April 17, 2024
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Orthodox Union’s NCSY 4G Convention Draws 200 Orthodox High Schoolers

Girls dancing at Nissim Black’s Motzei Shabbat Musical Experience at the convention.

(Courtesy of OU) Standing in concentric circles, locked arm in arm, and swaying slowly to the rhythm of soulful songs, 205 teens recently bid Shabbat farewell in an inspiring experience called “Ebbing” at an NCSY convention in Somerset, New Jersey.

Yet unlike the majority of NCSY conventions where participants largely stem from secular backgrounds, this weekend catered to a broad spectrum of Modern Orthodox and Bais Yaacov high school girls who belong to 4G, or For Girls, an all-girls NCSY program.

A division of the Orthodox Union, NCSY inspires Jewish teens to connect with their Judaism, the Torah and Israel, through innovative, cutting-edge social and recreational programs. Geared for ninth through 12th graders, 4G empowers young women to develop an authentic and meaningful relationship with their Judaism through weekly social events centered on Torah, strengthening their relationship with Hashem, and building bonds with one another.

Participants of the recent 4G NCSY International Convention at the DoubleTree in Somerset, New Jersey, gather for a pre-Shabbat picture.

“Every Jew deserves a chance to take a passive relationship with Judaism and God that was given to them through community and upbringing, and turn that into an active and personal relationship,” said 4G and Day School Engagement Managing Director for New York and New Jersey NCSY Shayna Gewirtz, who launched the program in 2020.

Chapters throughout North America have seen tremendous growth, like New York-New Jersey, which has welcomed 880 girls in the last six months.

“4G participants are incredible girls who are very connected to their Judaism,” said 4G New Jersey Director Suzanne Rabinovitch. “4G presents an opportunity and a space for teens to exercise their bechira, their choice, to make Judaism theirs. The program offers girls a chance to go a step further in their Judaism, and demand more for themselves outside of school.”

In Teaneck, between 25 and 50 girls gather weekly at a local café for Tea Time, where they order a drink of their choice and connect with peers from other schools and 4G advisors. At the end of the evening, one participant shares a personal story and the Torah lessons that can be drawn from it.

Teaneck’s Orly Fessel is a junior at Naaleh High School for Girls. Fessel has participated in 4G since its inception and now sits on the 4G New Jersey Board.

“I first started going to 4G events because my friends were going, but it quickly turned into so much more than that,” she said. “I love how 4G unites all of the girls’ high schools in the region, and around the world.”

In Bergenfield, 4G Lunch ‘n Learns and school clubs take place throughout the week. 4G also offers a JSU (Jewish Student Union) Cohort, which pairs day school girls and public school girls who belong to an NCSY JSU club. The teens meet weekly on FaceTime to learn together b’chavruta.

This year’s 4G NCSY International Convention included all the components that NCSY shabbatons are known for, including singing; dancing; immersive Torah experiences; Tea Time Café; mishmar; Davening Reimagined sessions on topics like “Davening Mindfulness,” “Meditation Through Tefilah” and “The Davening Why;” and an Open BMG sponsored by Touro University.

“The highlight of the convention for me was the first night of Open BMG,” said Fessel. “Since the first convention in 2022, a friend and I have been learning together. Each year we pick a new sefer to learn. … No matter what hallway you turn down, or room you enter, you’ll find people learning Torah, opening a new sefer for the first time. There’s nothing like it.”

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