Connecting NCSY, JLIC & IFS Alumni
Discovering a New World of Judaism with Israel Free Spirit WHERE ARE THEY NOW? NCSY’S “LITTLE ROCKA REBBE”
OU-JLIC Report: Changing Times on Campus
Publication of the ORTHODOX UNION
__________________ Supplement to
OU NEXTGEN EXECUTIVE TEAM
Rabbi Dave Felsenthal, Director NextGen, IFS Birthright Rabbi Yehoshua Marchuck, Director, Alumni Connections Rabbi Ilan Haber, National Director OU-JLIC, Deputy Director, NextGen Division OU ALUMNI CONNECTIONS:
Alyssa Wolff, Alumni Associate Shayna Zukerman, Alumni Associate, NCSY Natalie Leichtman, NextGen Administrative Assistant Rachel Shammah, Alumni Associate, JSU Dory Leviashvili, Alumni Associate, IFS Ari Ziegler, Program Associate Hart Levine, Heart to Heart Director, OU Young Professionals Director, NYC Dov Winston, Heart to Heart Regional Coordinator, NYC Yardena Bannett, NJ NCSY Alumni, 12th Grade Specialist Josh Cohen, West Coast NCSY Alumni, 12th Grade Specialist Rabbi Phil Karesh, Midwest NCSY Alumni, 12th Grade Specialist TAGLIT BIRTHRIGHT ISRAEL - ISRAEL FREE SPIRIT ISRAEL TEAM
NCSY ALUMNI CONNECTS HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATES WITH:
Learning Trips (Germany, Thailand, Onward
IFS ALUMNI ISRAEL FREE SPIRIT ALUMNI CONNECTS PAST PARTICIPANTS TO: Bring Israel Home • Partners In Torah •
(Germany, Thailand, Onward Israel) •
Rabbi Akiva Weiss, Binghamton University Rabbi David & Ariel Pardo, Brandeis University Rabbi Reuven & Shira Boshnack, Brooklyn College Rabbi Noam & Shiffy Friedman, Columbia/Barnard Rabbi Chaim & Shira Finson, Cornell University Mrs. Ruthie Braffman, Drexel University, UPenn Rabbi Darren & Avital Levin, Johns Hopkins University Rabbi Moshe & Dahlia Farkas, Greater Montreal Rabbi Gideon Black, Rivky Stern, and Rachel Waldman, NYU Rabbi Elie & Ilana Bercuson, Princeton University Rabbi Robby & Shoshana Charnoff, Queens College Rabbi Adam & Sara Frieberg, Rutgers University Rabbi Aryeh & Sharona Kaplan, UCLA Rabbi Daniel & Naomi Levitt, University of Guelph Rabbi Michael Langer & Vera Wexler, University of Illinois Rabbi Ari & Shira Neuman, University of Maryland Rabbi Yosi & Sheera Eisen, University of Massachusetts Rabbi Yaakov & Racheli Taubes, UPenn Shlomo & Ora Geller, University of Wisconsin Rabbi Shlomo & Chana Zuckier, Yale University Rabbi Aaron & Miriam Greenberg, Greater Toronto Nick Faguet, Santa Monica College
Summer 2015 | Reunion Magazine
International Service Learning Trips
Heart to Heart • Social Media/Online Jewish resources • Jewniversity Resources App • Birthright Israel Next
JLIC ALUMNI CONNECTS HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATES WITH:
International Service Learning Trips (Germany, Thailand, Onward Israel) • Masa programs and scholarships • JLIC
Alumni reunion events •
Partners In Torah • IFS Birthright Trips • Social Media/Online Jewish resources
ORTHODOX UNION - HESHE & HARRIET SEIF JEWISH LEARNING INITIATIVE ON CAMPUS
App • Heart to Heart •
NCSY Intern Events
Masa programs and scholarships •
Rabbi Menachem Schrader, Founding Director Rabbi Josh Ross, Deputy Director, Director of Development and External Relations Rabbi Shalom Axelrod, Director of Special Projects Eliana Steinreich, Operations Associate Hani Lowenstein, Student Leadership & Educational Resources Michael Goldman, College Intern
Partners In Torah • Social Media/
Online Jewish resources • Jewniversity
Yael Tamari, Director, Israel Shuli Schwartz, Rakezet Rabbi Menachem Persoff, Senior Executive Consultant Penny Pazornick, Associate Director Scott Shulman, Program Director Tatyana Plotkina, Marketing Manager Bassy Altman, Registrar Leah Weinberg, Registrar Amanda Dwyer, Recruitment Associate Lauren Hertan, Registration Associate
JLIC educators & other Jewish resources on campus • Masa programs and scholarships • IFS Birthright Trips • International Service
ORTHODOX UNION LEADERSHIP Martin Nachimson, President, Orthodox Union Howard Tzvi Friedman, Chairman of the Board, Orthodox Union Allen I. Fagin, Executive Vice President / Chief Professional Officer Rabbi Steven Weil, Senior Managing Director Rabbi Dr. Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, Executive Vice President, Emeritus Mayer Fertig, Chief Communications Officer Shlomo Schwartz, Chief Financial Officer / Chief Administrative Officer Rabbi Lenny Bessler, Chief Human Resources Officer Sam Davidovics, Chief Information Officer OU NEXTGEN BOARD
Dr. Shimmy Tennenbaum, Chairman • Stanley Weinstein Henry Rothman • Barbara Lehmann Siegel Rabbi Saul Robinson • Henry Orlinsky NCSY LEADERSHIP
Rabbi Pinchas Stolper, Founding National Director Rabbi Micah Greenland, International Director Keevy Fried, Associate International Director David Cutler, NCSY Summer Programs Director Avi Katz, NCSY Chair Vivian Luchins, NCSY Summer Programs Chair REUNION MAGAZINE
Charlotte Friedland, Editor Tova Belsh, Art Director Alyssa Wolff, Editorial Assistant Carrie Beylus, OU Director, Design & Branding
REUNION © 2015 by Orthodox Union. All rights reserved.
LEADERSHIP MESSAGES || RABBI YEHOSHUA
2 || RABBI DAVE FELSENTHAL 3 || HENRY ORLINSKY FEATURES
4 || 10 THINGS YOU DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT THE ORTHODOX
5 || MYSTERY VINTAGE PHOTO 7 || DISCOVERING A NEW WORLD
OF JUDAISM with Israel Free Spirit
11 || WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
“It brings us all together...” || 24
24 || STAYING CONNECTED
THE “LITTLE ROCKA REBBE” Rabbi Shaya and Nechie Kilimnick
22 || CHANGING TIMES
26 || OU ALUMNI CONNECTIONS IN ACTION!
29 || OU NEXTGEN:
REACHING OUT TO YOUNG PROFESSIONALS
32 || A COZY HOME ON CAMPUS 35 || COLLEGIATES TAKE A TORAH BREAK
36 || SHARING OUR NEWS ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT
14 || ALYSSA WOLFF (IFS) 16 || ELISHA MENDL MLOTEK (OU-JLIC)
18 || ARI SOLOMONT (NCSY) COVER PHOTO: CAESAREA, ISRAEL, BY YITZ PIERCE
By Rabbi Yehoshua Marchuck Director, OU Alumni Connections
Bestsellers Welcome back! Since the debut of Reunion some months ago, the buzz has been constant and palpable. We want to thank you for all of your feedback. Please keep it coming! I think that most folks enjoy Reunion because it takes us back in time. It gives us a chance to pause and reflect on our early days, and on our shared vision. It reminds us how important those bedrock years were for building the great movements of OU-JLIC, Taglit-Birthright Israel: Israel Free Spirit, and NCSY.
of influence in its own right. Since its first print run in 1982, there have been nearly 2.5 million copies printed and sold. Two and a half million! You’d be hard pressed to imagine the world of Jewish education without The NCSY Bencher. Besides the sheer number of copies out there, the bencher has had a pronounced impact on countless segments of the Jewish world. Everywhere there are Jews ready to recite Kiddush, make brachot, or sing Jewish songs and zemirot, you’ll find it at hand. An iconic artifact of twentieth century Jewish history, this masterpiece is alive and well, continuing to inspire people across the continent and around the world!
Through these programs, many of us were introduced to Torah for the first time. Even for those who had been taught Torah in the past, for the first time it was made relevant to our own lives; for the first time it inspired us to be better Jews. Of course, in a manner of speaking, we share the Torah with most of the civilized world, for the Bible – translated into 2,426 languages − is the most influential work of all time. It is estimated that over a 100 million copies are sold or given away every year.
It’s wonderful to reflect that both “bestsellers” – the Bible and The NCSY Bencher – originated with the Jewish people and belong to us forever. On Shavuot, we reaccept the Torah just as we did at the foot of Mount Sinai. As the great commentator Rashi teaches us, this young nation of newly-freed slaves felt totally unified, “as if they were one person connected by one heart.” Today we have the same mission: to be like the Jewish people at the foot of Mount Sinai, united and totally focused on our shared mission of inspiring and shaping the future of our people.
And there’s another bestseller out there. The NCSY Bencher was inspired by the Torah verse mandating that we thank God for our sustenance: “You will eat, and you will be sated and bless Hashem, your God…” (Devarim 8:10). The bencher is approaching a milestone
For more than thirty years, The NCSY Bencher has forged a connection from one Jew to another, as one person with one heart, for millions of Jews of all ages. May we stay connected through song and prayer, mitzvot and learning, for many years to come! R @Ymarchuck
Summer 2015 | Reunion Magazine
By Rabbi Dave Felsenthal
The response to our first Director, OU NexGen, IFS issue of Reunion was very gratifying. I’m so glad that you, our Alumni, found the articles and life updates of our old friends as heart-warming as I did. One of the most important values taught to me when I was in NCSY was hakarat hatov (gratitude), thanks to my regional director and friend, Rabbi Yitzchok Lowenbraun. It was humiliating at the time, but I’ll never forget how I learned to truly understand this mitzvah. So here’s my story: When I was in NCSY, I won every award they gave. I went to YU, Kerem B’Yavneh and Ner Yisroel in Baltimore, worked for several regions, and became field coordinator for Atlantic Seaboard NCSY. Needless to say, there wasn’t enough room in my head for both an ego and a brain! As I was progressing through NCSY, one of the homes that became mine was that of Danny and Leah Taragin. They were very bright and very cool. And in many ways, Danny helped me start the first of many successful side businesses. During the time that I was learning in Ner Yisroel, Danny lost his father. He needed a ride to Silver Spring to sit shiva, and no one could take him. Rabbi Lowenbraun called me during morning seder to ask me to drive him − and I blithely told him I could not miss shiur. My ears are still burning from the fire that came through the phone about the importance of hakarat hatov. It hit me that I was putting my learning over helping someone
who had spent countless hours with me, influencing me so that I would even want to learn Torah. When I realized that I had rejected the opportunity to help this special person at a time in his life when he truly needed me, I was embarrassed beyond description. And I learned an additional important life lesson: It’s never too late to learn something that will make you a better person. As alumni, we all need to remember that. Even though we have outgrown the OU programs that were so important to our lives, it is never too late for us to learn and grow through our continued relationship with NCSY, OUJLIC, Israel Free Spirit, Heart to Heart and other life-changing OU programs. The articles in these pages about the experiences of our peers and fellow alumni have dozens of amazing life lessons to teach and inspire us. And if you share that feeling of hakarat hatov as I do, and especially if you’ve never expressed it before, please help us help the next generation by supporting the program of your choice through Alumni funding. It may come as a surprise to you, but we do accept donations. Really. And I’m not just saying that because I’m the director of NextGen looking at a soaring budget. But listen, even if you keep your checkbook closed, as long as your heart is open and you’re happy to connect with fellow alumni, I’m satisfied. Mazal Tov to all of us on celebrating this Reunion together! R
By Henry Orlinsky Chairman, OU Development
I must confess that I was never a fan of Birthright. I had always wondered why our great philanthropists of the Jewish world were putting so much money into giving young adults a vacation in Israel. Of what possible value could a ten-day trip be? How wrong I was. It took only one trip with an IFS Birthright Israel group to open my eyes. At the end of my first trip, I participated in the “Bar Mitzvah” program, instituted by IFS Director of Programs Rabbi Menachem Persoff, in which each member of the group has an opportunity to experience the Bar or Bas Mitzvah that most of them never had. Sitting in the Jewish Quarter on a beautiful summer day, overlooking the Kotel, I watched in awe as, one by one, participants shared insights on their journeys. Many brought me to tears as they related their stories: some never had any Jewish friends before; some had no knowledge of what Israel is about; most had no idea of what being Jewish was about. Some confessed to hating Orthodox Jews and the Jewish religion before coming on this trip, but now could speak in terms of loving every Jew. One young man − tattooed from head to toe, with long curly hair − read a ten-minute poem about how he found himself, and how
he renewed his relationship with his roots, changing his view on life and on himself. As for me, I began to see IFS Birthright Israel as an initiative that is changing the Jewish world, one Jew at a time. I’d heard of studies showing that Birthright Israel participants who never thought marrying Jewish was a consideration before are more likely to marry a Jew after visiting Israel. Now I understand why. I am a child of Holocaust survivors. I don’t like to use this term, because my parents didn’t just survive − they overcame and flourished. My mother endured the horrors of Bergen Belsen and Auschwitz; my father jumped the train to Treblinka and managed to survive in the forests of Poland. Through sacrifice − with love for God and family − tens of thousands like them set the stage for our generation to reflect on the message of survival every day. In that context, what greater mission can there be than bringing our younger generation to Israel to see firsthand the miracles of thousands of years of survival?
of NCSY and the yeshivah day schools to OU-JLIC couples. These rabbinic couples are more than role models: they create an inspiring Jewish oasis at secular colleges that are minefields of antiSemitism and anti-Jewish values, and our children need them. What I am about to say may be uncomfortable; but I am speaking to myself as much as to any other parent. We spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on Jewish education, but at the same time we are forgetting to instill in our children the values our parents sacrificed their lives for. We spend our free time taking children to ballgames – which, I believe, is a
we have and convey our role as wholehearted Jews serving our Creator. I have told business associates that my parents were the wealthiest people I knew. At their passing, they left no monetary wealth behind and their material possessions fit in a box. Yet they had the zechus to create and see four generations of shomrei Torah u’mitzvos. Many of us have been blessed to see children and grandchildren living vibrant Torah lives, largely because they had the dynamic positive influence of our parents and grandparents who made serving Hashem their first priority. Yet there are tens of thousands of young Jews who are not so fortunate to have such role models. Let us all work together to excite the next generation with a love for Hashem, for our Torah, our Shabbos, and − most importantly − our love for each other. We have been endowed with that middah by Avraham Avinu, passed down through the teachings of Hillel Hazakein and Rabbi Akiva. The outstanding OU outreach professionals, led by “Rabbi Dave” Felsenthal, transmit that love consistently to all who enter their orbit. As a result, showing love for each and every Jew is the first value sensed and absorbed by all who participate in our youth programs. It is the foundation of a committed Jewish life, and needs to be reiterated in every generation. Let us not waver in supporting that goal. R
“ Let us all work together to
excite the next generation.
I have focused on IFS, but my admiration and commitment extend to our Alumni program, where our NCSY Alumni specialists connect the graduates
nice medium for bonding − yet, we rarely speak to our children about Hashem, our Torah, or hashgachah pratis (Divine Providence). We spend Shabbos with our children discussing all the various leagues they participate in – but how often do we discuss a Rashi we learned with them? When we call our children when they have left home to college, or later in life, do we talk about the restaurants we go to, or do we share a dvar Torah we heard? Why are we so uncomfortable expressing passion for God and for our true role as Jews? All the programming we support and all the outreach we do will not save the next generation if we don’t recognize the blessings
Summer 2015 | Reunion Magazine
10youThings didn’t know
ABOUT THE ORTHODOX UNION By Michael Orbach
The Orthodox Union is older than you think 0+ It may not look its age, but 1y0 ears
the OU is more than 100 years old. Dr. Henry Pereira Mendes, minister of Congregation Shearith Israel (the prominent Spanish-Portuguese Synagogue), founded the organization in 1898 as the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America. Forty-seven synagogues signed on to the coalition. No OU Kosher back then. No Advocacy Center. And alas, no NCSY. Today, hundreds of shuls across North America are members of the Orthodox Union.
There are former NCSYers pushing 80
NCSY, the international youth movement of the Orthodox Union, is no spring chicken either. Founded by Harold Boxer in 1954, NCSY has been inspiring teens for more than 60 years. But despite its long history, the organization stays young with an ever-changing cadre of advisors and directors who are always in touch with what’s trending with teens.
What was the first OU-certified product? Hint: You eat it with hot dogs
The Kashrut Division was formed in 1923 and H.J. Heinz Company’s vegetarian beans was the first product labeled with the now famous OU Kosher symbol. When you open a can for a summer BBQ, you’re chowing down on a piece of kosher history.
Summer 2015 | Reunion Magazine
OU Kosher isn’t only in supermarkets
While most consumers think of the OU symbol applying to products in their local supermarket, the majority of OU certifications are in factories spread wide across the world. More than 900,000 ingredients and products are certified in 10,000 plants in more than 90 countries. In fact, many foods bearing other kashrut certifications contain ingredients certified by the OU.
The OU is in public schools
Under NCSY, the OU maintains more than 200 Jewish Student Union clubs in public high schools throughout North America. Each club meets weekly or biweekly to give Jewish students a stronger bond with their Jewish heritage.
Our Kashruth Division CEO is a friend of former President Bill Clinton
Rabbi Menachem Genack counts the 42nd US president as a friend. After establishing a friendship when Clinton ran for office, Rabbi Genack sent him a dvar Torah each week during his presidency. The divrei Torah were collected and published in Letters to President Clinton, with a foreword from the former president himself.
The OU publishes books
OU Press publishes books across a wide array of Jewish topics. Titles include the latest volume of Chumash Mesoras HaRav, with Bible commentary by Rabbi Joseph Dov Soloveitchik zt”l, as well as contemporary works. Check out www.ou.org/oupress to see an impressive list of titles and authors including Rabbis Norman Lamm and Jonathan Sacks.
Want a Shabbat meal on campus? Ask the OU
The OU will help you find a job
The OU is the primary supporter of the Heart to Heart Project, a grassroots college initiative that brings together Jewish students for Shabbat meals. It also provides a list of Jewish resources and kosher food available on campuses across the country. In college or know someone going to college? Don’t make a move till you check theheart2heartproject.org.
The OU Job Board is a virtual meeting place that allows employers and prospective emloyees to post resumes and interact with each other. The Job Board also runs job fairs, seminars, meet-ups and a host of training classes including accounting, software development and graphic design. The site is constantly updated with new jobs. www.oujobs.org
OU’s NCSY Pitches In as Home Builders
Led by Director Rabbi Ethan Katz, NCSYers from the New Jersey Region have been going to New Orleans to work with Habitat for Humanity, helping rebuild homes and areas that were destroyed during Hurricane Katrina. They’ve been at it for five years and they say it’s worth the sweat!
Vintage Photo How accurate is your NCSY memory? At right in the first row are (Rabbis) Perry Tirschwill and Matt Tropp. But who are the others in this classic NCSY Havdalah photo? Where and when was it taken?
...you can identify anyone, or ...you are in the picture! Or ...you remember where and when the photo was taken Please contact Reunion at email@example.com. The confirmed identification will be posted to the NCSY website and printed in the next issue of Reunion.
AND HERE IS THE
IDENTIFICATION of the PREVIOUS
STEVEN BILLAUER, National President 1967-68:
“ The long-haired young lady standing behind Rabbi Stolper and Dr. Luchins is Michal Stolper, daughter of Rabbi and Mrs. Pinchas Stolper. “I believe this picture was taken at a National Convention Banquet at the Pioneer Country Club (NY).”
Summer 2015 | Reunion Magazine
Ben Zakkai Honor Society’s
NCSY National Scholarship Reception HUNDREDS OF NCSY ALUMNI attended the Ben Zakkai Dinner held this past February at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York. The evening was dedicated to the memory of Rabbi Louis and Rebbetzin Helen Ginsburg z”l, one of the beloved founding families of NCSY. Rabbi Pinchas Stolper, the
RABBI MICAH GREENLAND, TODD COHN, RABBI BEN GONSHER, DR. DAVID LUCHINS AND VIVIAN LUCHINS
first director of NCSY, flew in from Chicago to welcome the Ginsburg grandchildren to the event. This year’s four inductees to the Ben Zakkai Honor Society come from different parts of North America and serve NCSY in various capacities: Rabbi Ben Gonsher and Karen Steinberg both work for Southern NCSY, as chief relationships officer and CEO, respectively; Rabbi Adam Simon is director of San Diego NCSY; and Rabbi Arieh Friedner is the director of Cleveland NCSY. Prestigious awards were given to long-time supporters and employees of NCSY as well. Nechama Kamelhar received the Rebbetzin Ella and Rav Aharon Soloveichik Award. Rabbi Dr. Matis and Dalia Shulman received the Ezra Ben Zion Lightman Memorial Award, and David
and Fran Woolf received the Enid and Harold H. Boxer Memorial Award. The evening concluded with a rousing speech by Rabbi Chaim Wielgus, who received the Rebbetzin Elaine and Rabbi Pinchas Stolper Service Award. “The Ben Zakkai Honor Society is a remarkable group of NCSY alumni,” said NCSY International Director Rabbi Micah Greenland. “It’s essentially our hall of fame and it allows our most distinguished graduates to work together on projects that benefit the Jewish community.” At next year’s Ben Zakkai Dinner on January 10th at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, Rabbi Dave and Chani Felsenthal will receive the Rebbetzin Elaine and Rabbi Pinchas Stolper Service Award. R
To reserve your place at the dinner, contact Elaine Grossman at firstname.lastname@example.org
Help Keep the flame of Torah burning bright! Be an OU Partner in Torah Mentor an NCSY or IFS Birthright Israel alum To volunteer as a mentor or sign up to learn more about your Jewish heritage, go to http://bit.ly/OUPartnersinTorah
Summer 2015 | Reunion Magazine
A DIVISION OF
DISCOVERING A NEW WORLD OF JUDAISM WITH ISRAEL FREE SPIRIT BY Z VI VOLK
“WHEN I WAS GROWING UP, every Jewish kid knew who the players in Israel were,” says Steve Eisenberg, who has escorted numerous groups on the OU’s Israel Free Spirit TaglitBirthright Israel trips. “They knew Golda Meir and Moshe Dayan,” he says, “and they knew about the wars of 1948, ’67 and ’73.
my life as a Jew and as a person.” Since that first trip, Steve became passionate about accompanying several IFS Taglit-Birthright Israel groups every year. “Nothing is more fulfilling,” according to Steve. “You watch new worlds open to each participant – worlds of spirituality, of Judaism, of connection to the Jewish people.”
“What I’m seeing now are people who have no idea what Jews have been doing for the last 3,500 years. My first trip as an IFS leader changed
That’s quite an impact, considering the fact that each group of forty participants visits Israel for only ten days. The North American travelers
are joined by eight IDF soldiers for five of the ten days. Meeting their contemporaries in uniform, talking with young men and women who are trained to fight for their country’s survival, makes a deep impression. And the experiences they share with these Jewish soldiers – many of whom also are barely familiar with Jewish history and culture − are fascinating to American and Israeli alike. The OU’s Israel Free Spirit program is not intended to make a
Summer 2015 | Reunion Magazine
profit. At least not in financial terms. What they do generate is a connection to Israel that many of the participants never thought possible. And quite often, they follow up on their new association with the Jewish homeland and the Jewish nation when they return to the States. Some young people discover a yearning for Judaism they never knew they had. (Upon their return, they continue to study their heritage with a Partners in Torah mentor provided by the OU Alumni Connections department.)
“THIS TRIP CHANGES EVERYTHING FOR ME…”
More than ninety percent of the participants on IFS trips have little or no Jewish background, according to Rabbi Dave Felsenthal, director of OU Israel Free Spirit. “They are attracted to our trips because we have a reputation for quality that includes great spiritual and educational content.” He explains that part of the reason for such high quality is that most of the staff are educators.
Summer 2015 | Reunion Magazine
There are coed groups, as well as all-male and all-female groups. A Twelve-Step Recovery tour (in partnership with JACS – Jewish Alcoholics, Chemically Dependent Persons, and Significant Others) includes visiting an inpatient treatment center for substance abuse. Another exceptional IFS trip is for members of Yachad, the OU’s National Jewish Council for Disabilities, which promotes inclusion of people with disabilities in the Jewish community. Special buses, facilities, and nearly one-on-one attention enable these young people to tour Israel as mainstream tourists do, an experience many previously thought impossible. Going that extra mile to accommodate people of all needs and interests is not new to the IFS program. “We’ll do almost anything to get more Jews to visit Israel,” says Yael Tamari, Israel director of the Israel Free Spirit program.
AN IFS TOUR GROUP IN JERUSALEM, WINTER 2014-2015.
PHOTO: EVA SHAPIRO
particular university, while others are planned for young professionals. There’s a Soul Trek for those interested in finding the spirituality that takes many forms in Israel. Some trips are for people working in music, arts or entertainment; others are designed for business leaders to show the “start-up nation” at work. On many of the niche trips, some staff members are experts in the same fields as the participants, which makes a huge difference.
Of course, not every tour can be meaningful to every type of person. And that is how “niche trips” evolved. IFS is well known for its unique “niche” itineraries. This summer, between early May and mid-August, thirty-six IFS groups will visit Israel accompanied by OU staff. Some tours cater to a
as many holidays, gone to shul, or done some of the things I used to do − like fast on Yom Kippur,” he admits. “I was losing touch with my faith. I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to re-find my Judaism. “When we were in Safed I went to a mikvah (ritual bath). I was a little hesitant at first. But as I came out of the water, I felt refreshed. As the day progressed, I felt a change in the way I was thinking. I felt more lucid. It set the tone for the rest of the trip.” Another of Josh’s moving experiences unexpectedly occurred in the desert. His group was visiting a Bedouin tent in the Negev one night. “We walked about a mile away from the tent, sat on rocks and stared up at the sky,” he recalls. “There was no light. Just the stars overhead. We could focus on relaxing. We thought about our place in the big picture of Israel and Judaism. I was in the wilderness, but I felt attached because I had my Jewish brothers and sisters − my family − out there with me.” Andrew Stessel, 27, who works in home construction in Houston, agrees with Josh: “I almost feel closer to people in this [IFS] group than I do to the friends I’ve had for years and years back in Texas,” he says. “I realize the only thing I ever got for being Jewish in Texas was bullied.”
And what is the actual experience like? Josh Turkeltaub, 27, a medical student who grew up in Scottsdale, Arizona, chose the OU tour in order to reconnect to Judaism. This is a motivation that resonates with many IFS participants.
A true Texan, Andrew had a unique take on Masada: “Climbing Masada was amazing. It was a ‘last stand’ [for Jews] − kind of like the Alamo,” he drawls. “But I really felt like my soul came alive when we got to Safed. Where I come from, the oldest places are maybe 150 years old. Here, that’s nothing.”
“Since my Bar Mitzvah I’ve lost touch with my Jewish roots,” he says. “I haven’t really celebrated
Andrew reflects on this whirlwind tour, and his own growing Jewish awareness, with
A MOVING MOMENT DURING AN IFS BAT MITZVAH CEREMONY ATOP MASADA.
PHOTO: EVA SHAPIRO
wonder. “Six months ago I didn’t know Birthright Israel existed,” he says. “And now I’ve been ‘Bar Mitzvahed’ in Safed. I’ll never forget this.” Andrew’s Bar Mitzvah was no casual affair. For him, it was laden with meaning that connected him to the past, present and future as a Jew. He had become friendly with one of the IDF soldiers on the IFS trip – twenty-year-old Elliot David, a “lone soldier” who left his family in New Rochelle, NY, to volunteer in the Israeli army. Elliot helped Andrew choose a Hebrew name for his Bar Mitzvah. “I was really proud to choose my own Hebrew name, because I was never given one,” says Roi Dov Stessel. “Dov was my great-grandfather,” he explains, “and I chose Roi for Roi Klein, who was a hero.” Elliot had told him about Klein, a young IDF officer who jumped on an exploding grenade to save the soldiers in his unit during the Lebanon War in 2006. “This trip changes everything for me,” Andrew concludes. “I’m the last one in my family who has even the slightest interest in keeping the Jewish culture and faith going. My Grandma is the only one left who practices anything Jewish. It’s sad to think that if I don’t do anything, my whole ancestry stops with me.”
For Trent Gluck, 23, going on the IFS Taglit-Birthright Israel tour in December 2013 was a shocking lesson in Jewish identity. He reflects, “Your life revolves around your Jewish identity in Israel. Hey! You’re Jewish. Hey! So is everyone else. In the Diaspora, Judaism is only a religion. When you come here you realize that Judaism is a people. It’s so much deeper. “Seeing the whole city of Jerusalem close down for Shabbat was a powerful experience. That is a real Shabbat. I was blown away by that. And Shabbat is something I’ve never experienced before, so being at the Western Wall on Friday night was incredible for me.” Like Trent, others on the IFS trips gain so much from their brief encounter with Israel because the OU IFS leadership is well-trained, knowledgeable and articulate. For example, Rabbi Eric Ertel, also known as “Rabbi E,” is a Jewish outreach professional at the University of California–San Diego, where Trent was a student. He is a resource person for IFS participants and he encourages them to ask questions. At the Western Wall, a group member once asked him to explain the tefillin he saw men putting on. “I compared the tefillin to a wireless router: If you’re in a house and you
don’t have a router or a computer to pick up the signal, you can’t make the connection,” he explained. “It’s the same thing with spirituality. It’s out there. Tefillin are like wireless routers that pick up the signals.”
“WE THOUGHT ABOUT OUR PLACE IN THE BIG PICTURE OF ISRAEL AND JUDAISM...” And those signals are loud and clear to those who seek them; deeply emotional, life-changing experiences can happen in the course of a ten-day trip. And to many participants that is the greatest surprise. “I didn’t think I was going to feel this way, but I’m very grateful for it. Once you see Israel, you live it, you breathe it; it’s a whole new ball game,” comments Josh. “This tour is no Cancun vacation,” laughs Andrew. “It’s a journey.” R
For the full range of IFS trips go to www.israelfreespirit.com
Zvi Volk is a staff writer in the OU Communications Department, based in Jerusalem. He has worked as a writer and editor for the US Department of State and the IDF.
Summer 2015 | Reunion Magazine
see ya’ in september...
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Wishing all of our current and incoming collegians a fabulous summer break. We can’t wait to see you back on campus!
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Where are they now?
THE “LITTLE ROCKA REBBE”
R A B B I S H AYA A N D N E C H I E K I L I M N I C K BY R E B E CC A F E L D B AU M
WHEN RABBI SHAYA KILIMNICK took the position as rabbi of Congregation Agudath Achim in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1970, he was the youngest pulpit rabbi of an Orthodox congregation in America. Rabbi Kilimnick gives credit to Rabbi Seymour Atlas, the officiating rabbi who preceded him, for smoothing his way. “When I went to Little Rock for my initial interview, I was so impressed by the community’s kindness and hospitality toward me,” says Rabbi Kilimnick. “And once I took the position, a core group of men in the shul, who had been close to Rabbi Atlas, showed the same respect to me. They backed me up whenever an issue arose, even though they did not have any sort of religious upbringing. For instance, when my authority was challenged on the issue of separate seating,
People would inevitably ask him, “There are Jews in Arkansas?”
they unequivocally stood by my side.” Rabbi Kiliminck notes that he was under the constant tutelage of his rebbe, Rabbi Yaakov Weinberg of Ner Israel, who helped him guide his congregation of 100 families. The rabbi moved to Little Rock with his wife Nechie (neé Mernick) when she was expecting their first child. (She gave birth to their son, Yosef, five weeks later.) Nechie confesses that when her husband told her about the job offer, she had absolutely no idea where Little Rock was. “I was a bit shell-shocked by the move. After all, I was a Brooklyn girl, and moving
to such a small Jewish community was a real eye-opener for me! Yes, we were able to get kosher products, but the items were very limited. And those Southern accents!
RABBI KILIMNICK WITH HIS FAMOUS GUITAR.
Summer 2015 | Reunion Magazine
I had a very hard time understanding what people were saying to me. But, my husband had his heart set on being a shul rav, so I knew we had to start somewhere. I soon became acclimated. The unbelievable Southern hospitality shown to us made us feel like we were part of everyone’s families.”
The new synagogue had a mechitzah that was cemented to the sanctuary floor, and the first mikvah in Arkansas. Rabbi Kilimnick notes that when he visited the North, people would inevitably ask him “There are Jews in Arkansas?” Essentially, the answer was Jews, yes; shomer Shabbos, no. But being one of the few shomer Shabbos couples in the entire state did not deter the Kilimnicks. As the only Orthodox rabbi, Rabbi Kilimnick’s duties were abundant: in charge of the Hebrew School, preparing boys for their Bar Mitzvahs; leading the congregation in services; creating a Friday night choir; and of course, counseling couples and families. He also initiated the first Soviet Jewry rally in Arkansas, which was very well received by the local press. But the only way to insure the survival of Judaism in the
synagogue was through their youth, and Rabbi Kilimnick and Nechie knew NCSY would be the key. The regional director of the newly emerging Southern Region was Rabbi Boruch Taub, a close friend of Rabbi Kilimnick. Not sure if the idea would fly with the shul’s teens, Rabbi Kilimnick took four of them to an NCSY Shabbaton in Birmingham, Alabama. What a shock! Surrounded by 300 NCSYers, one of the Little Rock girls asked breathlessly, “Rabbi, are they all Jewish?” Those teenagers were so invigorated by that NCSY experience, they encouraged their friends to join; and Rabbi Kilimnick’s Tzur Yisroel (Rock of Israel) NCSY chapter was born. It went on to win many awards over the years, including Chapter of the Year, and had quite a few members inducted into the Ben Zakkai Honor Society. Tzur Yisroel did a phenomenal job hosting the Southern Regional Conventions in 1971 and 1976. But the core of the Kilimnick’s work, the focus of their love and attention, was each individual NCSYer. They feel that their crowning achievement was being able to send some of the NCSY boys away to yeshivah and the girls to either Touro or Stern College.
When a new synagogue building was dedicated (in the suburbs, closer to its congregants) in 1976, among the many dignitaries who spoke were Rabbi Weinberg, and Harold Jacobs, then president of the OU. On one wall of the social hall were the NCSY awards proudly displayed for all to see. The synagogue also had a state-of-the-art kosher kitchen, a mechitzah that was cemented to the sanctuary floor, and the first mikvah in Arkansas. Once the shul (and the Kilimnicks) moved, their work really began. Their doors were thrown wide open to the community − and especially to their beloved NCSYers. Nechie never knew how many guests she would be having for Shabbos lunch, so she always made sure to have a huge chulent. The teenagers usually stayed all Shabbos (and babysat, so the hard-working couple could nap!) There was often an impromptu melaveh malkah with Rabbi Kilimnick singing his own original songs or popular Shlomo Carlebach tunes. “We really didn’t have to go out of town for a Shabbaton,” jokes the rabbi, “we had a Shabbaton every single Shabbos in our home!”
Above, the Kilimnicks shortly after their arrival in Little Rock. At left, a more recent photo.
Summer 2015 | Reunion Magazine
A TZUR YISROEL The Kilimnicks left Little Rock for Rochester, New York, in 1977. “Leaving Little Rock was the hardest thing I ever did,” reflects the rabbi. “Our lives were completely connected to Agudath Achim; but we were blessed there with four kids and my oldest ones needed to go to a Jewish day school. That is the only reason we moved away.” In Rochester, Rabbi Kilimnick became the rav of Congregation Beth Sholom. He still is at that post and his son, Avi, is the shul’s associate rabbi. Through the years, Rabbi Kilimnick has held prominent positions in the RCA, the OU, UJC, and Israel Bonds. He also presided over a very active NCSY chapter of the Har Sinai Region. As for their future plans, Rabbi Kilimnick and Nechie expect to make Aliyah when he retires in 2017. In addition to Avi, two of the Kilimnick children live in the States: Yosef in Rochester, and Shifron in Teaneck, NJ. Their only daughter, Tzipporah, and their son, Dovid, live in Jerusalem. Even though forty-five years have passed, the Kilimnicks still have very close ties to the Little Rock community and to their former NCSYers. “It was extraordinary how everything just came together, with the help of the Ribono Shel Olam,” relates the rabbi. “There are moments in a person’s life when they are tremendously happy, even though they have the weight of enormous responsibilities on their shoulders. The chemistry in Little Rock was just right. It was a magical and miraculous time in my life.” R ______________________ Rebecca Feldbaum is the author of two books, If There’s Anything I Can Do (Feldheim, 2003) and What Should I Say, What Can I Do? (Simon & Schuster, 2009). She is an upbeat, popular speaker who draws upon her personal experiences to teach women’s groups how to help families who are going through a medical crisis or who have suffered a loss. Visit her website at www.rebeccafeldbaum.com.
LO O K S B AC K In his always exuberant style, Rabbi Kilimnick called himself “The Little Rocka Rebbe.” But to us, his devoted NCSYers, he was just “Rabbi.” No other title was needed and to this day, that is what we call him. When Rabbi and Nechie moved to Little Rock, you could feel the generated excitement in the air. While we adored this vibrant and fun-loving young couple, they also received an enormous amount of respect from our parents. Anyone in the youth group had an open invitation to the Kilimnicks’ warm and welcoming home on Shabbos, and we used it freely. We were awed by this couple who so willingly gave up every minute for us. When we attended NCSY Shabbtonim and National events, we were so proud to be in the ever-popular Rabbi Kilimnick’s chapter. His singing with his guitar, his humorous antics, and his upbeat personality made us feel we were the luckiest NCSYers on the planet! When one of his songs was accepted on a JEP album, we were all bursting with pride. In retrospect, it must have been tremendously hard for Rabbi and Nechie to come to a community where they were the only young, frum couple in the community, far away from their family and friends. Yet, we never heard them complain. On the contrary, we only heard them singing our praises − from our NCSY achievements to any change, small or significant, we made in our Jewish lifestyles. Throughout the years, the Kilimnicks still play an important part in our lives. A friend related to me that when she went through a serious illness, she woke up from surgery and found Rabbi and Nechie by her side. When I lost my first husband, their words of encouragement helped me get through shiva and the very difficult months that followed. And I’ll never forget how the Kilimnicks drove through the night to attend my second marriage. In fact, whenever possible, they attend the simchas of their former NCSYers. My closest friend (my BFF from NCSY) just told me how excited she was that Rabbi was in Israel for her oldest son’s wedding. All of us who became frum because of the Kilimnick’s influence know that “Thank you” is not nearly enough. We will always feel enormous gratitude for all they did for us. Yet, they never took any credit for their kiruv. Instead, they credit our parents who made enormous sacrifices so we could attend NCSY events, or to further our Jewish education by allowing us to leave Arkansas. Yet I suspect that, deep-down, they are aware that their labors have borne fruit that is genuine and enduring. You can see it on their faces. The nachas is clearly etched on their features as they join us at our children’s milestone simchas. And sharing those moments with them is a joy in itself. ----- BECCA (BRAM) FELDBAUM Becca is a member of the Ben Zakkai Honor Society and was Southern Regional president when Southern Region won the Region of the Year Award at the 1975 National Convention.
Summer 2015 | Reunion Magazine
Yet today, Alyssa proudly takes her place in the ranks of Orthodox women. Looking back, she realizes that the process that led her to her current lifestyle began on her trip with Israel Free Spirit: Taglit-Birthright Israel. How she came to be on that trip in the first place is a remarkable demonstration of hashgachah pratit (Divine Providence).
One thing most baalot teshuvah agree upon is that they never wanted to be Orthodox, and Alyssa (Wolff) Goldwater was no exception. “I know it sounds terrible, but I thought all Orthodox people were kind of strange,” she admits. “The image of Orthodox Jews – especially Orthodox women – is pretty bad. People think they are living in some past era and not in touch with our modern age.”
Alyssa attended Indiana University, where she took no particular interest in Jewish life on campus. But it “so happened” that she began babysitting for Rabbi Seth and Lisa Cook, the Aish HaTorah campus representatives. She was fond of the Cooks, and she became close to them. When Lisa discovered that Alyssa had never been to Israel, she was insistent: “You have to go, Alyssa, you just have to go!”
Alyssa with Lisa and the Cook kids
By Charlotte Friedland
Summer 2015 | Reunion Magazine
She connected Alyssa to the OU Israel Free Spirit program and urged her to sign up. Though she valued Lisa’s friendship, Alyssa was not especially anxious to visit the Jewish state, and declared she would go only if some of her friends join her on this bizarre expedition. Her sole reason for going was to have a good time and do something a little different. When two of her sorority sisters took Alyssa up on the idea, she made good on her promise to Lisa to go on the next available Birthright Israel trip. For ten days she and her friends trekked through Israel with the group, absorbing the sights and sounds of the country. And while all three sorority sisters had a great time, only Alyssa had a life-changing experience. She was surprised, “shocked, really” by the Orthodox madrichot (female leaders) who accompanied the group. “They were Orthodox and cool at the same time,” she recalls. “I never met anyone like that.” What was most important to her was that they welcomed questions – any questions – about Judaism and their lifestyle. “So looking at their long sleeves in that steamy summer climate in Israel, my first question was, ‘Aren’t you hot? Why do you have to wear that?’” She didn’t really expect an intelligent answer to that question; she thought she’d hear something along the lines of “it’s a tradition.” But the answers the madrichot gave not only impressed her, but invited more questions. These young women not only understood why they did things and how the laws of Judaism make perfect sense, they exuded a love and enthusiasm for it as well. This was all very confusing. Alyssa had assumed Orthodox women were suppressed and feel resentment − or at best, resignation −
toward the lifestyle thrust upon them. “But they were living vibrant, joyous lives,” Alyssa says. She accepted their answers and, surprising even herself, she thought about them. It was then that she began to suspect that Orthodoxy was more satisfying than she had ever imagined. Then the group was taken to Safed. “I wasn’t looking for spirituality,” Alyssa attests, “but it’s such a spiritual place, it was kind of unavoidable.”
of kosher dishes and her parents enabled her to keep Shabbat at home. And they’ve been inspired by her example, as well. Her
“I was surprised, shocked really, that the madrichot were Orthodox and cool at the same time.”
That IFS trip was during the summer between her sophomore and junior years at college. “I got a lot more out of it than I bargained for,” she explains. By her senior year, she was completely observant and spending many Shabbatot with the Cook family. “But there is something about Israel that kept drawing me back,” she reflects. In fact, over the next two years, Alyssa went back to Israel six times! She sought out educational trips, attended the Jewel for Women learning program, and enrolled in EYAHT – Aish HaTorah College for Women. After graduating from Indiana U. she went to Jerusalem, enjoying a productive year at She’arim College of Jewish Studies for Women. Its impact on her was profound. Alyssa credits her parents with making her transition to Orthodoxy a bit easier. “I’ve heard sad stories from other baalei teshuvah about parental opposition,” she attests, “but once my folks realized that I wasn’t just going through a phase, that I really want to live this way, they were very supportive.” Alyssa wound up having her own set
father began putting on tefillin and attending Torah study classes. At She’arim, Alyssa roomed with Leah (Lubianker) Weinberg, who works for Israel Free Spirit. It was at Leah’s suggestion that she applied for a position at the Orthodox Union when she returned from Israel. She was thrilled to work for Rabbi Yehoshua Marchuck in the Alumni Connections department for it gave her the opportunity to give back, to help strengthen others’ ties with Torah Judaism. A warm, caring person, Alyssa never lost contact with her old friends who remain non-observant. “Now I’m the one in the mentoring position,” she says. “I have to be careful how I answer questions. And I’m the first of my friends to get married; so there’s a lot of responsibility that goes with that.”
and she lived in New York during their courtship, they managed to see each other quite a bit, jetting back and forth. “I accrued 9,000 miles on American Airlines in four months. That’s not normal!” she laughs. They met through friends and “our rebbetzins,” Lisa Cook and Suri Garfinkel (of JET in Chicago), took on the roles of shadchans. After seven months at the OU headquarters in New York, Alyssa was off to Chicago to marry Adam. (She is now executive assistant to Rabbi Micah Greenland, international director of NCSY.) She sees an ironic twist of hashgachah pratit in that too. “I come from Louisville, Kentucky, and I went to summer camp for years with kids from Chicago. All my friends were from there, and at one point I wanted to move to Chicago. But my observant friends told me it was not a strong city for shidduch dating. ‘Don’t go,’ they said, ‘you’ll never get married.’ So look at how my life worked out! I didn’t expect to be Orthodox, and I am. I didn’t expect to live in Chicago, and here I am – married to the man of my dreams in a city I always loved.”
Alyssa left New York to marry Adam Goldwater in March of this year. Though he lived in Chicago
Summer 2015 | Reunion Magazine
Elisha Mendl Mlotek OU-JLIC Alumnus
“We need to bring a passion for Judaism back into our lives,” says OU-JLIC alumnus Elisha Mlotek, “even when you’re living in the heart of an observant community. Perhaps we need it there even more!” As a recent graduate of Queens College (NY), Elisha notes that when your college is in the middle of a Jewish neighborhood – with, oh, about fifty kosher restaurants – the real challenge is to keep growing in your Judaism
Summer 2015 | Reunion Magazine
and carry on the legacy. “In these comfort zones it’s easy to stop trying,” he reflects. “You have to keep yourself alive and be on your spiritual toes. Pretty soon you’ll be on your own, no longer part of your father’s shul, and you’ll need
a community of your own. As the next generation, college is the time to enhance your own Jewish commitment and practice building a community.” And that’s where OU-JLIC couple Rabbi Robby and Shoshana Charnoff come in. The Charnoffs are on campus to serve as a point of connection to Judaism during the students’ long, hectic days. “Rabbi Charnoff is in the business of creating moments,” says Elisha. “You have a little time between classes and you find Rabbi Charnoff at Hillel. So he teaches you a bit of Torah, you schmooze a little, and fifteen minutes later you’re off to your next class. It sounds like nothing. But the sum total of those moments are infinitely greater than you can imagine. Suddenly you’re thinking about Torah, and there’s a big light shining. You hook on and it guides you.”
Elisha confesses that he wasn’t “super involved” in the official OU-JLIC events at Queens. He preferred impromptu learning, random moments of inspiration. And he discovered Rabbi Charnoff almost by accident. “On my first Shabbos at the college, a friend of mine took me to the Friday night minyan and Rabbi Charnoff spoke. To my surprise, he quoted the Ishbitzer Rebbe, and he conveyed his message so masterfully that I was deeply moved.” In his gap year of study at Yeshivat Lev HaTorah in Israel, Elisha had encountered the teachings of the Ishbitzer and had been impressed by his Chassidic insights. “And here was Rabbi Charnoff,” smiles Elisha, “among other classic sources, he was quoting a Chassidic master to this modern audience. I was motivated to hear more. I think that to be a progressive society, we need to have values and find new ways of thinking about Judaism.” Elisha was already on a spiritual path by then, but he did not expect to find the growth he was seeking outside of a yeshivah. Yet here it was, right on the QC campus, with Rabbi and Shoshana Charnoff as his guides. “Rabbi Charnoff is a great guy. I simply considered him my friend – and I still do, even after graduation. We stay in touch.” That sentiment goes in both directions. Rabbi Charnoff recalls, “Elisha came with a few friends to our Tu B’Shvat Seder one year on a Friday night. This was during winter break, when most students are away from the campus. He made it a point to come, and what a time we had! We talked and sang for over four hours.” The OU-JLIC couple runs “portals of entry events” of all sorts, as different venues will appeal to different kinds of people. Some of them are attended by
thinking about Torah, and there’s a big light shining.” hundreds of students. But the ultimate goal is to forge meaningful relationships with students as individuals, enriching their lives and their connection to Judaism.
.Zusha creates a space where you can shut out the noise, and connect. It creates spaces that are tangible.”
And Elisha made it a point to bring Rabbi Charnoff into that space. “I was honored – and touched – when Elisha went out of his way to invite me to Zusha’s first concert in New York,” the rabbi recalls. “After they had been playing for a while, Elisha called upon me to stand up and share some Torah with the crowd. I was a bit surprised, but I thought of something quickly and spoke for a few minutes. The band had created a soft, magical mood, and the audience was very receptive.”
A true friend to his students, Rabbi Charnoff is very proud of their accomplishments and Elisha is no exception. Elisha’s interest in spirituality, music and Chassidut combined over two years ago when he formed a folk/world-soul band, Zusha, with his friends Shlomo Ari Gaisin and Zechariah Goldshmiedt. Involved in writing lyrics as well as the music, Elisha is the group’s percussionist and also serves as a vocalist. The band went on tour in Israel, ultimately playing at the Safed Klezmer Festival, and has been playing to sell-out audiences in the New York area Elisha singing and drumming ever since. The Times at a Zusha concert. of Israel described their music as “wordless melodies to soothe the soul,” while the Huffington Post commented that “the raw emotion is Now an alumnus of Queens palpable.” College, and of OU-JLIC, Elisha What is the attraction of this lives in Manhattan, works at Juniper Chassidic/reggae/folk/jazz music Jones (a creative agency and proto modern audiences? “We’re more than a band,” explains duction company) and the future Elisha. “The experience transcends is bright. Ever striving to grow in spirituality, always learning, music. In today’s material culture, he looks forward to a life that is people are overwhelmed. The fact that Zusha exists and attracts genuine, aware, and profoundly crowds shows that there is a spiritual connected to his rich Jewish yearning. I see it everywhere. heritage. R
Summer 2015 | Reunion Magazine
Ari Solomont NCSY Alumnus
You have to be quick to catch a word with Ari Solomont or he’s likely to whizz past you on his bicycle. As founder and director of Cycle for Unity, which helps volunteer cyclists raise funds for charitable causes, Ari is usually training for his next ride. It could be anywhere in Israel, or perhaps somewhere in Europe. But that is the end of the story. Let’s go back to Ari Solomont, the small town Massachusetts boy who spent most of his lifetime in NCSY. “Lowell had few Jewish kids. I was pretty isolated,” he says. With the enthusiasm of a seasoned storyteller, Ari tells the story of
Summer 2015 | Reunion Magazine
why he started wearing a yarmulka. “I was a little kid in summer camp and I wore a yarmulka there because it was a Jewish place. For some reason, my counselor was fired after only the first five days of the season. He snuck back into camp in the middle
of the night, crept over to my bunk and woke me up. ‘Always wear your kippah,’ he whispered, and then he left. I don’t remember his name or anything about him except his long hair, clogs and tee shirt. Who knows? Maybe he was Eliyahu HaNavi in jeans. In any case, after that I wouldn’t take off my kippah, no matter what.”
When Ari’s older sister went to her first NCSY Shabbaton, she came back and told him, “You’d love it. All the guys there wear a yarmulka.” As soon as he was old enough, Ari did go to NCSY. “Above all, I felt accepted,” he recalls. “Judaism was alive. I saw things there, not only with my eyes, but with my neshamah (soul).” From then on, Ari’s NCSY advisors played a major role in his
serious decisions. Encouraged to seek a yeshivah high school, his parents (“always supportive”) allowed him to go to the New England Academy of Torah in Providence, Rhode Island. “Back in the 1980s, it was one of the few yeshivot outside of New York that had dormitories, so we had NCSYers from all over the country. It was a phenomenal environment.” Eventually, Ari rose to leadership, ultimately becoming national vice president of Junior NCSY. “I learned everything I know about leadership from NCSY,” he explains. “I learned to take responsibility for other people, to take initiatives, and to be involved.” Sarah Beth Edelman, whom Ari married in 1988, was also an NCSYer but, no — they are not the classic “met at NCSY” couple. Though they were at many of the same events, “To tell the truth, she hung out with those wild kids from LA. They were too loud for this quiet guy from Lowell,” Ari laughs. When they later met in Israel, they found that they shared warm NCSY memories, and more importantly, the commitment to make Judaism meaningful to others. After acquiring Business degrees at Touro College, and becoming a licensed Nursing Home Administrator, Ari spent five years in Lowell, working in the nursing home industry. And then came THE phone call from National NCSY Director Rabbi Raphael Butler, with whom Ari had always had a warm relationship. They met in Boston, and Rabbi Butler
“I learned everything I know about leadership from NCSY…” made him an offer he couldn’t refuse: Regional Director of New England NCSY. It was a no-brainer. Ari reflects that the challenges of the New England Region, what he calls “the Yale/Harvard Belt,” were unique. “We had to engage the intellect and foster the spirit to win over the parents as well as the kids. But I was building on the wonderful precedent set by my predecessor, Rebbetzin Peggy Weiss, a”h. Every new NCSY leader builds on previous successes.” Back then, in the early 1990s, there was no social media to help develop the region. But Ari had lots of energy and an encouraging wife. “I drove 180,000 miles in three years, connecting with kids and shuls all over New England,” he says. Ari continued building, growing NCSY for ten years. And in the process, he grew too. In his ninth year as regional director, he went to New York to present a long-range strategic plan for his region to NCSY brass. He had been totally enjoying his work in NCSY, and the experience had heightened his sensitivity to spirituality. “As much as I loved NCSY, my longing to be in Israel grew, and the pull of Aliyah became irresistible. There I was on the Mass
Turnpike at 2:00 a.m., driving home from New York. I was listening to a tape of the Diaspora Yeshiva Band, and the song that got to me was ‘Jerusalem is Calling.’ I knew that the time had come to take my family to the next phase of our lives in Eretz Yisrael.”
So in 2003, the Solomont family — now including four children — moved to Chashmonaim. Sarah Beth found work in her field as an expressive arts therapist, and Ari’s first position was with Ner L’Elef, an organization that trains Jewish outreach workers and places them worldwide. Drawing upon his experience in NCSY, Ari easily took to his responsibilities of preparing couples for the “real Jewish world” beyond strong Jewish enclaves. Later, he worked for Yeshiva University, as director of its S. Daniel Abraham Israel Program and recruiting public school students for the Mechina program (geared toward students who had not yet had the opportunity to gain a strong foundation in Judaic studies). But three years ago, a new idea bubbled up in his creative mind, one he couldn’t ignore. A student he was mentoring had made the commitment to participate in a fundraising bike ride to benefit a hospital, and Ari pledged to help too. It was hard, but the experience was exhilarating. “I was tired and sore, but I realized that here was a new way to raise funds for many
good causes.” Using the “charity of choice” model, Ari founded Cycle for Unity. As explained on CFU’s website, this is a “Choose Your Own Adventure” type of enterprise. Institutions and independent groups of all sizes can work with Cycle for Unity to benefit from charitable cycling events in Israel. In fact, in less than two years Cycle for Unity has helped raise more than $250,000 for nonprofits. This summer, he is running cycling events in Tuscany, Slovenia, Romania, and Greece. Then it’s back to Israel for breathtaking trips from north to south. Passionate about his new mission, Ari predicts that “Cycle for Unity will kick start a revolution of Jewish activism and active living — getting young adults and professionals excited about giving, learning, and connecting to Jewish life through inspirational and challenging cycling adventures. This touches mind, body and soul.” It’s relatively uncharted territory, but whenever he feels trepidation about a new project, Ari recalls what an NCSY mentor told him years ago: “He said, ‘You never have to be afraid when you’re working for the good of the Jewish community. God will give you the Siyata D’shmaya (Divine assistance) to succeed.’ And you know? I’ve found that it’s true!” R To find out more about Ari’s organization and how you can participate, visit cycleforunity.org. ______________________ All Alumni Spotlight profiles are written by Charlotte Friedland, editor of Reunion.
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Members of the NCSY Alumni Chai Society are committed to sustaining the incredible Jewish experiences and learning that originate in and result from NCSY programs. More than 300,000 teens have been impacted by NCSY since 1954. Their NCSY involvement has been life altering — helping define how they’ve married, raised children and grown as individuals, and in their relationships with Judaism. NCSY is not a dream. It’s a reality for those who have come before — and you can create the reality for thousands more, and help them remain active members of klal Yisrael. Join the NCSY Alumni Chai Society — your pledge and monthly donation will help support one of the most important initiatives in the history of the American Jewish community. 20 ||
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Visit alumni.ncsy.org/havdalah to donate or learn more.
16,000 teenagers from hundreds of schools across the country participate in NCSY programs annually. Through Shabbatonim, â€œLatte and Learningâ€? sessions, JSU clubs,Yarchei Kallah, leadership training seminars, Torah High, holiday programs, and more, NCSY inspires students to be involved with their Jewish communities and actively maintain their Jewish values and practices.
NCSY is the international youth movement of the Orthodox Union. Summer 2015 | Reunion Magazine
TIMES By Sharona Kaplan
have been living
on a college campus for over half of my life. I attended Stern College as an undergraduate and then lived at Yeshiva University as I earned my MSW and my husband studied for semichah. My most recent campus stint has been the longest, as I am completing my eleventh year working in the Hillel at UCLA as a Torah educator for OU-JLIC. My kids were all born at UCLA, where we spent their early years living near frat row. We have played beer pong, accumulated lots of collegiate swag, answered bizarre halachic questions, taught dozens of kallot and eaten endless amounts of free pizza. We have seen generations of students come
Summer 2015 | Reunion Magazine
and go and watched with pride as they get married, start families, launch professions and pursue higher degrees. Each September we wait with open arms to greet the new students, cultivate the incoming leadership and embark on our next adventure.
during the Shabbat meal) a decade of hindsight gives us a unique perspective about changes and opportunities within our Jewish community at UCLA. Three noteworthy trends that have emerged during our tenure on campus come to mind.
While much of campus life is predictable from year to year (all the paper goods we buy will always be Bruin blue and gold, we will always sing “Shalom Aleichem” to the tune of “We Will Rock You” and someone will always be standing on a chair making announcements
Greater Focus on Goals When we first arrived at UCLA, Hillel’s mission of “Jews doing Jewish with Jews” was the basic approach, resulting in an array of social opportunities,
Each September we wait with open arms to greet the new students, cultivate the incoming leadership and embark on our next adventure.
BBQs, and holiday parties. To encourage socialization and build community, there was a free kosher dinner offered each week for students that attracted upwards of seventy-five individuals. Through these activities it was easy to meet students and cultivate relationships naturally.
An O U-JL IC class taught by Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein
Fantastically, over time, the programmatic focus sharpened. Phrases like “enduring commitment” and “enrich the world” were introduced into the communal mission statement, shifting the genre and tone of programming to one that is more strategic, purposeful and goal oriented. More Jews from UCLA were traveling on Social Justice Alternative Spring Break Trips, more learning opportunities were created, and the design of any program started with a conversation about the ultimate goal.
Increased Student Empowerment In our early years on campus, it was primarily the professional staff that planned the programs and filled the calendar, and then recruited students to attend. Currently, it is predominantly the students conceiving and designing the experience for their peers.
The Millennial generation is typified as being detached from institutions and heavily networked with friends. That is why peer-based leadership and activities are so important to create enhanced Jewish experiences for their peers. It’s a resourceful and methodical model that empowers more individuals to serve as ambassadors of the Jewish community, extending its reach to more students and into unlikely pockets of our campus. In recent years, students in our maturing OU-JLIC community have voluntarily assumed increased responsibility for the communal religious and social experience. They have initiated communitywide programming, be it a late night Mishmar for students, a communal siyum in memory of a loved one, a Jewper Bowl − Super Bowl party (complete with a student shiur at halftime) or shiurim that are prepared and delivered by a student to a roomful of receptive peers.
Expanded Leadership Base Naturally, greater student empowerment creates an opportunity for increased leadership; the typical leadership structure has been redefined to allow for a larger number of student leaders. The older model of a “board” or “leadership team” has been replaced with many synergistic leadership cohorts filled with students acting as ambassadors for myriad defined projects within
the Jewish community. Hillel at UCLA boasts eighty student leaders, a remarkable cadre of individuals, each of whom is nurtured and cultivated as a leader through specific retreats, training workshops, Jewish learning experiences and individualized staff and mentor supervision. Each leader is charged with a specific mission within a defined pocket of students, and collectively they anchor the Jewish campus community. OU-JLIC has also evolved and expanded the leadership base from an individual president, acting as the Orthodox campus representative, to a team that includes an intern, extern, president, gabbai, gabbai sefarim and chair people for specific ongoing programs such as Rosh Chodesh, Mishmar, Graduate Student Programming and Lunch & Learns. Each is tasked with specific programmatic and/or ritual responsibilities. So, while some things on campus will always be the same (it will always be about the free food and an ongoing rivalry with USC), there is greater excitement today. The Millennials’ approach to social change is already being felt, enhancing and enriching the students on campus and the broader community. ____________________ Sharona Kaplan is a Torah educator for the OU’s Seif Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus at UCLA. She and her husband Aryeh are natives of Teaneck, NJ, who met during high school in NCSY! They have been working for the Orthodox Union ever since. They are the proud parents of four children.
Rabbi Aryeh and Sharona Kaplan with friends Summer 2015 | Reunion Magazine
Connected By Batya Rosner
Alumni Connections picks up where NCSY and IFS leave off. It’s the question that’s long been asked by Jewish educators and outreach workers. What happens “after”? When the student leaves the classroom, when the adolescent moves on into young adulthood and starts charting a path through the wider world − what remains of the lessons and activities encouraged by their mentors? Once the program ends, how actively do the participants in those programs stay engaged in Jewish life? This is not a simple question to answer, but at the Orthodox Union, the department of Alumni Connections is working hard to make sure that young Jews hold on to their passion for the Jewish community even after they leave NCSY or return from a Birthright Israel trip. The OU Alumni Connections department was launched in 2008 by “Rabbi Dave”
Summer 2015 | Reunion Magazine
Felsenthal, founding Alumni director and current director of OU NextGen, which is dedicated to making sure that meaningful Jewish experiences translate into more active involvement and long-term impact on participants’ lives. The department was founded on a simple observation: “NCSY and Israel Free Spirit (the OU’s Birthright Israel organizer) leave you wanting more,” says Rabbi Felsenthal. “You feel like you’ve been part of a family and when you get that feeling, you don’t ever want that relationship to end.” The family he refers to isn’t small. Between NextGen programming and sixty years of NCSY, the Orthodox Union boasts over 300,000 alumni. Alumni Connections Director Rabbi Yehoshua Marchuck, himself an alum of Long Island NCSY and veteran Israel Free Spirit Birthright tour leader, sees his department as the logical extension of the intense effort the OU puts into its youth programs. “Look at the incredible amount of work, investment, time and love we put into NCSY and Israel Free Spirit!” says Rabbi Marchuck. “You take these young adults who have been inspired and put onto a Jewish
track – but what happens next? For nearly sixty years, there wasn’t a ‘next.’ If you became an NCSY advisor, fantastic; but if not, well, there was nothing following that. Now that’s all changing. Our aim is to engage college-age people so they stay involved and active in the Jewish community; and we do that in lots of ways.” Rabbi Marchuck oversees a staff of energetic, creative young professionals, a majority of whom are alumni of NCSY and other OU programs. And they need all that youthful vigor because their task is enormous – they’re striving to build a network of relationships between a huge number of students and the equally numerous Jewish opportunities on campuses across North America and in Israel. Part of the important work this dedicated team does is the construction and maintenance of a database of demographics on campuses across the country. To help gather this vital information, an annual survey is sent out to current college students. In addition to collecting demographic information, it also keeps up with students’ needs and interests, helping OU Alumni Connections focus its efforts on providing
Rabbi Yehoshua Marchuck speaking to 12th graders at HAFTR (Cedarhurst, NY) about Jewish choices on the college campus.
“We care about every Jewish student, and we’re always there for them.”
necessary Jewish opportunities where they’re lacking. “Back in 2012, the survey showed us that a particular campus sorely needed Shabbat opportunities,” says Hart Levine of the Shabbat initiative, Heart to Heart. “We went into action fast.” As an added bonus, students who respond to the survey can expect a gift in the mail when Jewish holidays roll around. More than 2,000 packages filled with holiday-related items are sent by Alumni Connections to college students for Chanukah and Purim. In addition to seasonal nosh and information about the holiday, these gifts contain Chanukah candles, dreidels, or Purim noisemakers. “I love the Chanukah and Purim gifts,” shared Shachar Avraham, a junior at Binghamton University in New York, who has launched a Junior NCSY chapter in Binghamton and has helped coordinate on-campus NCSY Alumni events with the help of the Alumni Connections department. “It’s all a part of giving students the tools and encouragement to stay involved,” says Rabbi Marchuck. To showcase this sense of shared Jewish experiences (and literally light up students’ lives) Alumni Connections runs an “iLight” contest on social media. Students are encouraged to post photos of Chanukah menorah candle lightings, and those with the most “likes” on Facebook receive gift cards. “It’s fast, it’s fun and it brings us all together,” says Rabbi Marchuck.
But staying in touch and providing ways for alumni to keep Judaism as part of their own lives is just the beginning. Through its strong network of relationships within the campus Jewish communities, the NextGen/Alumni Connections department is able to expand its offerings so that students can continue their Jewish journeys off campus. Partnering with Taglit-Birthright Israel, the department provides Israel Free Spirit, one of the most popular Birthright Israel journeys. More than that, partnering with non-profit Justifi, OU Alumni brings students on social action missions to Thailand, where participants learn more about Jewish values while experiencing another country’s culture. With Germany Close Up programs, participants experience both Jewish history and modern Germany during a highlysubsidized ten-day program. Unlike other collegiate trips, when any of those trips is over, the participants’ relationship with the Jewish community is just beginning. Because many of the young adults who sign up for these programs don’t necessarily have a strong Judaic background, their introduction to the world of Jewish life on these trips can lead to much greater awareness of themselves as Jews. The Alumni Connections team follows through with vigorous promotion of its Partners in Torah program. Through this program, thoughtful young people, inspired to find their place in Jewish life, are partnered with a knowledgeable mentor who works in the same field as the collegiate participant’s interests. In the last six months, more than 150 Birthright Israel Free Spirit alumni have been connected with the Partners in Torah program and are learning on a
weekly basis. Invariably, by learning together Partners in Torah inspire each other. “I studied with a rabbi, and now that I moved back home I wanted to continue learning,” says Jeffrey Laird, who delved into Pirkei Avot with his mentor over the phone. “Every week, I get to learn something; and then I spend a week trying to act on it. It keeps you always trying to improve yourself.” With many chavrutot, (learning partnerships) strong friendships are formed, and lifestyles change. Andrew Terkowitz started learning the parshat hashavua once a week after returning from an Israel Free Spirit trip. “When I asked my mentor how he remembered the story he was telling me, in such detail, he said he always takes notes,” says Andrew. “From then on, I took notes on our discussions over the phone. I’ve gained more appreciation for the Torah from my learning.” “Our Partners in Torah program and individualized mentoring give every Jewish collegiate various ways to be involved and grow in Judaism,” Rabbi Marchuck explains. “We run follow-up programs and initiatives each year and they all work together to fulfill this purpose. In short, we care about every Jewish student, and we’re always there for them even after they’ve ‘finished’ the regular programming. It’s all about staying connected.”
To receive Alumni Connections email, contact Rabbi Marchuck at email@example.com, and to access its programs, visit www.ncsyalumni.org ____________________ Batya Rosner is a staff writer at the Orthodox Union. Additional reporting by Ari Ziegler.
Summer 2015 | Reunion Magazine
at the OU-JLIC Toronto Alum bowling event.
i n m u OU Al ns o i t c e n Con on! i t c a in
OU-JLIC Toronto Alumni Bowlerama OU-JLIC Toronto hosted an incredible evening for their alum to reconnect with friends and their Rabbi and Rebbetzin, Aaron and Miriam Greenberg. More than 85 alumni came to enjoy bowling, pizza, falafel, and the delicious OU-JLIC cupcakes!
s n o i n u e R i n m u l A Alumni of OU-JLIC at York University enjoy catching up with old friends as they bowl the night away. Left to right: Yael (Spiegel) Silverman, Marni Gelkop, and Aviva (Kurtz) Lichtenstein
OU-JLIC Canada alumni smile for the camera as they are reunited with friends from their college days. Left to right: Dena (Fried) Pressman, Miriam Greenberg, Esti (Roz) Zeifman, Shoshi (Gastfreund) Aziza
Summer 2015 | Reunion Magazine
s n o i n u e R Alumni
West Coast and Midwest NCSY Alumni Reunions at the OU Center in Israel
Alumni who are studying in seminaries and yeshivot gathered together for a night of memories and divrei Torah on a snowy night in Jerusalem. Shown here, Midwest NCSY Alumni reunited at the OU Israel Center in Jerusalem. Special visitors from the United States included: Rabbi Yehoshua Marchuck (director, OU Alumni Connections), Rabbi Phil Karesh (Midwest NCSY 12th grade specialist), and Rabbi Moshe Isenberg (Midwest NCSY executive director).
Rabbi Yehoshua Marchuck meets with Midwest NCSY alumni at Yeshivat Lev HaTorah. Left to right: Avi Katz, Eitan Feiger, Ezra Weiser
Rabbi Phil Karesh meets at Tiferet with Midwest NCSY alumnus Meredith Shapiro.
Atlantic Seaboard NCSY Alumni Latte & Learning Reunion
Home for winter break, Atlantic Seaboard NCSY Alumni came together for a special Latte & Learning experience. Rabbi Yitz Levi spoke about what they could do on campus to support Israel.
Summer 2015 | Reunion Magazine
ISRAEL T I R I P S FREE s n o i n Reu
Members of four Israel Free Spirit (IFS) groups (OU-27-91, OU-29-108, OU-29-112, and OU-30-219) pose for a group photo outside the Ziegler home in Brooklyn, site of the IFS Reunion Crossover Event 2014.
Alumni participate in a heated dreidel tournament at the IFS Reunion Crossover Event 2014. Left to right: Mordy Moskovitz, Shua Levin, and Michael Malisov
IFS Madricha Leah Roman shares words of inspiration at the IFS Reunion Crossover Event 2014.
Aaron Wilzig lights the menorah on the eighth night of Chanukah.
Alumni participate in lively conversation about their IFS trips. Left to right: Ben Hollander, Yitzy Sobel, and Alexander Zola
Summer 2015 | Reunion Magazine
OU NextGen: REACHING OUT
TO OUNG PROFESSIONALS
BY TOVA OV I T S
Feeling like a tween again?
You’re not alone. Many young professionals find that they’re in another “in between” stage when they reach their 20s and 30s. Although these adults may be highly successful in their careers, their place in the Orthodox community is uncertain.
And without community, it’s easier to step back from religious life. Hart Levine, of OU NextGen’s Heart to Heart fame, noticed that many young professionals in the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York City lacked a personal connection to the Jewish community. He started reaching out to those who were not very active in the community or in the synagogue. With his wife, Yael, Hart began building relationships by organizing Shabbat meals and Torah learning in people’s apartments. In the summer of 2014, Hart decided to expand his program and was soon approached by Rabbi Ezra Schwartz of Mount Sinai Jewish Center, the only Orthodox synagogue in that section of Washington Heights. Rabbi Schwartz asked Hart to initiate programming that would revitalize a nearly defunct shul,
Congregation Beth Hamedrash Hagadol of Washington Heights. “The Beis” became Hart’s base of activities, including Shabbat prayer services and meals. At this point, director of OU NextGen Rabbi Dave Felsenthal and department co-chair Henry Orlinsky decided to support two pilot programs for young professionals, one in New York and one in California. Joining the Mount Sinai partnership, they created Open Up Washington Heights. Hart and Yael run the program with the assistance of Lily Lozovsky. Rabbi Josh Ross supervises the project for NextGen, reporting directly to Rabbi Felsenthal. In the fall of 2014 and the winter of 2015, approximately 400 young professionals − about ninety percent of them single − participated in the OU-sponsored Open Up Washington Heights
initiative. Many had enjoyed NCSY and other OU programs as teenagers, but previous OU participation was definitely not required. Everyone in the neighborhood was welcome to join. Hart estimates that a third of the Open Up Washington Heights participants are Orthodox singles looking to play a more active role in the community. Another third are Orthodox, but disconnected from synagogue life, or grew up Orthodox but do not feel as religiously committed as they did in their youth. Other Open Up Washington Heights participants are unaffiliated Jews in the area, often Jews who have traveled to Israel on a Birthright trip but have no other connection to Judaism. Whatever their motivations for joining, everyone in the new community responds warmly to the fact that the initiative is tailored to young professionals.
Summer 2015 | Reunion Magazine
A post-Musical Hallel Breakfast: Around table from left, Vivi Bloom, Korin Bianco, Ariel Stein, Simeon Botwinick, Adira Botwinick, Yitzchak Friedman, Jenna Englender, Daniel Atwood, Raphy Rosen, Rachael Fried, Chaim Gevaryahu, Amir Zinkow.
A Musical Havdalah at the Beis with Isaiah Rothstein and Jon Leiner Photo: Lea Ouahba
To publicize community events, Hart and Lily run a Facebook group with over 700 members (www. facebook.com/groups/openupwh/). Julia Miller, an early childhood music educator originally from California, is one of the members. Her friends Sasha and Chaim Kesler introduced her to Hart and Lily because Julia wanted to learn more about Judaism. She attended the High Holidays services and Shabbatonim at the Beis and found it “quite an experience! Rosh Hashanah was very accessible and a great environment for me. Lots of singing − which is fantastic,” laughs Julia. At Shabbat services, she enjoys the breaks between sections of tefillah, when a speaker makes the services more meaningful to those who aren’t familiar with the prayers. And the milk and cookies before the Torah reading don’t hurt either.
is so enthusiastic about their faith and culture. It’s just a great place to be.”
“I didn’t expect the community to be so welcoming and open, especially since I’m coming from a less observant background,” she marvels. “It’s exciting to see people welcoming me with open arms for meals. The learning is great for all levels of experience.” So great that Julia invited along one of her Birthright friends. “Everyone is so enthusiastic about their faith and culture. It’s
Summer 2015 | Reunion Magazine
just a great place to be.” Julia appreciates the Shabbatonim, potluck learning meals in apartments, picnics at Fort Tryon Park, or even just grabbing a coffee with Hart to discuss the intersection of science and Judaism. She looks forward to hosting learning meals in her home, now that she has kashered her kitchen. Other Open Up Washington Heights events this year included a musical Hallel on Rosh Chodesh, a musical Chanukah celebration, and a “Tu B’Shabbat Seder” the Friday night after Tu B’Shvat. This program is on a roll! Meanwhile, the OU NextGen initiative on the West Coast was taking shape. Josh Cohen and Rabbi Adam Simon of West Coast NCSY were aware that the San Diego singles community already had programs; but they found that some young families were falling through the gap. Although these families might be affiliated with Orthodox synagogues and day schools, they don’t all have a strong connection to Judaism. NextGen programming in California aims to encourage people to be enthusiastically affiliated with Judaism and to become more involved in the Orthodox community. Capitalizing on San Diego’s niche as a craft brewery town, Josh and Adam launched “Homebrew Torah” over Sukkot 2014. Held at the Leichtag Foundation Ranch, and partnered with Hazon − an organization that promotes
healthier and more sustainable communities in the Jewish world and beyond − the creative event for young professionals incorporated home-brewed beer tasting and a Torah component. One interpretation of Tikun Olam is taking God’s work and “making it better,” and beer is a perfect example. The various natural processes (e.g., yeast eats sugar, barley ferments) are combined by man; we brew beer with the tools He created! Quotations from Midrash were printed on the beer bottle labels to give everyone something to think about as they enjoyed the brews. Josh and Adam also launched MidraSHOW, another way to reach out to young professionals and their families in San Diego. With a grant from the Jewish Federation of San Diego County and support from OU NextGen, the multimedia theatrical project makes Jewish concepts relevant and personal using theater, film, and visual arts. Their Chanukah MidraSHOW was performed by the students at the Soille San Diego Hebrew Day School. The Modern Orthodox school has a diverse student body that includes some families “trying out” a Jewish education. To engage the children more fully, they deftly tailored the MidraSHOW around the strengths and personalities of the students involved. Performing the narrative of a familiar story was an important exercise for the students; the leadership
Josh Cohen and Adam Simon at the opening of Without Walls in San Diego.
A scene from Without Walls
Photo: Detalles by M
role allowed them to teach and demonstrate the story in a way that made it real for them. Children from all grades were cast in important roles in the Chanukah production, and even the preschoolers sang before the show began. And what a show it was! Soille Headmaster Rabbi Simcha Weiser said the MidraSHOW contained much deeper content than previous Chanukah extravaganzas, thoroughly engaging the parents. He was later told by parents that instead of merely kvelling over their children’s performances, the show “made them think about themes and Jewish values.” Thanks to both the humor and dramatic presentation, MidraSHOW fascinated 300 young parents and facilitated their thinking about Chanukah in a new way. So everyone was involved – the entire parent and student body, learning together. “I thought the storyline of the show was really unique,” says Malke Brookler, a Soille parent who watched the MidraSHOW. “The students were able to understand the true miracles of Chanukah. They ‘traveled’ back in time to the lives of the Maccabees at the time of the Beit Hamikdash. By doing so, they were able to focus and learn the reasons for why we celebrate this very special holiday. It wasn’t just ‘all about the oil’ or the war that they won. It was about all the miracles that together encompass what Chanukah is really about.”
“Walking away from Jewish life happens easily,” says Rabbi Weiser. “Being pulled back in doesn’t. Here we’re capturing an audience of young parents with questions of affiliation and Jewishness — people thinking about being part of a community.”
The MidraSHOW made them think about Jewish values. Rabbi Weiser is thrilled that the OU is investing in the continuity of the Jewish people across the United States. “People respond to positive experiences,” he says, and he feels that those experiences go a long way. As an example, he speaks with pride about one of Soille’s graduates who attends a community high school but is now taking a semester, in tenth grade, to study in Israel. After their smashing debut, Josh and Adam created another live-action MidraSHOW performance, Without Walls, a modern take on Biblical stories of the Avot that shows the balance of their personality traits with those of their children. Videos are spliced
in to give modern Jewish context and further explanation. The premiere performance of Without Walls was March 10, 2015, at the Lyceum Theater in San Diego. Attended by more than 150 people, the highly successful event included beer tasting and hors d’eouvres, with a dessert reception sponsored by the Soille San Diego Hebrew Day School. The greatest news is that OU NextGen community-building activities will be expanding to areas beyond New York and California. A committee of young professionals from other areas is in formation, to take the best of various programs and create modules that can be replicated in their communities. Now that the MidraSHOW concept is a proven hit, Josh is producing plays and videos as a packaged kit to be exported to other communities. It includes full scripts, videos, discussion points, and directions. These are two fabulous and fun ways to pull a young community together. And if it worked in San Diego and Washington Heights, why not in your community? R
To get in on Open Up Washington Heights, the MidraSHOW and other NextGen projects, contact Rabbi Dave Felsenthal at firstname.lastname@example.org ____________________ Tova Ovits is a freelance writer and the author of Allergic Reactions Are No Joke.
Summer 2015 | Reunion Magazine
A Cozy JEWISH HOME O N
C A M P U S
How Rabbi Darren & Avital Levin brought Jewish life to Johns Hopkins University BY ARI J. ZIEGLER
DIRECTLY ACROSS THE STREET
from a bustling fraternity house sits a modest home; you’d assume it’s just like the others on this campus street. But for the past three years, remarkable things have been happening inside that home. Ever since Rabbi Darren Levin and his wife Avital moved in, that unremarkable house has become a mainstay for college students who would otherwise struggle to find Jewish life on campus, let alone role models like the Levins. “We’re the first OU-JLIC couple to live on campus at Johns Hopkins,” says Rabbi Levin. “That’s quite a significant edge.” He feels that being an integral and literal part of the campus community has allowed them to connect with the student body in a unique and
Rabbi Levin addressing visiting college students from Tel Aviv and Ben Gurion Universities.
Summer 2015 | Reunion Magazine
powerful way. “We’ve created a home open to all Jews,” adds Avital. “We have students attending our programs from all walks of Judaism, and as we’ve grown, the Jewish community on campus has expanded.”
master’s in social work and Jewish education. My pipe dream was to become an OU-JLIC rabbi because I’ve always loved the mission.”
For Avital, it also wasn’t always a goal to be involved with Jewish outreach and Their friendship with each education. In fact, the whole idea was off her student often stretches radar. “Sometimes,” she beyond family events and says, “I think, ‘wait, how did I get here?’ It actually Torah classes. kind of weirds me out when someone calls me But building this inclusive, rebbetzin. I have this dissonance vibrant, and active Jewish presence about it.” Yet, her childhood was was no easy task, and a slew of always about having an open factors had to fall into place. In the and caring home. “From a young Levins’ personal backgrounds, that age, my family really stressed the process began early on, making importance of ahavat Yisrael. We them well-suited for this particular welcomed everyone into our house. challenge. My mother would urge me to invite “I come from a family filled people over, especially people who with compromise and mutual didn’t have a place to go.” respect, especially as my father The couple met through a was becoming more and more shadchan with YU Connects, and observant. I slowly evolved into the rest is history. “I told her on the observance,” explains Rabbi phone, even before we even met, Levin. “Eventually, I majored in that I thought I was going to marry accounting at YU — and then I her,” Rabbi Levin admits. “If you’re realized that I wasn’t an accountant. not married and reading this, I One of my rebbeim confirmed it wouldn’t recommend it; but I did for me. He said, ‘You shouldn’t it and here we are.” be an accountant. You’re reflective In the fall of 2012, they and introspective and good with people.’ So I decided to get my became the OU-JLIC educators
at Johns Hopkins, and moved on campus. They had their work cut out for them; but eventually they surpassed all expectations. In the short three years they’ve been on campus, the Levins have managed to add an impressive collection of programs and opportunities, attracting Jewish students of all backgrounds. They hosted Shabbat meals, invited scholars-in-residence, established the first ever on-campus Yom Kippur service, coordinated events, initiated a women’s chaburah (group learning sessions), and ran on-campus minyanim year round. All of these group activities have thrived under their leadership. But if you ask them, the most important part of their work is crafting relationships with individual students. “Everyone knows the door is open. The students are around so much they know my children better than some of my relatives know them,” says Rabbi Levin.
Avital Levin and Hopkins students enjoy a Rosh Chodesh dinner.
. “A student came to me saying that he’s no longer as religious as he once was and his parents won’t accept him; but he knew he could come to me. Another student told me about a suicide attempt she made. Not that she’s thinking about it. That she tried. I sat her down, and said, ‘we want you here, we need you to stay; there’s so much for you here.’ We’ve been a physical address − a warm, nonjudgmental home for students, on every level – emotional, physical, and spiritual.”
Creating this open home hasn’t come without its personal challenges. Investing so much effort in being an integral part of the campus can blur the line between the relationships they nurture with the students and those with their own children at home. “It’s certainly not a 9-to-5,” laughs Avital. “There are no set hours on our relationships with these students.”
“When my second son was born,” he recalls, “we had the brit here. So many of the students came out. Some of them had never been to a brit and were missing class to be there. To see them standing there alongside our families was really powerful. The students even “That’s the nature of the bought us a double stroller for our work and it’s a challenge,” sons!” says Rabbi Levin. “You Their friendship with each have to be present for student often stretches beyond students, but you also need family events and Torah classes. boundaries. I need to be “Students come to us with serious there for my college kids but I also must be there for personal struggles,” says Avital. my kids.” “There’s a depth to it, when a Despite the challenges, student shares something with open, sincere, me that hasn’t been shared with being anyone else. We realize what genuine, and accessible a responsibility it is to be that to students has created special person to a student. It’s an unrivaled community on campus. Now that the Levins have built “There’s a depth to it, when something amazing at John a student shares something Hopkins, they’re preparing to pass on the torch to the with me that hasn’t been next OU-JLIC couple that shared with anyone else.” will be coming in the fall of so important for them to have an 2015.
I’ve learned about the diversity of opinions and perspectives of my students, my friends, my peers and my colleagues. I have a lens through which to see others, a keen awareness of the nuanced differences that I’ll take with me always,” says Rabbi Levin. Avital, who will become the director of Women’s Education at Shalom Task Force (an organization that educates and helps victims of domestic abuse), agrees. “Looking back, students shared with us that they never really knew what a Jewish home was like until they met us,” says Avital. “God willing, there will always be a warm OUJLIC home at Johns Hopkins.” R ____________________ Ari Ziegler is a program associate at the OU’s NextGen Division and a group leader for OU Israel Free Spirit. He is also a novelist.
Rabbi Levin assists Joshua Somach (JHU, ’15) with the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge
open space where they can talk, “What I’ve enjoyed and and we can connect with them. appreciated the most is what
Summer 2015 | Reunion Magazine
Did you meet through
NCSY? The story
of how a couple met is always special. God’s Hand in crossing their separate paths is often abundantly clear. Sometimes God’s Hand uses NCSY to unite two people from different backgrounds and different regions to build a Jewish home together. We want you to tell us your story! Email us at email@example.com and we’ll feature you on our “Met Through NCSY” page!
3 2014 | Reunion Magazine 34|| ||Summer Summer 2015 | Reunion Magazine
Rabbi Gideon Black, OU-JLIC educator at NYU, engaged in discussion with students at the Winter Beit Midrash. Also in the picture are Ariel Pardo, JLIC educator at Brandeis (far right), and student Shoshana Javitt, center.
COLLEGIATES Take a Torah Break Students start planning their schedules for winter break early on. After all, the time off is well-earned and it’s fun to contemplate vacation options. A ski trip to Vermont with the family? Building houses for the poor in South America? An internship at a local children’s hospital?
for their enthusiasm was that the topics being explored were truly practical in the context of their lives on campus. Led by OU-JLIC educators, the five-day program focused on “The Jewish Community and the Broader World.” In their classes and secular surroundings, Jewish students are confronted “Transitioning to college with new ideas and different permeant rethinking spectives on life; my relationship with for many, attending Winter Beit Torah education.” Midrash was an important opportunity to recharge But this winter there was yet another choice, thanks to the OU- their spiritual batteries. Seif Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus: study Torah! Winter Beit Midrash is a natural extension of the learning that takes place on OU-JLIC campuses throughout North America during the semester. The goal of the Beit Midrash was to create an environment where students could immerse themselves in Torah study, as well as interact with students from other campuses. The Jewish Center on the Upper West Side of Manhattan proved to be an ideal venue.
By Hani Lowenstein
came up with a schedule of eighteen classes tailored specifically for them. The topics pull no punches − from Bechirat Yisrael (the concept of the Chosen People) to “The Fallacy of ‘Falling in Love’” to Chukat Hagoyim (non-Jewish customs).
of many others when she said, “I truly enjoyed learning at the OUJLIC Winter Beit Midrash. The program was full of interesting, stimulating shiurim taught by remarkable educators and scholars − and it was also a great way to meet Discussions throughout the lots of new people.” week were lively and the entire In his closing remarks, Rabbi program wrapped up with an after- Menachem Schrader predicted dinner activity with Hart Levine that the students’ ability to actively (of OU-NextGen’s Heart to Heart) engage in the Beit Midrash and focusing on student campus the world around them will be an outreach. Students also gained essential part of them for the rest from the informal discussions of their lives. His words rang true they had with OU-JLIC edu- in the hearts and minds of all. R cators throughout the week and many expressed interest in For information on next year’s Winter Break Estee Ellis, a student at UPenn, keeping in touch with the educators Beit Midrash, contact after they return to campus. noted, “As a student, I had grown firstname.lastname@example.org. used to being on the receiving end Participants were enthusiastic of Torah knowledge. Transitioning about returning to the winter break ____________________ to college meant rethinking my program in coming years. Shoshana Hani Lowenstein is a Student relationship with Torah education. Javitt, a student at the University of Leadership and Educational I’ve discovered that shiurim can Maryland, echoed the sentiments Resources Associate for OU-JLIC. be peer-led and student-driven. At Penn…I find myself on the transmitting end of my tradition – Zevvy Goldish, from Brandeis notifying professors that I won’t University, concentrates be in class on holidays, informing during a shiur my friends that I eat in the kosher dining hall. At times this is a daunting task.”
Walking through the Beit Midrash, the vibrant sounds of learning Thoroughly familiar with the made it apparent that both students challenges religious Jewish stuand teachers felt at home in this dents such as Estee face, OU-JLIC setting. One of the key reasons educators and guest lecturers
Summer 2015 | Reunion Magazine
OUR NEWS Congrats to All OU Alumni!
WE ARE PROUD OF THE
of the following Alumni
• Jon Lamm (West Coast NCsY) – PhD in Psychology from st. Johns University • Yisroel Orenbuch (LoNg IsLaND NCsY) and Rochel Frolich (LoNg IsLaND NCsY) – Young Leadership award at the Yachad 30th anniversary Dinner H AT z L A c H A R A b b A H
• Ilan Regenbaum (atLaNta NCsY)
• Paige Hamer (NeW eNgLaND NCsY ’11) to Yoch Redlich
• Arie Schwartz (oU-JLIC RUtgeRs)
• Yael bar (NoRCaL NCsY, ICe IsRaeL) to Frankie ziman (saN DIego
• Rafi Kristall-Weiss (IFs) • blake Winn (IFs)
If you’re already married –
• Akiva berger (atLaNta NCsY) to gabrielle Hiller • Annette Rosenfeld (atLaNtIC seaBoaRD NCsY ’11) to Josh Freed (atLaNtIC seaBoaRD)
NCsY, ICe IsRaeL)
• Yaniv Krengel (soUtHWest NCsY)
• Lauren chornock (atLaNtIC seaBoaRD NCsY) to Dovi Gluck (atLaNtIC seaBoaRD NCsY)
• Miriam Schwartz (atLaNtIC seaBoaRD NCsY)
to akiva salhanick • channa Joffre (atLaNtIC seaBoaRD NCsY) to eli goldstone • Shoshana Schneider (NeW YoRK NCsY) to Jordan Ginsberg (NCsY KoLLeL)
• Avi Schwartz (NeW JeRseY NCsY) to Sara Wolkenfeld (NeW YoRK NCsY)
• Ari zwiren
(West Coast NCsY, BILt, NCsY KoLLeL)
• Atara zwiren (West Coast NCsY)
• Talya Adler (oU-JLIC QC)
• Melissa Kramer (NeW YoRK NCsY) to Yossi Rex
• Steven Rosson (soUtHWest NCsY) to arielle Kaplan
(West Coast NCsY ’13)
(NeW JeRseY NCsY)
• Rachael Appelbaum
to the following Alumni who
• Shiran Arusi
• Dina Polak (JUNIoR NCsY) to Jeff Rabinowitz
• chaya Miriam Nimchinsky (UPstate NCsY) to chayim Gerson (tJJa)
• Pinchas (Paul) (atLaNtIC seaBoaRD NCsY) and Alisa Avruch – their daughter, Chaya shifra to Noah sadoff • Shawn (LoNg IsLaND NCsY) and Tziporah Karp (NeW JeRseY NCsY) – their son, aryeh, to Frimi stierman • Daniel Eisenberg (NeW YoRK NCsY) to Nava Kaniel • Adam Rhodes (West Coast NCsY aND aDvIsoR) to elisa Zisblat
Summer 2015 2015 | Reunion Magazine Summer
• Ariella Sieger (West Coast NCsY) to Eli Weinstein (NeW York NCsY)
• David Clements (oU-JliC BraNdeis ’14) to Tali Portal (oU-JliC BraNdeis ’15)
• Debra Zauderer (oU-JliC rUtgers) to Mordechai rosenthal • Shira Prero (MidWest NCsY advisor) to Mayer Simcha Stromner (CeNtral east NCsY
• Elanit Helischauer (oU-JliC QUeeNs College) to Yossie edelman
• Daniella Eisenman (NeW York NCsY) and Jonah Cohen
• Ely Shamoulian (oU-JliC MarYlaNd ’14) to Leora Prince
advisor, NCsY kollel)
(West Coast NCsY)
(oU-JliC MarYlaNd ’15)
• Daniel Levine (saN diego NCsY, oU-JliC UCla) to Shayna Sedghim (oU-JliC UCla)
• Gedaliah Knizhnik (oU-JliC MarYlaNd ’17) to Liora Miller
• Albert Engel (oU-JliC MarYlaNd ’13) to Amanda Drazen
• Hillel Lichtenstein (oU-JliC CaNada ’13) to daniella Philips
(oU-JliC MarYlaNd ’17)
• Aliza Shapiro (oU-JliC BraNdeis ’15) to Ben Niewood • Allie Mayer (oU-JliC UPeNN ’14) to Yosef Feurerstein • Alyse Schongold (oU-JliC drexel ’13) to robert Morgenstern • Aaron Rubenstein (oU-JliC MarYlaNd ’14) to Lauren Querido (oU-JliC MarYlaNd ’13)
(oU-JliC MarYlaNd ’16)
• Jacob Agi (oU-JliC BraNdeis ’12) to rebecca abrams • Jessica Levenson (oU-JliC ColUMBia/BarNard ’14) to david Mirsky • Josh Lankin (oU-JliC BraNdeis) to Jennifer lifshutz • Leon Moskatel (oU-JliC ColUMBia/BarNard ’12) to rebecca linfield
• Ben Henig (oU-JliC BraNdeis ’12) to Julia Jerusalmi (oU-JliC BraNdeis ’13)
• Binyamin Besser (oU-JliC MarYlaNd ’15) to Lila Halpern (oU-JliC MarYlaNd ’15)
• Corey Fersel (oU-JliC MarYlaNd ‘13) to Dara Gold (oU-JliC MarYlaNd ’14)
• Danielle Adler (oU-JliC UCla) to daniel Hassan
to submit your announcement for this section, contact email@example.com
• Leora Hefter (oU-JliC ColUMBia/ BarNard ’13) to evan Hertan • Mia Weber (oU-JliC UPeNN ’13) to sam Weiss • Michal Loshinsky (oU-JliC BrooklYN College) to Shalom Orlian (oU-JliC BrooklYN College) • Moe Weiss (oU-JliC rUtgers ’15) to Ariella Levine (oU-JliC UPeNN ’15)
• Molly Katancik (oU-JliC BraNdeis ’10) to David Fried (oU-JliC BraNdeis ’06)
• Noah Lerner (oU-JliC rUtgers) to dorine ditesheim • Rachel Appelbaum (oU-JliC rUtgers) to Sam Kaplan (oU-JliC rUtgers)
• Rachel Kor (oU-JliC rUtgers) to Yoni edelman • Robyn Kalwerisky (oU-JliC MarYlaNd ’14) to Joey Frankel (oU-JliC MarYlaNd ’15)
• Ross Mitgang (oU-JliC QUeeNs College ’14)
to Yardena Winegust • Sarah Bernstein (oU-JliC MarYlaNd ’14) to Baruch Schein (oU-JliC MarYlaNd ’13) • Sarah Jaffe (oU-JliC BraNdeis ’15) to Daniel “DK” Kasdan (oU-JliC BraNdeis ’13)
• Saul Wyner (oU-JliC UCla) to sarah davita Pyle • Serena Covkin (oU-JliC UPeNN ’14) to Adam Pershan (oU-JliC UPeNN ’13)
• Shira Moskowitz (oU-JliC BraNdeis) to david ashear
Summer 2015 2015 | Reunion Reunion Magazine Magazine
• Shira Rosen (OU-JLIC MaryLand ’15) to Yeshaya Clair (OU-JLIC MaryLand ’15)
• Sophia Rifkin (OU-JLIC BrandeIs
• Aryeh Polstein (MIdWest advIsOr) and Elisheva Nathan (MIdWest advIsOr)
• Jordana Silberman (OU-JLIC rUtgers ’15) and Ari Leskowitz
’14) to nachum Matten
• Tali Brown (OU-JLIC MaryLand ’13) to Yoni Kozlowski
(OU-JLIC rUtgers ’13)
(OU-JLIC MaryLand ’15)
• Talia Lerner (OU-JLIC MaryLand ’15) to Mark Doueck (OU-JLIC MaryLand ’14)
• Tzvi Grossman (OU-JLIC Canada)
to shayna Brenman
• Yael Cedarbaum (OU-JLIC QUeens COLLege ’14) to Yaakov Spadaro (OU-JLIC QUeens COLLege ’14)
• Jordan Glowinsky (OUJLIC Canada ’14) and Elisheva Sherman (OU-JLIC Canada ’15)
• Chavi Mayer (neW yOrk nCsy) and ari Zeitz
• Gabriella zur (neW engLand nCsy ’08)
and raviv Jackier
• Gavi Bohan (neW engLand nCsy
• Leah Khukashvili (OU-JLIC QUeens COLLege ’15) and Nachi Farkas (neW Jersey nCsy and OUJLIC QUeens COLLege ’14)
• Michael Rosen (OU-JLIC Canada ’10) and Merav Sheinberg (OU-JLIC Canada ’14)
and Binyamin Zwickler
• Miriam Maltz
• Kira Lustman (MICHLeLet
and yossi Mason
MadrICHa ‘14, nCsy gIve MadrICHa ‘12)
and Kevin Rhine
(nCsy CaMp spOrts)
(OU-JLIC BrOOkLyn COLLege)
• ourit Chaya (OU-JLIC BrOOkLyn COLLege) and shaya rabbiah
• Rachel Rabinowitz
(OU-JLIC BrOOkLyn COLLege) and
• Yakira Kirzner (OU-JLIC drexeL ’12) to Jonathan Howarth
• Yehudit Schutzman (OU-JLIC UCLa) to Eli Berookim (OU-JLIC UCLa)
• Yoel Markus (OU-JLIC Canada • Rebecca “Bex” Shapiro (neW engLand nCsy ’06)
and Jeremy ruberg
• Shira Janette (neW engLand nCsy ’09)
• vered halpern (atLanta nCsy)
• Melanie Swartz (IFs WInter
• Yaakov Borenstein (neW
to aaron Fried
and aaron attar
yOrk nCsy advIsOr, sOUtHWest nCsy)
and talia Lautman
• Kevin Rhine (sOn OF CarOL A hEARTY MAzAL Tov
to the following Alumni on their
Marriages • Alan Wittert (neW yOrk nCsy) and Julie Weindruch
• Serena Schwechter (gIveUsa ’13) and Ben Kalish (atLantIC seaBOard 2007)
• Arielle Schreier (sOUtHern nCsy) and Ilan Weismark
Summer Summer 2015 2015 | Reunion Magazine
• Seth huttel (OU-JLIC QUeens COLLege ‘14) and Rivki Weiss
and reuven Fischer
• Yeshaya Clair (OU-JLIC MaryLand ’15) to Shira Rosen (OU-JLIC MaryLand ’15)
’15) and devora Miller
rHIne, neW yOrk nCsy staFF)
and kira Lustig
• Ariella Meisel (OU-JLIC drexeL ’12) and yaakov Loew
• Ilana Barta (OU-JLIC QUeens COLLege ’14) and akiva Fund
• Chaya Sara Brevda (OU-JLIC BrOOkLyn COLLege)
and yonatan ghoori
• Devora Miller (OU-JLIC UCLa) and Yoel Markus (OU-JLIC tOrOntO)
• Shana Itzkowitz
and Jeff Meckler (OU-JLIC QUeens COLLege)
(OU-JLIC QUeens COLLege)
• Tamar Cohen (OU-JLIC UCLa) and Yonatan Amzaleg (OU-JLIC UCLa)
• Yoni herskovitz (OU-JLIC UCLa) and Liora Fink (OU-JLIC santa MOnICa COLLege)
• Daniella Bayla (Colby) (OU-JLIC UCLa) to Eli Avtzon (OU-JLIC UCLa)
• Basha Bongart (IFS ’14) and Shmuel Cohen (IFS ’14) after meeting on the IFS trip!
• Leah Lubianker (IFS NatIoNal) and Eric Weinberg
• tzvi (NEW JErSEY NcSY) and
nechama Katz (NEW JErSEY NcSY) – a grandson
• yoni (atlaNta NcSY) and eliana (Leader) Kaplan (atlaNta NcSY) – a daughter, Zimra tehila. Proud grandparents are rabbi eitan and Mrs. Katz, regional director (NEW JErSEY NcSY)
• jeremy (loNg ISlaNd NcSY) and Cheryl (taub) Chernofsky (loNg ISlaNd NcSY)
– a son
• david (WESt coaSt NcSY, tJJ) and annie (Wasserman) Statman (tJJ) – a son • Benji and Leah Cheirif (SouthWESt NcSY) – a son
• eli (NcSY KollEl ’06) and jessica Zimble – a son • jennifer and aaron Stein
• Matty Miller (IFS ’14) and Zoe Batansky (IFS ’14),
(loNg ISlaNd NcSY)
who met on their IFS trips
– twin girls
• josh (SouthErN NcSY) and yael (edelman) Geller (MIdWESt NcSY)
– a son, benjamin
• josh Cohen (aluMNI SPEcIalISt WESt coaSt NcSY) and rena Gorman Cohen (WESt coaSt NcSY)– a son, akiva uziel
WarM WiSheS for naChat and joy
• Lauren (friedman) (loNg ISlaNd NcSY) and ari Grosman – a daughter,
to the following alumni on the
of their ChiLdren
• alan (atlaNtIc SEaboard NcSY) and Sandie freishtat (NEW JErSEY NcSY) – three
granddaughters and one grandson (two grandchildren
• Ben (loNg ISlaNd/NEW JErSEY NcSY) and Maital Stern – a daughter
• dan (NatIoNal, NEW ENglaNd NcSY) and Lauren (Wexler) hazony (NEW ENglaNd NcSY) – a daughter, Meital bracha
• Leonard (atlaNta NcSY) and Sharon habif (atlaNta NcSY) – a granddaughter, Zahava bracha
• ely (cENtral EaSt NcSY) and tali Cole – a son • Michel (SouthWESt NcSY) and devora Lomner – a son, dov Yehuda
• tal (atlaNta NcSY) and jessi ovadia – a daughter
• tzvi (loNg ISlaNd NcSY) and Shari Gherman – a son, Moshe Matisyahu
• derek (WESt coaSt NcSY StaFF) and Sarah Leah “fro fro” Gormin (WESt coaSt NcSY StaFF) – a son
• rabbi and Mrs. effie Goldberg (ExEcutIvE dIrEctor WESt coaSt NcSY)
• Goldie (robinson) (atlaNta NcSY) and tani Palefski – a daughter Summer Summer 2015 2015 ||Reunion ReunionMagazine Magazine
• Moshe (Long IsLand nCsY) and Devora Gordon (Long IsLand nCsY)
Mr. and Mrs. Harvey Blitz (Former oU PresIdent,
CUrrent oU Kosher ChaIrman) – a grandson and great-grandson
• Rachie (Long IsLand nCsY) and Lee Niren (Long IsLand nCsY) – a son • Rachmil (atLanta nCsY) and Miriam Strazynsky (atLanta nCsY)
– a son
• Rabbi Phil and Rachel Karesh (aLUmnI sPeCIaLIst mIdwest nCsY)
– a daughter,
• Rabbi and Mrs. Joe Ozarowski (Former regIonaL dIreCtor mIdwest nCsY)
– a grandson, naftali Betzalel
• Shmuel (new JerseY nCsY) and Shirel Katz (new JerseY nCsY) – a daughter
• Gavriella (oU-JLIC BrooKLYn CoLLege) and Jonathan Engel (oU-JLIC BrooKLYn CoLLege)
– a son,
– a son, Zev menachem mendel (max)
• Rabbi and Mrs. Menachem Schrader
(oU-JLIC BrooKLYn CoLLege)
(oU-JLIC Canada ’14)
engLand nCsY regIonaL dIreCtor
and beloved husband of mrs. Lynne gordon
• Julia Packer, reCent aLUmna oF new engLand nCsY
40 |||| Summer Summer2015 2015 || Reunion Reunion Magazine Magazine 40
– a son
Cutler (sUmmer Programs) and oU receptionist
• Harvey Gordon, Former new
– a son
• Nati (oU-JLIC Canada ’10) and Rachel Philosophe
• Ellen cutler, mother of david
nCsY Former regIonaL dIreCtor and natIonaL oFFICer
– a grandson
to the following alumni on the
Bat Mitzvahs Of THEIR cHILDREN
(oU-JLIC FoUndIng dIreCtor)
• Avi (oU-JLIC BrooKLYn CoLLege) and Elinore Sandler
• fern Goldstein, new JerseY
• Isabelle (oU Board oF dIreCtors) and David Novack (oU Board oF governors)
– a grandson
• Hadas (Former nCsY natIonaL PresIdent) and Peter Goodrich – a son, michael
girls and a boy
(oU-JLIC Canada ’12) – twin girls
(oU-JLIC BrooKLYn CoLLege)
– a grandson and granddaughter
• Rachel (IFs) and Shaya Feldman (IFs) – triplets, two
• Noah (oU-JLIC Canada ’12) and Tali Diamond
• Efraim (oU-JLIC BrooKLYn CoLLege) and Batsheva Graber
(new JerseY nCsY)
– a daughter
• Eric (Long IsLand nCsY) and Naava Keehn - a daughter,
• Richard (Long IsLand nCsY) and Lisa (Hartstein) Altabe
• Rabbi and Mrs. Danny Wolfe (IFs staFF Leader)
• Ari (Long IsLand nCsY) and anne Steiner (Long IsLand nCsY) – their daughter, meira
• Eliyahu (Long IsLand nCsY) and Shulie (Simon) German (Long IsLand nCsY)
– their daughter, atara
• Rebbetzin Peggy Gopin Weiss, Former regIonaL dIreCtor oF new engLand nCsY
• Kate abrams, oF UPstate new YorK nCsY, mother oF devorah and Ben gasner and LewIs and Jeanne aBrams
• Rashi Schnell, oF mIdwest nCsY • Rebbetzin Helen Ginsburg, who PIoneered In UPstate new YorK and new JerseY nCsY regIons
• Shayne zucker, Former
regIonaL dIreCtor oF CentraL east nCsY
• Sally abramovitz, the
mother of edward abramovitz
(new engLand nCsY Former PresIdent and advIsor) and anna
abromovitz (new engLand nCsY Former advIsor)
CONNECTions NCSY PHONE: URL:
NCSY.ORG /NCSY @NCSY
OU ALUMNI PHONE:
HEART TO HEART
Looking forward to hearing from you! Summer 2015 | Reunion Magazine
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