As the Passover Festival of Freedom approaches, North American Jewish teenagers will be pairing up in support of Gilad Shalit, the Jewish captive abducted by Hamas terrorists in 2006, and since then deprived of his freedom. Sponsored by NCSY | Jewish Youth Leadership, the international youth movement of the Orthodox Union, “Learn for Gilad” will take place a week before Passover, on Sunday, April 10. With a special focus on Jewish texts exploring freedom, more than 200 teens across the United States and Canada will be learning in Gilad’s merit -- that this year he is able to celebrate his freedom back home with his family in Israel.
Passover begins this year at sundown on Monday, April 18. It is the most universally celebrated holidays by Jews, commemorating the events in which Jews were freed from slavery in ancient Egypt.
Declared Rabbi Steven Burg, NCSY International Director, “This project empowers NCSY teens to take action in raising awareness about Gilad Shalit's tragic situation and remind our community and the world that we will continue to advocate, pray, and learn on his behalf. As our Jewish brother and as a Jewish hero, Gilad Shalit is always on our minds and in our hearts."
Students will be paired together as chavrutas, learning partners, based upon skill level and interests submitted on the online registration sheet. Students will be emailed the freedom-themed source sheet, which was created by New Jersey NCSY teen leader Shaul Yaakov Morrison, of Bergenfield, with the assistance of New Jersey NCSY Regional Director Rabbi Yaakov Glasser, and NCSY Associate Director of Education Rabbi Dovid Bashevkin.
Questions and topics for discussions include: “Why did God Care About Freeing the Jews from Egypt?” “Freedom for a Purpose;” “What Was the Purpose of the Exodus?” “When Do We Need to Remember The Exodus?” and “ What is the Difference Between Our Remembrance of Egypt at the Seder and What We Do Year Round?”
The concept for the project came during NCSY’s National Yarchei Kallah, a week-long opportunity in late December in Stamford, CT for public high school teens to learn Jewish texts during their winter vacations. NCSY Teen President Amanda Esraelian, of Roslyn, NY and NCSY teen leader Phil Katz, of Upper Saddle River, NJ, were brainstorming ideas with Rabbi Glasser to unify NCSYers across the nation with a singular goal to make a difference for the Jewish people.
Rabbi Glasser explained, “As we discussed many different possibilities, our thoughts began to drift to the plight of Gilad Shalit. Since he was not much older than our NCSYers when he was abducted, our teens all felt overwhelming compassion for him, but were unsure of how to contribute towards his ultimate release.”
Rabbi Glasser continued, “The idea of a unified day of learning in association with Passover touched on so many different facets -- it would galvanize all of the NCSY Regions in a unified project; it would empower students from across the spectrum of affiliation to participate in a Torah learning experience; and it would be an expression of personal and religious growth on the part of teens across North America to stand in support with Gilad and his family.”
Under Amanda’s leadership, NCSY teen leaders from each of the 12 regions across the United States and Canada united to heavily promote the event. Their message, “As Jewish teenagers, it is vital that we remain aware of this tragedy Gilad and his loved ones have faced, and continuously keep him in our thoughts and prayers. Judaism teaches us that the continuation of Torah learning is what keeps the Jewish people alive. What better way to commemorate Gilad Shalit and the survival and strength of the Jewish nation than to devote a day of learning to a Jewish warrior.”
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