NCSY’s Ben Zakkai to Honor R’ Michael Rovinsky, of St. Louis, January 30
NCSY | Jewish Youth Leadership, the international youth movement of the Orthodox Union, will honor Rabbi Michael Rovinsky, of St. Louis, as an inductee into the Ben Zakkai Honor Society (BZHS) at its Annual Scholarship Reception Sunday, January 30 in New York. At the reception, the OU will also pay tribute to the remarkable legacy of Dr. Bernard Lander z”l, the founder and for 40 years, president of Touro College. Dr. Lander died on February 8, 2010 at the age of 94.
"Dr. Bernard Lander's historic role in helping to create and nurture NCSY ensured him a special place in contemporary American History even before he set out to revolutionize higher education by founding Touro College," declared Dr. David Luchins, Chairman of the Political Science Department of Touro College, and with his wife, Vivian, has been an NCSYer since the program was founded 50 years ago.
BZHS is an alumni “Hall of Fame” whose new members are nominated by, and voted on, by its current members based on the nominees' service to NCSY and the Jewish community. The Society’s main function is to raise funds for scholarships for high school NCSYers for summer programs in North America and Israel and for teens to continue their Jewish education after high school. The Society has helped pay tribute for more than forty years to esteemed NCSY alumni and community leaders who have demonstrated their dedication to Torah and their service to the Jewish people. The January 30 event will be the 15th Annual Scholarship Reception.
Declared Rabbi Steven Burg, International Director of NCSY, “Michael’s warmth, commitment, and passion for Judaism have resonated with so many Jewish teens over the years and I feel very fortunate to have him as part of the NCSY family.”
Rabbi Rovinsky is the NCSY district coordinator of St. Louis. He attended his first NCSY event in the ninth grade, while living in Dallas, and promptly got involved on the regional and national boards. Despite his plans to study law, he went to learn in Eretz Yisrael at Ohr Samayach Yeshiva in 1980 at the urging of Rabbi Yitzchak Rosenberg, then National Director of NCSY. While tutoring Ohr Samayach’s newer students, he decided to drop his law plans. “I got bit by the bug,” he says. “I discovered I really enjoyed teaching Torah.”
Upon his return to the United States in 1982, he helped initiate Kol Yaakov Yeshiva in Monsey, New York, before learning at Ner Yisrael in Baltimore, where he earned a masters in Talmudic Law and an MBA from Johns Hopkins University. In 1984 he happily welcomed his next milestone, marrying Selina Epstein of Phoenix, a fellow NCSY aficionado. He became assistant director of NCSY Goes to Yeshiva, the forerunner of Camp Sport, developing the program for a full decade; all the while he continued to advance his own Torah learning in the Ner Israel Kollel until 1990.
His career in Torah education continued in Dallas as Judaic Studies principal and rebbe at Akiba Academy until 1993, when he moved to St. Louis to assume the executive director position at the Epstein Hebrew Academy. In 2002, the baalei batim asked him to fill in when the St. Louis NCSY director resigned. Realizing how much he missed working directly with youth, he grabbed the chance. Nine spiritually lucrative years later, the city boasts dynamic programs and events, including the Jewish Culture Club, now under the umbrella of the Jewish Student Union.
A firm believer that Junior NCSY is critical to the success of Senior NCSY, in 2005, he started Camp Gesher, the first NCSY summer camp for juniors; the following year with the vision and support of Midwest Regional Director, Rabbi Micah Greenland, he started Camp Negillah Midwest in partnership between Agudah Midwest and Midwest NCSY.
“I’ve always wanted to give back what NCSY has given me,” he says. “NCSY gave me the strength to persevere when I was becoming frum, when I started wearing a yarmulke in public school and had to fight for the right to do so.” He finds it deeply gratifying to watch the students from his first year at Junior NCSY coming back from seminary and getting married. Suffice it to say, a lot of NCSYers unabashedly celebrating their Judaism are sure glad Rabbi Rovinsky didn’t become Rovinsky, Attorney at Law.
A key part of the reception will be the honoring of the memory of Dr. Lander.
"Dr. Bernard Lander's historic role in helping to create and nurture NCSY ensured him a special place in contemporary American History even before he set out to revolutionize higher education by founding Touro College," declared Dr. David Luchins, Chairman of the Political Science Department of Touro College, and who, with his wife, Vivian, has been an NCSYer since 1961.
For information on attending the BZHS Annual Scholarship Reception or to contribute to its Souvenir Journal, contact www.ou.org/bzdinner or Elaine Grossman at 212-613-8350 or Grossman@ou.org.
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