Calling All NCSY’ers (Past and Present)

I always find interesting things to read when I go to Ezzie’s blog. This time he links to Pscychotoddler, who has some very nice things to say about NCSY. He sees it from the perspective of a FFB (frum-religious from birth, vs. someone who becomes religious later in life). I was about to write a comment to his post that I, too, became frum through NCSY, and I saw that Batya had beat me to it.

 It got me wondering about how many bloggers are out there who became frum through NCSY.

So I’m going to run a very unscientific survey here. Those of you who became observant through NCSY, please leave a short comment on this post. I will leave it at the top of the page for awhile.

To get things started, I became frum through NCSY in Har Sinai (Upstate New York) Region in 1978. From there I went to Stern College – one year in Israel – and eventually I made aliyah.

What is your story?

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33 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. mother in israel
    Oct 28, 2007 @ 11:43:15

    Central East. graduated early 80s. I spent a year in Israel and went to a secular college, despite having been a member of Ben Zakkai. They kept me anyway.

  2. psychotoddler
    Oct 28, 2007 @ 15:10:20

    I was in NCSY as a HS student. I was already on my way to becoming frum at the time, but the deep discussions we got into in our sessions definitely contributed.

    Later I went back as a member of the band, and I met my wife at an NCSY event.

  3. zahava
    Oct 28, 2007 @ 15:21:24

    Another NCSYer! As you know, also another Har Sinai’er! I was still in junior NCSY in 1978 — my high school reign was from 1980-1984 (you know there are a LOT of us here in Israel).

    NCSY was a HUGE part of my teen-aged existence. As a (then) conservadox kid living in the sticks, NCSY was a major part of my social life, and I can’t imagine what my high school years would have been like without it. There is a huge kharma-debt there to be certain!

    And, luckily for me, most of my closest friendships — til today! — are from that period of time.

    That being said, as a kid who was considered a “success story” while IN NCSY, but considered to be less-than-a-success story AFTER NCSY (because I opted out of the year-in-Israel/Stern/Touro follow-up), I can’t quite call myself an NCSY success story. Unlike Mother in Israel — I don’t feel “they kept me anyway.”

    I feel like, through NCSY’s lens, I am a success story vis-a-vis frumkeit as a result of their influence, but in spite of my own personal choices. Each time I run into a former advisor I am treated to the same pleasantly shocked expression while my appearance is digested. As much as I appreciate that my reality is at statistical odds with the reality of most former NCSYers who chose secular institutions of higher learning, it still HURTS when confronted with the ASSUMPTION that because I did not go to Stern or Touro that I must have relinquished my spiritual identity (which, I obviously I did not).

  4. Jack
    Oct 28, 2007 @ 16:20:41

    I am not Frum, but I have quite a few friends who went through USY/Ramah and then became BT. In fact I have sat through more than one Shabbos meal in which some of the FFBs were shocked to learn that their host attributed their frumkeit to the experiences they had during those years.

  5. Marc Fein
    Oct 28, 2007 @ 16:31:05

    Hello all of Har Sinai,

    My name is Marc Fein and I am currently the associate regional director for Har Sinai NCSY. I would love to hear about your stories and keep you up to date about whats happening in the region and, when possible, invite you back to conventions! I look forward to hearing about all your wonderful experiences.

    ~ Marc Fein

    Marc.Fein@gmail.com
    http://www.upstatencsy.org

  6. Teddy
    Oct 28, 2007 @ 19:21:50

    I was an NCSY Regional Director LI Region and was in Har Sinai many times, especially when Avery Neumark led the region, who was and still is a close friend of mine.

    Teddy

  7. mother in israel
    Oct 29, 2007 @ 12:22:31

    Jack, are you saying that the FFBs are shocked that people became BT through USY/Ramah? I saw a discussion among Conservative Jews about how hard it is for committed Conservative youth to find a place once they are adults. There are a few communities, in Jerusalem for example, but many of these young people become Orthodox. I grew up in a very traditional, non-Orthodox family (that didn’t identify with Conservative) and found it very hard socially.

  8. Trackback: Ezzie’s pals and gals discuss NCSY : The Kvetcher
  9. Scraps
    Oct 29, 2007 @ 23:29:11

    I wasn’t a “classic” NCSY success story, but NCSY definitely helped me find the joy in Judaism and want to stay religious (and become more religious) in a part of the country where there wasn’t much of a reason to. Thanks to NCSY and the role models I had there, I was motivated to pursue my higher Jewish education, even though it entailed a lot of personal sacrifice. I really owe who I am today to NCSY.

    That said, do I think NCSY is perfect? No. Depending on what part of the country you’re in, NCSY functions in different ways and serves different populations, and some regions are better at follow-up than others. Because of demographic differences and other factors, some regions serve as sanctioned social gatherings for mostly Modern Orthodox youth, while others aim to serve more of a public school crowd. Some regions are trying to make their NCSYers “yeshivish”, while others are just trying to make sure that each kid walks away with an interest in and a passion for Judaism in some form. Even though it’s a national organization, really each region is a world unto itself.

  10. Dixie Yid
    Oct 29, 2007 @ 23:50:00

    Early ’90s, Southern Region Ohr Hanegev. I was somewhat on the way to becoming frum before NCSY, but my experiences at Shabbatonim really set me on fire and gave me a way to make friends with more than the handful of other frum kids from my town back in Dixie. Great experience.

    -Dixie Yid

  11. westbankmama
    Oct 30, 2007 @ 15:27:34

    motherinisrael – going to a secular college doesn’t mean that someone won’t become (or stay)religious, but you have to admit that it is much harder.

    psychotoddler – shidducim through NCSY. Now THAT is another interesting topic.

    zahava – I had a similar experience when I made aliyah with my husband. Most of my friends who wanted to live in Israel stayed here after a year of learning (post college). They married in Israel. I couldn’t do that – too scared – but I vowed that even in America I would only go out with guys who wanted to make aliyah. I stuck to this, met and married my husband, and came on aliyah a few years afterwards. Many of my friends were very happy for me, but couldn’t help but express their surprise that I actually made it back to Israel.

    Jack – I think anyone who is in a Jewish youth group in high school and takes it seriously adds to their own identification with Yiddishkeit.

    Marc Fein – I don’t suppose you want to pay for an airplane ticket from Israel do you….

    Teddy – wow, another NCSYer in a surprising place (place in the blog world, that is…)

    the Kvetcher – I guess your blog name says it all…

    Scraps – what you say about the different regions is very true – there are a lot of differences.

    Dixie – “handful of other frum kids from my town” – oh, boy, do I remember that isolation! I think that was a huge factor in my making aliyah. How can you not live in a place where there are so many Jews (frum too!) that you don’t know every single one????

  12. Steve Brizel
    Oct 30, 2007 @ 16:44:19

    I am a proud NCSY ( and BZ member) alumnus. NCSY deserves a lot of credit for working on the twin issues of Chizuk and Kiruv and Jewish continuity among Jewish teens long before the concept became the subject of magazine and journal articles. NCSY inspired me to become a Shomer Mitzvos. As an NCSYer, and especially attending Regional ( Sullivan Ulster) and National Conventions, I celebrated kept Shabbos, learned how to “wash” , “bentsch”, learned Torah for the first time, discussed and debated current Jewish and American issues and learned that I wasn’t the only Jewish teen in America interested in these issues. NCSY inspired me to attend YU where I gained the tools to develope a love of Limud HaTorah. I am proud that R Stolper had the Bracha Acharita at our chasunah as well as that of our older daughter and that our younger daughter attended SEG and Michlelet and was on staff at SEG this past summer and that our daughters, attended yeshivos, went to Michlala, graduated from Touro and are attending SCW, respectively, and that our house is where Torah, Avodah and Gmilus Chasadim are caught, not taught,

    I look at the post high school issue this way. YU, SCW, Touro or even Israel are not for everyone. However, the key is whether one’s Jewish priorities are on the uptake or decline. I also believe that NCSY should revitalize National Convention as the culmimation of the year and as a kick off party for the great summer programs, as opposed to the prevalent and IMO mistaken notion that they have replaced National. I look at it this way-Barnes & Noble and Amazon represent the bricks and mortar and the on line methods of marketing. NCSY should realize that a real organization has meetings, elects officers, and rewards excellence. I consider the decline and dissapearance of National Convention to be a mistake. However, even thougn we were honored at a BZHS reception, the BZHS reception and the NCSY alumni Shabbatonim are a great way to meet old friends and rekindle spiritual batteries.

  13. Steve Brizel
    Oct 30, 2007 @ 16:47:21

    One more very important point-Some of my closest and dearest friends are those that I met in NCSY. One is a daily chavrusa.

  14. DK
    Oct 30, 2007 @ 17:50:45

    What is not being addressed here is that the dual curriculum schools such as third tier school is not as frummified as it gets by any means. NCSY has maintained and continues to maintain recruiting relationships with haredi institutions such as Aish, Ohr Somayach, and Neve Yerushalayim as well. Such haredi places of course, are just for the public school kids, whose parents do not understand the differences between MO and ultra-Orthodox.

  15. Fran
    Oct 30, 2007 @ 18:02:30

    DK-

    Even here on someone else’s blog you spew your hate. Your crap isnt being discussed here because this isnt what this forum is about! Its about people who became frum though NCSY, not about the pros and cons of it! Stick to your rantings that are at least on topic. If you became frum through ncsy then tell us your story DON’T rip on an organization you know nothing about in a topic that has nothing to do with it

  16. Steve Brizel
    Oct 30, 2007 @ 18:07:14

    Of course, DK ignores the fact that by no means even do a small minority of NCSY public school graduates attend a yeshiva or seminary. The notion that NCSY has “relationships” with any institution or funnels them anywhere is a product of DK’s imagination.

  17. Trackback: Fran Knows the Real Reasons : The Kvetcher
  18. Steve Brizel
    Oct 30, 2007 @ 19:45:42

    Once again, DK shows an ability to confuse facts with fiction. Yes, I spent an evening at OS’s The Center and blogged about my observations there. I saw a group of college aged men exploring their Jewish background and observed a Beis Medrash equipped with the usual sefarim that one finds therein. Of course, OS has a Charedi orientation and I know that OS is hardly a fan of either RIETS, YU or RYBS. However,at least OS offered a viable program -which JSS was once upon a time and which is now being revived so as to compete with OS Does that make me an unconditional fan or devotee of OS?

  19. DK
    Oct 30, 2007 @ 20:03:51

    Oh please … let’s take a look: http://www.beyondbt.com/?p=594

    When people have a reaction like the one you had at OS, they are excused from being the shaliach tzibur until they go to the mikvah.

  20. Steve Brizel
    Oct 30, 2007 @ 21:19:17

    I stand by my observations that I posted at Beyond BT. Everyone and anyone familiar with the Slichos knows that we recite verses from many or all of the Prophets at the end of Slichos. RYBS stated that these verses were included to teach us that each Navi had his own message and route for Teshuvah. Like it or not, NCSY,Aish OS , NJOP and every other Kiruv and Chizuk oriented group all have their own messages. It behooves noone any good to knock any of these groups, even if they have hashkafic objections, etc.

  21. DK
    Oct 30, 2007 @ 22:13:52

    Secular and liberal should understand what these places believe, and where they guide the “bochrim.” And parents should understand NCSY herds people into these places, and has done so using the public schools as their personal farm leagues to frumville.

    And parents should decide how mammish wonderful NCSY/JSU is, or perhaps, decide that actually, they are not so wonderful, and perhaps, need to be exposed, and their Federation funding, cut.

  22. Steve Brizel
    Oct 31, 2007 @ 02:32:06

    The above post is a fantasy. NCSY herds noone. Contrary to DK, the vast majority of public school graduates from NCSY do not attend any yeshiva or seminary of any nature.

  23. DK
    Oct 31, 2007 @ 04:38:36

    I am worried about the ones who are herded to either dual curriculum schools OR haredi institutions. NCSY has no business doing either in the public school system through deceptive recruiting. They continue to escalate both.

    They will be exposed, and the OU will suffer parents wrath.

  24. Jack
    Oct 31, 2007 @ 04:52:59

    Jack, are you saying that the FFBs are shocked that people became BT through USY/Ramah?

    Mother in Israel,

    Yes, many of them were. I suspect that much of it comes from a lack of exposure to non-Orthodox Jewry and some of the stereotypes about them.

  25. BB
    Oct 31, 2007 @ 08:47:18

    I became frum through LI NCSY in the 90’s. I also met my husband there. I was a kid in Juniors and Seniors. I never went back as an advisor but my hubby did Juniors, Seniors, was an advisor, and won advisor of the year. Because of our age difference we have seen many advisors and kids pass through NCSY throughout the years. We individually never missed a Shabbaton or event. It was a real part of our life when I was in HS. Then I spent a year and a half in Israel and then two years in Stern. I didn’t go back as an advisor. I got married and wanted to invest my time and energy in my marraige.

  26. westbankmama
    Oct 31, 2007 @ 15:07:33

    DK – I don’t know about other people’s parents, but joining NCSY (as a public school student) was their idea. I had started going out with a very nice boy, at the age of 15. The only problem was was that he was a Catholic (and an altar boy to boot!) They completely freaked out about it, and practically begged me to join NCSY so that I would meet Jewish boys. (I dropped the Catholic boy a few months later). They didn’t believe that I would become observant – but they took pride in it anyway. When I told them I wanted to attend Stern College they were happy – because not only could I explore my heritage but I could do it while getting a college degree.

  27. DK
    Oct 31, 2007 @ 16:08:25

    westbankmama,

    What is happening now on an increasingly large scale is NCSY infiltrating the public school system through a deceptive front, the JSU. The link I supplied above in comment 17 (the tinyurl one) demonstrates how the Orthodox Union has used such clubs to recruit public school kids into haredism, and to forfeit their options to attend the best colleges in the nation.

    This is not understood at all by parents, nor is it understood by the students.

  28. BB
    Oct 31, 2007 @ 19:56:48

    DK, I don’t think NCSY herds anyone in any direction. There was a great variety of hashkafot in NCSY and you could be whoever you wanted to be. There were sruggies and black hats. Nobody was forced to take anything upon themselves. NCSY in public schools isn’t such a big deal. So they have clubs. It’s comparative to the Hillels on college campusses. What’s wrong with learning about your heritage and having fun while you’re doing it. My sister, who is not shomeret Torah and mitzvot but knows all about what she should and could do was the president of one such club. Nobody pushed her. She’s not charedi by any means nor is she currently attending a frum college. She didn’t go to Israel. Just because someone tastes NCSY doesn’t mean they’re being coerced into being charedi. Nobody in NCSY guided me to any seminary or college. I made the decisions myself. As a very independant teen who didn’t like being told what to do I was the type who would run the other way if somone told me I had to go to Israel. The proof that they didn’t push me anywhere is that I went to Israel in the end. There were many advisors with degrees from secular colleges. I don’t know what if any experience DK has had with NCSY but either he has fabricated info or isn’t looking at the whole picture. Maybe this isn’t the place for such a discussion. What started out as a nice post about NCSY and memories from alumni ended up in the bashing of the youth group we are fond of.

  29. BB
    Oct 31, 2007 @ 19:58:02

    DK, I don’t think NCSY herds anyone in any direction. There was a great variety of hashkafot in NCSY and you could be whoever you wanted to be. There were sruggies and black hats. Nobody was forced to take anything upon themselves. NCSY in public schools isn’t such a big deal. So they have clubs. It’s comparative to the Hillels on college campusses. What’s wrong with learning about your heritage and having fun while you’re doing it. My sister, who is not shomeret Torah and mitzvot but knows all about what she should and could do was the president of one such club. Nobody pushed her. She’s not charedi by any means nor is she currently attending a frum college. She didn’t go to Israel. Just because someone tastes NCSY doesn’t mean they’re being coerced into being charedi. Nobody in NCSY guided me to any seminary or college. I made the decisions myself. As a very independant teen who didn’t like being told what to do I was the type who would run the other way if somone told me I had to go to Israel. The proof that they didn’t push me anywhere is that I went to Israel in the end. There were many advisors with degrees from secular colleges. I don’t know what if any experience DK has had with NCSY but either he has fabricated info or isn’t looking at the whole picture. Maybe this isn’t the place for such a discussion. What started out as a nice post about NCSY and memories from alumni ended up in the bashing of the youth group we are fond of.

  30. Mordechai
    Oct 31, 2007 @ 22:13:13

    I see Marc Fine already made his introductions and maybe beat me to the point. But I just wanted to let you Har Sinai alums know that our 50th year anniversary is coming up fast (A little more then a year.) We’d love to have your input and participation, but at the very least, we’d love to resume contact with all of you. Somewhere along the line our alumni database became relatively useless (Hurray for the advancement of technology.) So, please get in touch with Marc or myself and let us know where you are, and what your up to. I personally love old NCSY stories.

    Kol Tuv,

    Mordechai Harris
    Regional Director of Jr. NCSY
    Har Sinai – Upstate NY NCSY

  31. mother in israel
    Nov 02, 2007 @ 07:32:39

    My mother also got me into NCSY. And kept me out of Stern, for which I am grateful. I would have been miserable there.

  32. Ruth Singer
    Mar 25, 2009 @ 20:34:54

    I am trying to get in touch with Shira Reifman (Regional Director for NCSY, Har Sinai Upstate NY) in the early (to mid?) 2000’s and who made aliyah a few years ago.
    If anyone has Shira’s email I would appreciate receiving it.
    Thanks,
    Ruth Singer
    rsinger@nycap.rr.com

  33. http://tinyurl.com/primragar13796
    Feb 06, 2013 @ 14:31:01

    It seems u know very much related to this topic and it all demonstrates thru this specific posting, given the name “Calling All NCSYers (Past and Present) West Bank Mama”.
    Thanks a lot ,Jacques

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