and to stand against hatred on their college campuses and beyond. Israel Advocacy Training Boot Camp also provided the tools to gain additional information and how to proactively advocate for Israel. JSUers are already excited for this coming year’s program.
Chief Rabbi of Tzfat Rav Shmuel Eliyahu blesses a group of 400 teens in Kiryat Gat, Israel.
Jonathan Levine, a sophomore at La Jolla Country Day School, ponders the inspiring words of Ari Rosenberg, an eyewitness to Israel’s formation, on San Diego NCSY’s Israel Leadership Shabbaton.
Michael Bengio, Director 011.56.99.186.5575 firstname.lastname@example.org
NCSY Alumni Chesed Project
Yosef Miller // email@example.com
NCSY Chile is happy to announce the launching of their newest program, The NCSY Alumni Chesed Project. Former NCSYers currently overcoming challenges in secular college visit public schools where they run havdalot, chugim, Shabbatons and other experiences. These programs help teens who are currently disconnected from their Jewish roots and background reconnect with their Jewish sources.
Irvine increases regional attendance by 400% and wins “Chapter Growth” award After establishing itself as a fully functioning chapter, Irvine’s next goal was to create a presence at Spring Regional Convention. The first night the application was available for West Coast, 15 NCSYers signed up for Spring Regional, five of whom were from Irvine. Over the next few weeks, Irvine had 35 applicants for Spring Regional. Growing from six NCSYers to 35, Irvine earned its welldeserved award of “Chapter Growth Award.” With weekly JSU clubs and Latte & Learning events, Irvine is quickly becoming a household name in the West Coast family and well on its way to another successful year in Torah education.
NCSY creates two new learning sessions for 10th graders NCSY Chile created two new 10th-grade learning sessions. These sessions have over 30 new students attending, eager to learn, to grow and to participate in NCSY. The classes cover a wide range of topics, from basic Jewish concepts to complex contemporary concepts.
Shavuot Enjoyed by all
San Fransisco, CA
NCSY Chile hosted their second Shavuot experience. Every NCSYer, along with his or her family, was invited to attend a dairy dinner on Shavuot night. This year’s dinner had over twice as many attendees at last year. NCSYers shared divrei Torah, demonstrating some of the knowledge they acquired through NCSY. Parents were extremely impressed with the quick responses that NCSYers gave during the Jewish trivia game and in other fun educational activities. Lastly, parents had the opportunity to publicly share the impact that NCSY has had not only on their children, but also on the entire family.
Mike Donovan // firstname.lastname@example.org
YOM HA’SHOAH TEEN DINNER Teens gathered at Congregation Adath Israel for a faceto-face dinner with Neil Mitchell, a Holocaust survivor. Teens listened attentively as he shared his story and then discussed the effects the Holocaust has had on them.
San Diego, CA Adam Simon // email@example.com
ISRAEL LEADERSHIP SHABBATON IS A HUGE SUCCESS
Josh Spinner, Director 011.49.30.440.10160 firstname.lastname@example.org
JOLT ALUMNI RETURN TO GERMANY FOR PESACH TO RUN PROGRAMS JOLT 2009 alumni Nissana Boxstein of California and Moshe Seidenfeld of New York, both studying in Israel for the year, returned to Germany this past Pesach to run a program for twenty high school and college students. Working alongside veteran staff, Boxstein and Seidenfeld coordinated a variety of programs and served as role models of Torah-committed Jews. The participants enjoyed learning from, touring, and chilling with the advisors and especially enjoyed the interactive seder nights. While some of the students were already familiar with Pesach and its laws and customs, for others, it was their first Pesach experience. Living in small and mostly secular communities all over the country, the students usually do not have the opportunity to learn about and spend Jewish holidays with other motivated peers. Am Echad, NCSY’s partner program in Germany, provides these young adults with a unique and welcoming option.
ISRAEL Rabbi Yisroel Goren, Director 02.566.7787 email@example.com www.ouisrael.org
NCSY Makom Balev is active in the periphery and development towns of Israel with the objective of inspiring the youth and strengthening their connection to Jewish heritage, religious Zionism, and Israel.
Nearly 30 of San Diego’s local teen leaders came together for an unforgettable Israel Leadership Training Shabbaton. They heard from Director of San Diego T.E.A.M and former international Red Cross lawyer JJ Surbeck and eyewitness to the State of Israel’s Independence Ari Rosenberg. Teen leaders Batel Darey, Natania Feifel, Zak Schutzer and Benji Darey created and led the educational programing. Following Shabbat, teens enjoyed a relaxed BBQ and played sports at Mission Bay Park where NCSY partnered with the San Diego Jewish Federation for a communitywide Yom Ha’atzmaut celebration.
Makom Balev’s Bar/Bat Mitzvah Program Engages 400 Teens in Workshops, Hikes and Other Attractions
50+ TEENS IN THREE COMMUNITIES LEARN ALL NIGHT WITH SAN DIEGO NCSY San Diego NCSY hosted over 50 teens and 10 advisors spread across three different communities for all-night learning as part of their community Shavuot program. NCSYers dove into a special session prepared by NCSY’s Associate Director of Education, Rabbi Dovid Bashevkin, called “What’s in a Wave?” The learning was not only fun, engaging and empowering, but all the teens walked away with a new, positive Torah perspective on life and Judaism.
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A group of teens from Germany NCSY on a day trip to the nearby city of Dresden.
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Makom Balev’s Bar/Bat Mitzvah program, “Gesharim,” celebrated Pesach with an exciting day following in the footsteps of Jewish leaders and history with a special focus on “Jewish Courage and Strength”. Four-hundred teens from all across the country relived Jewish history by visiting sites that hold significance and value. Among them were the Ha’elah Valley, representing David Hamelech’s victory over Goliath, the Kotel, the last standing vestige of the Temple, which was liberated during the Six Day War, and the Judean Mountains, representing the Bar Kochva Rebellion. The day concluded with an inspiring evening in Kiryat Gat featuring HaRav Shmuel Eliyahu, Chief Rabbi of Tzfat, who blessed and strengthened the kids and staff members present with his warm and encouraging words. Music, special presentations and an interactive show with the teens followed Rav Shmuel’s inspiring words. The kids felt this day strengthened their Jewish self-esteem and pride.
THE MAGAZINE OF NCSY
Rabbi Moshe Benovitz
What does it mean to be an organization focused on inspiration but committed to education? If imitation is the highest form of flattery, then NCSY is most flattered indeed. The organization’s pioneering advances in the informal education of teens have been widely replicated in a wide variety of Jewish institutions. Most notably, NCSY’s profound influence on the strongholds of formal education have helped blur the lines between school and youth group with regard to the objectives, methods, and essential identities of these organizations. To be sure, NCSY is not nearly the sole factor in these developments. A changing world is constantly changing its educational approach. There are a myriad of causes for the healthy evolution of the schools of yesterday to the schools of today. Yet it seems clear that the successes of NCSY style programming—at weekend conventions, social gatherings, and summerlong camps and tours—have paved the way for a new reality where informal education is the norm, even in the traditional Jewish schoolhouses. Rare is the school that does not depend heavily on Shabbatons (virtually indistinguishable from their NCSY counterparts), interactive sessions, collegiate mentoring, and multimedia to impart (or at least supplement) the educational curriculum. But as schools increasingly resemble NCSY, NCSY must identify with schools. No, not in structure or form; tests and grades and traditional classrooms should remain outside NCSY’s purview. But with regard to a mission and an identity, NCSY belongs in the educational community. Our masthead aptly and proudly declares the intent to “Inspire the Jewish Future,” and “inspiration” is the single word that encapsulates all of our varied goals. Yet there is inspiration that is closely connected to our intellectual and academic heritage, and inspiration that remains separate from it. While the latter may have its value and place, the emphasis of our programming must be with learning. The goal of an NCSY program, even specifically of a learning session, should not be to simply impart information. It is not the primary objective of NCSY to provide any sort of “crash course” in Jewish literacy. Nor is it to teach textual skills, deliver content digests, or offer the mentorship and opportunities for intensive study necessary to produce bona fide scholars. But we are not entirely removed from the academic arena either. We must inspire towards education. We can inspire an intellectual curiosity and nurture a healthy, mature confidence in the world of Jewish scholarship. When we succeed at achieving these goals, the NCSYers will willingly and vigorously pursue the aforementioned skills and literacy.
social debates, it is not merely utilizing the headlines to pique interest; it is establishing Torah as a guiding force in the practical world and revealing its universal application. Second, NCSY can give a brief taste of Torah that is so deep, majestic, and noble, that the student will have no choice but to desire more. When we highlight ideas that resonate and bring new insight, our NCSYers encounter a Torah that is immeasurably deep and sophisticated, instead of trite and tired. Years ago, when I was involved in running NCSY Shabbatons, I had frequent run-ins with a particularly assertive bandleader. He would ignore directions to keep the music going, and would stop playing when the energy was at a crescendo. When he finally grew frustrated with my protestations, he drew me aside and gave me his maxim for life: “Always leave them wanting more.” Later he explained that, sure, he could keep things going until they petered out, but in the long run more would be gained by leaving his audience with the sense that there was more out there. What is true for an orchestra can be true in education as well. A great lesson inspires when the student feels he has touched only the tip of the intellectual iceberg. And he leaves thirsting for more. So there is room for NCSY in the educational universe. Instead of being distant companions to our classroom counterparts, there can be a reciprocal effect where learning leads to more inspiration and more inspiration ignites passion for more learning. NCSYers should leave a Shabbaton inspired towards their own Jewish future, and armed with the conviction that their future involves serious Torah study. Rabbi Moshe Benovitz, an NCSY alumnus, is the dean of NCSY Summer Programs and the director of NCSY Kollel. He is also a rebbe at Reishit Yerushalayim in Israel.
This particular brand of inspiration can be developed in two ways. First, NCSY can take advantage of its lack of curricular restraints and focus on revealing a Torah that is profound in its relevance. While it is true that the greater the relevance the greater the interest level, this is not the most important benefit of a relevant lesson. Because of the frequent overlap between the two, being relevant and being interesting are often confused. Relevant Torah does not inspire because it can hold the listener’s attention. It inspires because it identifies Torah as alive and vital. When a session introduces the Torah perspective (or perspectives) on current events or
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11 Broadway, 14th Floor New York, NY 10004
“From Cincinnati to Cleveland, NCSY guides, inspires, and empowers Jewish youth to lead full lives. NCSY’s legacy of leadership – in Ohio and throughout the country – continues to cultivate generations of teenagers who are eager to build a promising future.” - U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH)
“As a Board member of the Orthodox Union and a communal professional, I have always admired the incredible reach of NCSY. There is no more vital Jewish community youth organization. NCSY’s devotion to so many needy kids around the country dovetails with our mission of teaching the importance of tzedakah v’gemilut chasadim: acts of charity and deeds of kindness.” - William E. Rapfogel Chief Executive Officer of Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty
“As a university professor for over 35 years, I am well aware of the importance of a good education in giving young people a sense of who they are and a proper foundation for the future. But all too often we forget that formal institutions are only part of the answer. We also have to remember that informal education is just as important in defining who a youngster is and, even more important, who he or she will become. NCSY is to be congratulated for the wonderful work that it is doing in giving the next generation such a strong foundation.” - Dr. Eugene Rothman, Executive Director, UGalilee; Associate Director for Academic Development and Senior Fellow at The Sue and Leonard Miller Center for Contemporary Judaic Studies
NCSY’s serious emphasis on data collection, evaluation and professional development throughout every area of the organization is as cutting edge as it gets. Their commitment to staying ahead of the trends while leading the field in recruiting/ retaining exceptional teens, professionals and lay leaders is their hallmark. Working with NCSY is a great joy and privilege for me.” - Rhoda Weisman, President of LeaderShift Non-Profit Consulting