NCSY program 248.88.
(photo credit: Aron Lewis)
The National Conference of Synagogue Youth held a celebratory "mega event" for its Israel summer program participants on Sunday night. Six hundred and fifty high schoolers from North America attended the event, which was held at Ein Yael in southern Jerusalem.
NCSY is a modern Orthodox youth group sponsored by the Orthodox Union.
"We wanted to provide a day of inspiration and to show that we have power in numbers," said David Cutler, director of NCSY programs.
The evening included a barbecue, a fire-dancer, singer Gilan Shachaf, a slide show and the obligatory speeches from dignitaries.
Rabbi David Orlofsky, the keynote speaker, focused on the danger posed by assimilation to the Jewish people. "The fastest growing group of Jews is not the Reform, Conservative, Orthodox or Haredi, but the unaffiliated,"he said.
He then went on to criticize Jewish families where religion is not apparent or is merely superficial.
The teenagers participate in a number of programs, including ones based on volunteering, sport and touring. All include Torah study.
David Watson, from Vancouver, is on the the Jerusalem Journey touring option. He spoke of his spiritual growth. "Since I've been here, I've felt a very strong connection to my Judaism, I now wear a kippa, put on tefillin every morning and pray."
One of the programs, Kollel, is built around studying in yeshiva for six weeks. Rabbi Moshe Benovitz, director of Kollel, said its aim was "to focus on Torah and Israel in order that they [the participants] identify with their Judaism."
Shira Moss, from New York, on the volunteering program GIVE, explained the activities: "We are based in Beit Shemesh where we have been working in orphanages, old age homes and soup kitchens. You really appreciate what you have back home."
Cutler said it was impressive that NCSY was still attracting large numbers of teenagers. "Despite the current economic crisis, we have 87 percent of the participants we had last year. This is mainly due to generous funding from the Orthodox Union," he said.