I came to my second event and an advisor remembered my name and was excited to see me! That meant the world to me.
There are just no judgements here. Everyone is accepted and welcome for who they are.
I was struggling with religion and it was so nice to come here and hear different perspectives without anyone shoving something down my throat.
It is so nice that for a full Shabbat I don’t need to talk in Hebrew.
I was feeling very alone and once I started coming to events I quickly made very close friends.
I want to thank not just the upper staff but also the board and supporters who make this all possible for us teens.
These are all paraphrased quotes I heard from our graduating seniors at our recent NCSY Israel Regional Shabbaton. The Shabbaton brought together close to 200 English-speaking teens from across Israel for a full weekend getaway including a pre-Shabbat hike, catered meals, educational sessions, energetic davening and lots more. This was the final Shabbaton for this programming year and last one for 37 participating seniors.
I have always found that teens can say the most remarkable things when given a stage and now they were talking about NCSY Israel. With the simple prompt of a memorable moment in NCSY and things that NCSY does well, teens shared their heartfelt and personal thoughts. Amazingly, those heartfelt and personal thoughts, without a script or rehearsal, almost perfectly corresponded to our mission and goals for the organization.
Teens recognized the same need that we saw when starting the organization eight years ago. There was no other place for them. There was no other youth movement specifically for English-speakers and certainly not on the high school level. Today NCSY Israel is the only national youth group in Israel for teens in grades 9-12.
Our seniors complimented our programming and testified that it worked, all without a survey or research study. They acknowledged that NCSY Israel helped them socially in meeting new friends they could relate to. They appreciated our approach to religion, identifying NCSY Israel as an Orthodox program without judgement or coercion. Some spoke about the discussion and learning options we offer in parallel to traditional Shacharit on our Shabbatons enabling teens to choose and engage in the model best for them. They highlighted connections with specific advisors and staff members from NCSY Israel who helped them along their way.
There were also critiques which I don’t mean to hide. The seniors were open with items they feel we should improve and things we should change. NCSY Israel is not perfect and there are things we need to work on. But for me that was step 2. Step 1 is that we are on to something. We are doing something impactful. We are doing what we set out to do. What started as a pilot program in coordination with OU Israel and NCSY International, has become a needed resource for hundreds of English-speaking teens throughout Israel. Now of course we can and will work on doing it better.
For the past month or so I have been preparing materials for our annual crowdfunding campaign “Giving Day” which takes place the beginning of June. I have reviewed all the stats and the growth in numbers is clear. As a long-time NCSY Israel teen-turned-staff mentioned over Shabbat our Regional Shabbatons have expanded throughout the years from around 35 teens to now over 180 with more on the waiting list. But after hearing those graduating seniors this past Friday night I can now recognize what is behind all the numerical stats- the why. Our growth is because our services are needed. Our growth is because we are really making a difference in the lives of English-speaking teens throughout Israel.
On the drive to the Shabbaton a NCSY Israel co-worker asked me why I went into fundraising. This is exactly the answer. To see and hear firsthand the difference we are making. To be able to tell that to our dedicated supporters and future prospective partners. And to continue developing and growing this unique, needed and impactful organization so it can keep building the Jewish future here in Israel.