May 26, 2024
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May 26, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

The Challenges Facing Our Teens

At this time of the year, I receive many questions from yeshiva-educated teens about remaining frum through college. Since being involved in NCSY, I am often asked some serious, thought-provoking questions regarding religion and faith from teens of all backgrounds. For example, I am asked, “How bad is it if I take a break from Judaism while in college? Even the Amish do it.” While these questions don’t surprise me anymore, others would be shocked at the collection of questions I receive, such as, “Does God really care if one texts on Shabbat?”, “Is God really fooled by the ‘Shabbos App’?”, “If I am a good person, does God really care if I don’t put on Tefillin on Sundays?” or “In a world where ISIS and Hamas terrorize the free world, how bad is it to break just a few rules?”

Teens today are struggling because they can’t seem to find their place in Judaism. I believe that most teens are searching for the same thing; they want to become inspired and learn how Judaism can be relevant to them. They want to be excited and passionate about religion and they are looking to us to provide them with the insight and guidance that they need.

We also can’t leave questions unanswered. Teens today are growing up in a more inquisitive time than ever before. Information and answers to questions can be Googled in less time than it takes to reach out to a mentor or role model. If we don’t provide these answers for our teens, they will find them through other means. Rather than sheltering them from the outside world, we need to provide our teens from both yeshivot and public school with genuine and real answers to the challenging questions they have.

As Regional Director, I am proud to be a part of an organization that can discuss these questions in an open, nonjudgmental environment. Our dedicated and committed staff spends the time talking with our teens to help inspire and show them the excitement and beauty of Judaism. We explain that while we have a full commitment to Halacha, we must also have an emotional connectio6n to what is being observed. Our main goal is to provide teens with the insight and understanding for the challenges that they face, in a caring, accepting and relaxed environment.

Today, New Jersey NCSY works together with the local shuls and yeshivot to provide our teens with the guidance and direction that they might not receive in the framework of formal education. We understand that teens may not feel as comfortable addressing their teachers or rebbeim with questions of faith or presenting questions that the classroom environment may not be conducive to. Our programs are designed to provide a safe environment where teens can find their place in Judaism and become inspired to ask and learn more about religion.

This year, New Jersey NCSY has held almost 650 programs with an attendance of almost 2,000 teens, 1,000 who are from local public schools. These programs include weekly Latte and Learnings, Regional Shabbatonim, Shabbat Onegs, JSU Clubs, NCSY Summer Programs, Yarchei Kallah, Chol Hamoed events and much more. These programs are meant to serve as a catalyst for personal development and Torah growth. Our ultimate goal is to provide a loving and supportive Jewish experience where teens of any background can grow in their Judaism.

New Jersey NCSY also provides unique and innovative leadership programs such as our Volunteer Chessed Missions, Chapter Board, Leadership Shabbatons and elite L.E.A.D. Fellowship, which enable our teens to grow in their Judaism and become the next generation of leaders in our community. These programs are not only meant to teach our teens about the value of responsibility and Chessed but also to empower our teens to grow and live up to their true potential.

We invite the community to join us on June 21 for our Annual Bergen County Scholarship Breakfast to learn more about our innovative and inspirational programs. This year we are proud to honor Ayelet and Rabbi Michael Hoenig, Reva and Danny Judas, Caryn and Yigal Marcus and Denise and Dr. Leonard Schrieber. The event will take place at the home of Alissa and Shimmie Horn, 465 Winthrop Road, Teaneck, NJ beginning at 9 a.m. For more information please visit www.newjersey.ncsy.org.

Rabbi Ethan Katz,

Regional Director, NCSY

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