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April 16, 2004 - Image 26

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2004-04-16

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Incredible Fulfillment

New York
arlier this month, I attended
what may have been my 50th
National Conference of
Synagogue Youth Shabbaton in the
Central East Region of NCSY, based in
Southfield and including Columbus,
Dayton, Cleveland, Cincinnati and
It all began when I was a sixth grader
attending my first Junior Shabbaton. By
eighth grade, I had earned a position on
, the Junior Regional Board and by 12th
grade, a position on the Senior Board.
But my involvement didn't stop there.
My first year of college, I began advising
for the region — flying from New York
to wherever in the region the Shabbaton
was being held. My junior year in col-
lege, I became the adviser coordinator
for the region — responsible for close to
40 advisers — a position I still hold
The overall impression that I have
from participating in these Shabbatonim
is a strong one: Central East NCSY is
accomplishing the broad objective of
National NCSY — kiruv (outreach) —
with an incredible level of success.
NCSY is a unique program of the
Orthodox Union in which teenagers
from all levels of religious observance
can find common ground and have a
very positive Jewish experience. But it's
not just the NCSYers who benefit from
these events. I, too, leave these
Shabbatonim on an extreme spiritual
Let me use the Shabbaton I attended
in my hometown of Columbus earlier
this month as an example. Although


Ben Goldberg is the adviser coordinator
for the Central East Region of NCSYand
public relations assistant at the Orthodox
Union headquarters in New York.

NCSY is part of the Orthodox Union,
only a third of the approximately 280
participants were from Orthodox day
schools. Half were from public schools,
and another 20 percent from inter-
denominational Jewish community day
For some, it was their first Shabbaton
and for others, like me, only one of
many. Regardless, each and every partici-
pant felt a special connection to Judaism
that weekend. To watch an entire group
of teenagers — some with no Jewish
background at all — stand arm and arm
and sing dozens of Jewish songs with
tears rolling down their faces gives an
adviser and the entire Central East
Region an amazing sense of accomplish-
Even more so, and unique to our
region of NCSY, at Havdalah (the serv-
ice to conclude the Sabbath), it has
become a tradition for the regional and
associate regional directors to jump into
a large "mosh pit" created by the
On Shabbat afternoon, Central East
NCSY arranges a large circle of chairs,
for everyone to sit and sing for two
hours straight. But in the middle of the
circle, a spot is left empty for NCSYers
to get up and give divrei Torah (words of
In the middle of this remarkable
singing, Josh Diskin, a senior at the
Jewish Academy of Metropolitan
Detroit in West Bloomfield and also a
Regional Board member, was asked by
the regional director, Rabbi Bezalel
Freedman of Oak Park, to say a few
words. Josh's message epitomized the
work that NCSY strives to achieve.
"I stand here today still not knowing
what my exact role on our regional
board really is — I'm not the most reli-
gious one on the board, and I'm not

nearly the model observant Jew,"
that anyone can devote one's
he declared.
life to Judaism while at the
"But NCSY has taught me
same time maintaining a feel-
something that three years ago
ing of being just like any
would never have crossed my
other teenager. He's not only
mind. Just a month ago, I was on
an inspiration for other
a cruise with my family and I met
NCSYers, but also for the
a girl. The instant I found out she
countless advisers — like me
wasn't Jewish, I realized I could
— whom he has influenced.
no longer pursue a relationship
Josh and his fellow
with her or even talk to her as
NCSYers may not realize this,
Commentary but they have a major affect
Josh's message was stronger
on the lives of all their advis-
than he realized. Intermarriage is
ers. They have not only been
indeed a major problem weakening the
our NCSYers, but have also become our
Jewish people, and NCSY has helped
friends and in doing so have enabled
him realize the importance of marrying
each and every one of us to become bet-
within the Jewish faith. This young man
ter, more Torah-observant Jews.
plays a very important part on the
By allowing us to create a deeply
regional board, and he truly does
Jewish environment for them, they have
embody what NCSY is trying to accom- helped prepare us for college, marriage
and for life in general while still sharing
Josh has spent the last few years grow-
in the outside world. And in turn, from
ing into a true Torah-Jew and has done
my viewpoint, after 11 years in NCSY,
so because of NCSY. His place on
we, as advisers, are trying to do the exact
regional board is to show others like him same thing for them. ❑

Singing during a youth group convention Havdalah service are NCSY regional board
members Uri Bulter of Pittsburgh, Sidney Schechet of Southfielch Natan Cohen of
Cleveland Josh Diskin of West Bloomfield and Steven Lefkowitz of Southfield.

BESSER from page 25

difficult and fraught with complications.

allocated, as well, including disputes
over the relative shares going to big
cities and smaller communities.
How will the public react if Jewish
day schools get money for closed-circuit
cameras and additional police protec-
tion, while local fire departments com-
plain they still don't have the money to
buy haz-mat suits and radiation detec-
That isn't to say that helping those
institutions is inappropriate. But the
fight for federal money for synagogues -
and other religious institutions will be



Jewish Push

To avoid them, Jewish leaders will have
to be at the forefront of efforts to
expand the overall homeland security
pie. A homeland security drive that is
seen as strictly self-serving will fail, both
legislatively and in terms of community
If Jewish leaders want money for
schools and synagogues, they'll also have
to be prominent in the fight for more
money for local first responders.
Regardless of the outcome in

Congress, Jewish institutions are going
to have to do a much better job raising
money through philanthropic chan-
Assuming the $100 million IS
approved, hundreds of synagogues,
Jewish centers and schools are likely to
apply — and thousands of other vulner-
able nonprofits, religious and non-reli-
gious. In the end, the payout to each
successful applicant is likely to be rela-
tively small.
The hard question for Jewish leaders
is this: will those small sums justify the
public perception of a prosperous

Jewish community going to the federal
government with palms extended when
police and fire departments say they are
on a starvation diet?
But the stakes in the security race are
enormous; it would be reckless for
Jewish leaders to turn away from the
possibility of even modest federal con-
tributions to the effort.
It's a tricky balancing act; to keep
from falling, Jewish leaders will have
to be smart,. proactive and sensitive to
the needs of the nation, not just a vul-
nerable Jewish community.

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