Rabbi Steven Weil

NCSY’s Project JUMP Challenge

April 14, 2011

Last week, I was privileged to serve as a judge for NCSY’s Project JUMP Challenge, alongside attorney Philip Rosen and renowned entrepreneur Ivanka Trump. Others in attendance included Rabbi Steven Burg, International Director of NCSY, and Esther Gerson, a world-renowned executive coach. The “Final Four” teams included the Hebrew Academy of Nassau County (HANC), Rambam Mesivta of Lawrence, Weinbaum Yeshiva High School of Florida, and Kohelet Yeshiva High School of Pennsylvania.

After reviewing the presentations and much deliberation, Rambam Mesivta was named the winner of this year’s JUMP Challenge. However, each of the schools that made it to the finals deserves recognition for their accomplishments.

The winning team consisted of six motivated high school students: Azariah Hacohen, Didi Levy, Evan Linder, Jared Ehrenreich, Moshe Fink, and Dani Edelman, who 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. There was little more they could do, short of actually making aliyah and serving in the IDF.

As their grand prize, the Rambam winners received a private tour of NBC studios, a view from Top of The Rock, and dinner hosted by Mr. Rosen, who said that he has never been more confident in the future of American Jewry and its support of the State of Israel. Each finalist received a proclamation from the New York State Senate honoring their achievements and commitment to the Jewish community.

NCSY’s JUMP, the Jewish Unity Mentoring Program, was established in 2006 to provide creative means of bringing leadership training to yeshiva day school students. JUMP offers a wide range of incredible opportunities for students. Previous JUMP activities include building houses in New Orleans in the wake of Katrina and even traveling to Germany to introduce teens to Yiddishkeit.

The JUMP year begins in November with a two-day seminar. This year, I was a keynote speaker, along with Rabbi Burg, Moshe Bane, New Jersey NCSY Regional Director Rabbi Yaakov Glasser and Yeshiva University President Richard Joel. At the seminar, the JUMP Challenge is introduced. Each of 12 schools had to complete challenges in the fields of chesed, advocacy, kiruv and fundraising. In March, these 12 schools were pared down to the four finalists. Cumulatively, the 12 participating schools were responsible for raising over $15,000, starting seven brand-new chesed initiatives, and teaching over 250 hours of Torah. It’s hard to quantify advocacy, but HANC alone received thousands of hits on the web site they created.

Ms. Trump was impressed by the student accomplishments, stating that while the JUMP Challenge may judge the projects, it is “the good acts, leadership opportunities, and the skills built throughout the year that will be the legacy of this year’s JUMP Challenge.”

Kudos to New York NCSY Regional Director Rabbi Aryeh Lightstone for conceiving and steering this incredible program that grooms such dedicated and talented leaders.