Canada NCSY Shabbaton Raises the Bar and Team OU Chanukah Chagigah

The Canada Region of NCSY recently held their Fall Regional Shabbaton in the New York City area. While they lodged in the Hilton in Stamford, CT, their program included copious free time in Manhattan, where the teens enjoyed activities ranging from shopping in Chinatown to touring Times Square with lunch in local kosher eateries. The lure of the city lights is always popular with high school students from north of the border, so it’s not surprising that this Shabbaton boasted a record-breaking attendance: over 350 NCSYers attended and, with advisors, faculty, staff and guest speakers, more than 600 different individuals came and went over the course of the event. And, it should be mentioned, the students who attended this event came exclusively from public high schools and non-Orthodox Jewish community schools.

Knowing this would be the case, Regional Director Rabbi Leib Irons knew he had a unique opportunity to expose these teens to a superlative program with the best possible speakers. To that end, he brought in two of the most popular speakers in the Jewish world, Sgt. Benjamin Anthony of “Our Soldiers Speak,” who spoke on understanding the importance of Israel and our connection to it, and the OU’s own Charlie Harary, who addressed the topic of finding greatness within ourselves. A special panel on leadership consisted of Rabbi Steven Burg (International Director of NCSY), Mr. Joseph Stechler (Senior Vice President of the OU) and Dr. Simcha Katz (Chairman, OU Kashrut Commission), and was moderated by Mr. David Woolf, Chairman of NCSY Canada.

Also in attendance were Rabbi Shmuel and Devorah Miller, Regional Director of New England NCSY, Rabbi Shimon Vinger, Regional Director of West Coast NCSY, representatives of numerous yeshivas and seminaries, and staff members from International NCSY.

Since the Shabbaton, NCSYers in Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto and Thornhill have enjoyed follow-up reunions in the form of Friday night dinners intended to “keep the Shabbos going.”

Feedback has been glowing. One boy, a ninth-grader from Ottawa, wrote:

“It was my first time ever keeping Shabbat and it was very fulfilling to spend the day studying, hanging out and bonding with my friends rather than watching TV. I also gained a deeper appreciation for the power of tefillah; seeing 400 people, some strangers, some friends, being joined together as one.”

The event’s impact was not limited to the teens. According to Rabbi Irons, the event was “by far the best Shabbaton I’ve ever been on” and that it was “real kiruv … (this is) what NCSY is all about.”

Congratulations for this amazing accomplishment go not only to Rabbi Irons, but also to Rabbi Shmuel Soroka, Associate Regional Director, Tamara Caplan, Logistics Coordinator, Yosef Kurtz, Head Advisor, and Shyndee Mandel, Director of Media.

Team OU Chanukah Chagigah 5771

The 11 Broadway branch of Team OU enjoyed a sumptuous repast in celebration of Chanukah, Rosh Chodesh, and our good fortune to work for the Orthodox Union. The food was delicious, the decorations were festive, the staff slide show was entertaining, the music was enlivening, the divrei Torah were engaging, the acceptance speeches were truly humorous, and the company we shared was exceptional.

Of special note at this year’s Team OU Chagigah was the inauguration of the OU’s Chof-Heh Club, a fraternity of OU professionals recognized and celebrated for the 25 or more years they’ve dedicated in the service of the OU – kein yirbu! Beautiful framed artwork was given to each recipient as a token of the OU’s sincere appreciation. (Those who were not in attendance will be mailed their awards.)

Our 2010 honorees include: Rabbi Dave Felsenthal, Director of OU Alumni Connections & Data Services (25 years); Rabbi Elimelech Friedman, Rabbinic Field Rep (25 years); Rabbi Alan Kalinksy, Director of OU West Coast (25 years); Rabbi Jacob Mendelson, Rabbinic Coordinator (25 years); Ms. Caryn Pollak, Yachad Administrative Assistant (25 years); Rabbi Y. Shmuel Weingarten, Rabbinic Field Rep (25 years); Rabbi Yaakov Luban, Senior Rabbinic Coordinator (26 years); Rabbi Yoel Schonfeld, Rabbinic Coordinator & Group Leaders (26 years); Rabbi Nosson Goldberg, Rabbinic Coordinator (27 years); Mr. Anthony Lugo, Director of the OU Production Dept (28 years); Rabbi Moshe Zucker, NCSY Kiruv Professional (29 years); Rabbi Avrohom Chesney, Rabbinic Field Rep (30 years); Rabbi Menachem Genack, CEO of OU Kosher (30 years); Rabbi Mordechai Grunberg, Rabbinic Field Rep (30 years); Rabbi Eliezer Lederfeind, Director of Our Way for the Deaf & Hard of Hearing (31 years); Rabbi Sholom Lifchetz, Rabbinic Field Rep (35 years); and Rabbi Chaim Goldzweig, Rabbinic Field Rep (37 years).

Yasher koach to Rabbi Lenny Bessler, Senior Human Resources Officer, and his mighty team that pulled it all together; Orah Alon, Tanya Bernardson, Malka Braun, Brandy Meiteles, Baldo Ficalora, Tsivia Golub, Elaine Grossman, Dan Jesselson, Avigail Klein, Elaine Leyman, Miguel Lopez, Anthony Lugo, Gary Magder, Bruria Markowitz, David Olivestone, Laya Pelzner, Victor Rodriguez, Rabbi Josh Ross, Rachel Schwab, Rebbetzin Shoshana Schachter, Scott Shulman, Rivka Schwarzbaum, and Steve Steiner. Special thanks to Chief Operating Officer David Frankel, who valiantly tried to keep his name out of the thank you’s!