April 12, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

NCSY’s Yarchei Kallah Inspires Jewish Teens

Over 300 public school students from across North America recently gathered in Stamford, Connecticut for NCSY’s Yarchei Kallah five-day program. NCSY is the Orthodox Union’s international youth organization, and this was its largest Yarchei Kallah gathering to date.

For the first three days of the event, teens were immersed in an intensive learning program, with over eight hours a day devoted to Torah study. NCSYers were broken up into groups to attend classroom-style sessions, and to smaller chaburahs led by rabbis, educators, or their advisors. Optional learning was encouraged throughout the breaks, and many of the staff made themselves available during meal times to speak with the kids.

This year’s topic concerned people failures in the Book of Genesis, with shiurim being given on the stories of Cain and Abel, The Flood, and The Tower of Babel. The teens were expected to acquire a greater understanding of what it means to be successful based upon their study of what it means to fail.

In addition to their studies, participants were also given opportunities to explore their own interests. The new “Mini Masters” program provided teens with a choice of two from 12 lectures, on topics ranging from Holocaust theology to medical ethics. “Building Your Own Jewish Library”  introduced each NCSYer to two Jewish texts of their choosing, and ensured that each one went home with two new books to begin, or add to, their personal Jewish libraries.

The program, however, wasn’t only about learning. Trivia night was held on Wednesday after dinner, and the summer program fair, complete with games, popcorn, and hat making took place Thursday evening.

Yarchei Kallah also served as an important transition for the NCSY organization, as it was the first program for Rabbi Micah Greenland in his new role as international director, though he has been a part of NCSY since his days as a high school student in Skokie, Illinois.

For shabbos, the program shifted to Teaneck, New Jersey, where teens and staff were housed in individual homes around the community, while meals and davening were held at Keter Torah. “The idea is that while the hotel is an incredible environment, for Shabbos it’s really a manufactured Shabbos environment,” Rabbi Glasser told Nachum Segal of JM in the AM. “And we want to expose, particularly this group of kids, to the authentic Jewish communal experience.” Bringing the teens to Teaneck for Shabbos, NCSY believes, is the best way to show them a community that exemplifies the lifestyle the organization advocates.

The teens weren’t the only ones to benefit from the experience. The entire community was invited to join NCSY for seudat shlishit and the havdalah service.

Although the program concluded with a meleva malka Saturday night, the lasting image of this year’s Yarchei Kallah was the Thursday night kumzitz. It is hard to describe the energy in the room as hundreds of teens swayed back and forth with their arms around one another, singing songs as Thursday night turned into Friday morning. The event carried on past the scheduled curfew, and then past the extended curfew as well. Even the tired looking security guard didn’t feel right breaking it up. Each time he approached the circle of teenagers he paused, smiled, and walked away. Eventually, he stayed to watch, laughing as one of the rabbis invited him to join them. It’s hard to turn away from such a scene, and it’s unlikely he’ll forget it any time soon.

The hope for NCSY is that the teenagers won’t soon forget it either.

Aharon Schreiber is a student at Hunter College pursuing a BA in English Literature. He has served as a member of New Jersey NCSY’s tech staff for their winter and spring regionals, as well as for Yarchei Kallah. He can be reached via twitter @baronaharon.

By Aharon Schrieber

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