New NCSY Chapter to Open at Kehilath Israel Synagogue in Overland Park, Kansas
For the youth of Overland Park, Kansas, a suburb of Kansas City, exciting changes are about to happen. Following a six month task force and culminating with a formal agreement Rabbi Meir Wexler, Director of Learning Education and Youth of Kehilath Israel Synagogue and the synagogue officers and board, the synagogue has now established a National Conference of Synagogue Youth chapter at Kehilath Israel.
NCSY, the national youth program of the Orthodox Union, provides educational and fun events for both observant and non-observant teenagers. At the forefront in the battle against assimilation, it offers innovative programming which helps Jewish teens see the beauty of their heritage and a Torah observant lifestyle.
When Rabbi Wexler felt he needed to enhance the lives of the synagogue youth, he came to the OU. "I thought that NCSY would best fit our youth needs at the synagogue," stated Rabbi Wexler. "With the help of NCSY, they will be better able to connect and build relationships with others their age as well as have inspiring role models to connect to from outside of the area," he said.
Rabbi Wexler, who is known to his teens as Rabbi Wex, and his wife, Becca, will open their home to members of the new NCSY chapter for special oneg Shabbat programs. At the onegs, the teens will have an opportunity to enjoy Becca's scrumptious Shabbat meals, play games, relax, sing songs and hear words of inspiration from Rabbi Wex. The Wexler dog, Charlie, will also be there to welcome the teens.
To create this chapter, Rabbi Wexler worked with his brother-in-law Todd Cohn, who runs the NCSY chapter at Beth Israel Abraham and Voliner synagogue also in Overland Park. He also collaborated with Rabbi Micah Greenland, Director of the NCSY Midwest Region, based in Chicago, which includes Kansas and Missouri.
"Once we determined that there was a sufficient need for a second NCSY chapter in Kansas City, opening the new chapter was something we were very excited to pursue," stated Rabbi Greenland.
"Kehilath Israel is a very large and established synagogue and there is a tremendous potential for their chapter to blossom. I know that Rabbi Wexler is the right person to motivate and attract teens to NCSY," he said
An avid traveler, Rabbi Wexler who was born in Atlanta, has lived in Wisconsin, Tennessee, and Maryland as well as Israel, before moving to Kansas where his wife is originally from. "Moving to Kansas was a perfect opportunity for my wife to re-connect with her family and for me to expand my horizons," he said.
Rabbi Wexler studied in Yeshivat Ohr Yerushalayim yeshiva in Israel and Ner Israel Rabbinical College in Baltimore.
His life experience and educational background provide a unique combination that will certainly enrich the experience of teens at the synagogue. He will be involved with junior NCSY (grades 6-8) and senior NCSY (grades 9-12) from local public schools in Kansas City and Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy, the Jewish community day school in Overland Park, where he also teaches Talmud and Tanach.
"Through the lens of NCSY, I would like to nurture the growth of my teens in Torah, avodah (service of God) and gemilut chasadim (acts of loving kindness)," he said.