By: Asher Becker
There’s so much to say about NCSY that I don’t know where to begin. My name is Asher Becker and I joined the NCSY family 7 years ago when I attended NCSY Kollel. Since then, I’ve been hooked as I will G-d willing be going back for my 8th consecutive summer — 4th as a madrich and 6th as staff member.
Over the last few years, I have also had the privilege to be more involved with various NCSY regions throughout the year, including New England and Midwest. Getting more involved has given me the remarkable opportunity to work alongside some of the best and brightest in the world of Jewish education, including Rabbi Dovid Bashekvin, Rabbi Moshe Benovitz, Rabbi Netanal Lebowitz, Rabbi Rael Blumenthal, and Debbie Stone. Additionally, I have even developed relationships with those in the National NCSY office, including David Cutler, director of NCSY Summer, Elliot Tanzman, Jen Goldman, and so many others who do amazing work for NCSY.
With that being said, after 7 years in the NCSY community I felt it was time to reflect, process and appreciate what it is that I gained from NCSY. Often times, those who have not had much exposure to NCSY look cynically and facetiously upon the work that the organization does. We often think that an inspiring Shabbaton, ebbing, or Havdalah is just a transient moment. However, standing here 7 years later, I can tell you honestly that this is not the case.
There is an astonishing amount of people who are inspired by NCSY and make changes in their daily living because of a Shabbaton. NCSY has been on the cusp of cutting-edge methods of kiruv since their inception, and I believe that the reason NCSY is so successful at what they do is not because of their amazing organizational staff, or the advisors for the various chapters, or the madrichim and madrichot on the various programs, but I believe that the most significant factor of NCSY is the support that the NCSYers give to one another. The pride that these teens feel through being part of a larger group instills within them a sense of uniformity and Jewish pride. At the end of the day, NCSYers spend more time with each other than they do with the advisors. Being surrounded by other NCSYers who share a similar motivation and who are also looking to grow enables NCSYers to grow more easily than had they been attempting to do so on their own.
I have had the pleasure of taking part in NCSY’s National Yarchei Kallah for the past two years. At Yarchei Kallah 2013, 313 public school NCSYers from across North America <span style=”text-decoration: line-through;”>(don’t worry Canada, I got you covered),</span> traveled to Stamford, Connecticut, to spend a large portion of their winter break exclusively learning Torah. Where else can you find such self-motivation from teenagers? These NCSYers could be doing a million other things with their free time, yet they choose to be involved in learning and growing spiritually with their friends. I find it to be the most unbelievable thing.
In general, what I find to be most amazing about NCSYers is how inspiring and yet unassuming they are. An act that we could all perceive to be a remarkable act of perseverance, to the NCSYer is something totally natural. For example, you may find an NCSYer as the only Jew in their public school, and yet he or she is not afraid to flaunt their Judaism, despite potential obstacles. Be it wearing a kippah, tzitzis, or something defined as Jewish dress that would make them stick out, these NCSYers not only do it, but do it effortlessly.
I’m sure many of you know the harrowing story of Orly Ohayon and her mother Esther, a”h. I have never had the privilege of meeting Orly, but I did see her for a short time at this past Yarchei Kallah. The one thing which struck me about Orly was the constant smile on her face. Being aware of what she has gone through, I find it inspiring that she has the ability to stay optimistic, keep a smile on her face and bring light and joy to the people around her. Often times, we get bogged down in life with the trivial minutiae of our daily living. Despite all of her hardships, Orly continues to persevere. Every time I watch the video “A Message from Orly to NCSY,” I break down. Seeing such a young individual having gone through so many difficulties in her life, and continuing to inspire others, is truly moving. As Orly mentions in this video, in her hardest time, after she was waking up in the hospital for the first time, the spark that kept her going was the knowledge that her friends and her chapter in Jacksonville were not only there to help her, but were proactively trying to make a difference in the world, on her behalf. Orly is just one example of the many incredible people associated with NCSY, an organization I feel so incredibly privileged to be a part of.
To sum up my thoughts, NCSY has changed my life in so many indescribable ways. They have given me an appreciation for overcoming the trials and tribulations an average Jewish public school teen experiences daily — having to contend with a sea of kids that are different from them, and striving for spirituality in an environment that is devoid of it. It is my hope and dream that all of the NCSYers involved in this incredible organization, no matter what point they may be at in their lives currently, always remember that they can do whatever they set their mind to and that they have the ability to become a great leader and make the entire Jewish people proud.