NCSY Program
NCSY Programcourtesy

Some 1,200 members of NCSY – the National Council of Synagogue Youth – gathered last week for a special event at the Mini-Israel park, featuring fireworks, laser shows, and the conviviality NCSY is known for, at the highlight event of the organization's Israel Summer programs.

NCSY is the youth movement of the Orthodox Union (OU), and is, for many of its teenage members, their only connection to Orthodox Judaism. Many of the organization's youth groups are located in areas where a Jewish community of any kind – let alone an Orthodox one – is miniscule, and one of NCSY's top priorities is helping teens maintain their Jewish identity in circumstances where the easiest choice would be to assimilate.

NCSY's summer program in Israel is one of the organization's premier events, and it allows youth to tour Israel, volunteer at social service projects, study, and enjoy a maximal Jewish environment. At last week's event in Mini-Israel – the culmination of the summer program – NCSY chairman Rabbi Steven Berg said that “today, when we are witness to hostility and attacks on Israel, we need to increase our identity with Israel and become its ambassadors abroad. When we see you deepening your Jewish identity, volunteering and strengthening your connection to Israel, it shows how important it was for you to come on this trip to Israel.”

Speaking to Arutz Sheva, Israeli OU Executive Director Avi Berman said that “gathering over 1,000 teens from all across North America, from diverse backgrounds, where some came to Israel to learn Torah for six weeks on NCSY Kollel, and others came to Israel on the Jerusalem Journey, not knowing what Judaism meant until a few weeks ago, is mind-boggling and impressive.

“Having them walk around Mini-Israel and see Israel on a small scale gave them a desire to want to come back again and strengthen their connection to Israel. Our goal and hope is that the participants on NCSY summer programs will be ambassadors to Israel whether they choose to live in Israel or stay abroad,” Berman said.