Ari Clark, 24, of Teaneck, participated in Yom NCSY, held near Jerusalem, in which more than 1,000 teens and their advisors who were in Israel on one of NCSY’s 11 different summer trips, gathered to celebrate the glorious times they have experienced.
NCSY is the international youth program of the Orthodox Union.
Ari Clark is in his final year studying for semicha (rabbinic ordination) at Yeshiva University’s Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary. He was one of the directors on TJJ, The Jerusalem Journey program for public high school students, many of whom have only a minimal background in Jewish life and observance. “As a staff member what I’ll remember is that every kid has a story and comes from a very unique place,” Ari says. “It would be easy to think that we’ll take 35 kids and we’ll travel around the country and they’ll love it. But it’s not that way. Everyone internalizes and understands things in different ways.”
Ari remembers a very special experience at the Kotel. He calls it “The Blindfold Walk.” The teens on his bus were all blindfolded. “The idea was that they should think about what they were about to see without seeing it right away,” he explains. “They weren’t just going to look at a wall. They were going to look at a part of their heritage. They became part of the Jewish people.”
Once they got near the Kotel they were told they could remove their blindfolds which most did. Several teens asked their friends to lead them down with their blindfolds still on.
“One of the boys on my bus had never seen the Kotel before,” Ari recalls. “His friends took him down and he put his hands on the stones. After a few minutes he took his blindfold off. Several minutes later he turned to walk away. He had tears in his eyes. Clearly he had been touched by something very special.”
“We toured, we hiked, we saw so much,” Ari says. “But this is when they really opened their hearts to Judaism. They became part of the Jewish people.”