Teens at the joint learning event
Teens at the joint learning eventOU Israel spokesperson

In response to the war in Israel, Ida Crown Jewish Academy (ICJA), a large high school in Chicago under the leadership of Rabbi Leonard Matanky, sent a special student mission to Israel.

Their senior class of about 40 students came to volunteer across Israel for a full four-week program. With the ICJA mission based in Gush Etzion, NCSY Israel arranged to host the ICJA students for a special edition of their classic Pizza and Parsha program in Efrat. Over pizza and Torah learning, teens living in Israel and teens living in Chicago were able to connect and learn with and from each other.

NCSY Israel staff created and led the learning content under the topic of the importance and meaning of the halachic system using sources from the Rambam, Rav Kook and Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.

Teens from ICJA and NCSY Israel really enjoyed the joint program and connecting with teens across the ocean. Noa G., a participating ICJA student reflected, “I thought it was interesting to see the way that the kids here in Israel learn because it was a different learning environment than I normally experience in Chicago.”

Rivka T. made Aliyah with her family when she was 10 years old and now lives in Efrat. This is her first year at NCSY Israel. She recalls from the event: “I met a few really nice kids from Ida Crown. They are very friendly and know a lot about halacha and they really created a new perspective of Jewish Americans for me.”

Dov Kesselman, an NCSY Israel board member, lives in Efrat and joined the event to see for himself: “With the war and our soldiers always on our minds, it was a welcome relief to see and hear teens learning Torah and laughing and eating together, a sign that we are fighting for something so important – the future of Am Yisrael. This event was a much-needed release for our teens in a warm and meaningful environment. NCSY Israel plays such an important role in regular times, and during these times the impact is that much greater."

OU Israel Executive Director Rabbi Avi Berman said, "With Jews from across the world now focusing on Israel it is beautiful to see joint programs like this NCSY Israel event with Ida Crown Jewish Academy, which connects Jews from the Diaspora with Jews living here in Israel in a real and impactful way. This resembles the way Am Yisrael was at Har Sinai, as one person with one heart."

Teens at the joint learning event/
Teens at the joint learning event/OU Israel spokesperson