Rabbi Steven Burg: Twenty-two Years of Dedication to NCSY

by | in Inside the OU

After more than two decades of dedicated service, Rabbi Steven Burg Has left NCSY.

Starting out as program coordinator for the Central East Region of NCSY, Rabbi Burg soon found himself regional director of West Coast NCSY, which grew exponentially under his guiding hand. From there, it was only a short hop—professionally if not geographically—to become international director, where he could impact thousands of teens on a much broader scale.

Burg

While Rabbi Burg was involved in every aspect of NCSY, he is most heavily identified with two programs which indelibly bear his imprint. One of these is TJJ, the Jerusalem Journey, an NCSY summer program specially designed for public school students, which Rabbi Burg headed in its early days and subsequently guided for many years. The other program, JSU, the Jewish Student Union, was created by Rabbi Burg from the ground up. The idea of Jewish culture clubs in non-yeshivah high schools is one that we now take for granted, but when Rabbi Burg first launched the program, it was a radical concept. Rabbi Burg knew just where to find Jewish teens: JSU met them in school during their weekly club hours and empowered them with the message of their own heritage and a mission to “do something Jewish.”

In fact, every NCSY program bears the marks of Rabbi Burg’s leadership and insight. Rabbi Burg literally changed the face of NCSY, rebranding the organization with a new look, making it more relevant to today’s teens. The professional development of NCSY was always of the utmost importance to Rabbi Burg, driving him to have systems of metrics and measurements developed. He brought NCSY summer programs to new heights, enabling more teens than ever to benefit from these meaningful and transformative experiences. (If a weekend with NCSY can do so much good, imagine what a month with NCSY can do!) While he was strengthening and unifying international NCSY, Rabbi Burg simultaneously managed to foster the sense of independence that the regions treasure. A culture of “unified with independence” is not easy to create, but under Rabbi Burg’s direction, the NCSY regions enjoyed a spirit of “all for one and one for all” with their parent body.

There are many factors underlying Rabbi Burg’s success within NCSY. Among them are his God-given talents, to be sure, but equally important is his abiding love for every Jew. Rabbi Burg’s effective management style is based largely on empowering his employees to use their individual skills to the fullest in pursuit of a common goal. But perhaps the greatest secret of Rabbi Burg’s success is the unshakable belief that NCSY is literally God’s work. Rabbi Burg knows beyond a doubt that God has placed us in a unique position to effect change in Klal Yisrael. In the words of Pirkei Avot, “Im ein ani li, mi li?” If I don’t act, who will? And “Im lo achshav, eimatai?” If we don’t act now, what will be lost in the delay? Rabbi Burg’s hallmark has been unparalleled passion and zeal fueled by his tremendous ahavat Hashem. NCSY has been so successful under Rabbi Burg because there simply was no alternative.

We celebrate Rabbi Burg’s tenure, which has infinitely enriched NCSY. On behalf of the thousands of staff members and volunteer advisors, as well as the tens of thousands of teens, their parents and the lay leaders whose lives Rabbi Burg has touched over the years, we express our profound gratitude and wish him success in his new position as the eastern director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. May he go mechayil el chayil, from strength to greater strength, in the next chapter of his career.

This article was featured in Jewish Action Spring 2013.

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