Students from the Rambam Mesivta of Lawrence pose with NCSY Jump Challenge judges OU Executive Vice President Rabbi Steven Weil; philanthropist Mr. Philip Rosen; and businesswoman Ms. Ivanka Trump.
A week ago, just one day after the college basketball men’s Final Four concluded, NCSY | Jewish Youth Leadership staged a “Final Four” of its own as a quartet of Project JUMP teams gathered in the boardroom of a major New York law firm to compete to be the winner in this year’s Jump Challenge leadership competition. There they met their judges – Philip Rosen, attorney and philanthropist; Rabbi Steven Weil, Executive Vice President of the Orthodox Union; and celebrity judge and successful businesswoman, Ivanka Trump. In addition, several guests were in attendance, including Rabbi Steven Burg, International Director of NCSY, and Esther Gerson, NCSY lay leader and respected executive coach.
NCSY is the international youth movement of the Orthodox Union.
The “Final Four” Project JUMP Teams consisted of two New York area schools, The Hebrew Academy of Nassau County (HANC) and Rambam Mesivta of Lawrence, as well as two other yeshiva day schools, Weinbaum Yeshiva High School in Boca Raton, FL and Kohelet Yeshiva High School of Pennsylvania in Merion Station, PA.
Upon viewing the schools’ presentations, the judges were left with a difficult decision. After much deliberation, they agreed that Rambam Mesivta was to be named the winner of this year’s JUMP Challenge. However, they emphasized that each of the schools deserved awards and recognition for their incredible accomplishments.
JUMP – the Jewish Unity Mentoring Program – was established in the fall of 2006 by New York NCSY under the leadership of Regional Director Rabbi Aryeh Lightstone, to provide a meaningful and creative means of bringing leadership training to yeshiva day school students. Since the creation of Project JUMP, it has turned into a national program with more than 10 participating schools, and offers a wide range of incredible opportunities for students to take advantage of.
According to NCSY’s Rabbi Burg, “JUMP represents a new phase in NCSY activities. NCSY is moving towards a stronger leadership model for day school teens and this program is the culmination of that effort,” he said. “The efforts of Rabbi Lightstone and his staff will serve as a guide for NCSY Regions throughout North America.”
Having competed against the other yeshiva day schools from across the country, the Rambam students were filled with gratitude, excitement, and a true sense of accomplishment. Their team consisted of six motivated high school students: Azariah Hacohen, Didi Levy, Evan Linder, Jared Ehrenreich, Moshe Fink, and Dani Edelman. After their presentation, Rabbi Weil said, “This year, the Rambam students went above and beyond the call of duty to organize a chesed trip to Israel; create a learning program with OHEL participants; and fundraise for Israeli soldiers in need of winter gear and equipment. Short of making aliyah and serving in the IDF, there is not much more they could have done for Israel.”
As their grand prize, the Rambam winners received tickets for a private tour of NBC at Rockefeller Center; a view from Top of The Rock; and dinner hosted by Mr. Rosen. Additionally, each finalist received a proclamation from the New York State Senate honoring their achievements and commitment to servicing the greater Jewish community.
Mr. Rosen said, "With the ingenuity and creativity of these students, I have never been more confident in the future of American Jewry and its support of the State of Israel.”
In past years, JUMP students traveled to New Orleans to help rebuild after Hurricane Katrina, did outreach work throughout the United States, and even traveled to Germany to introduce teens to Jewish observance. This year, The JUMP Challenge consisted of two semesters of leadership training and program implementation as the students first attended the National JUMP Leadership Seminar, and then began planning their outreach events and trips.
Ivanka Trump, who was introduced to Project JUMP this year, was incredibly impressed by the students’ accomplishments and pointed out, “Although the day judged the success of the various achievements of the students, it’s important to remember that it was the good acts, leadership opportunities, and the skills built throughout the year, that will be the legacy of this year’s JUMP Challenge.”
To culminate this year’s challenge, Rabbi Lightstone said to the group, “Perhaps more exciting than the thousands of dollars you raised, the new cheseds you initiated, and the greater awareness and accountability for Israel you established, it is the fire and excitement instilled in over 120 JUMP participants from across the country, who now realize that with a little effort and a lot of heart, they can and will accomplish whatever they set out to do.
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