Our Jewish Student Union (JSU) program, supported by the Katz Family Initiative, engages public school teens who have little or no exposure to their Jewish heritage. Using data-driven strategies and innovative programming, JSU creates a more active and knowledgeable community of Jewish teens who prioritize their religion in their futures.
One key indicator of success is the number of public school teens who go on to participate in The Anne Samson Jerusalem Journey (TJJ), a summer Israel trip for unaffi liated Jewish teens. Over the past year, participation rose from 586 to 744 teens.
For many families with limited Jewish engagement, the cost of summer programs like JSU’s The Anne Samson Jerusalem Journey can be prohibitive, even with the generosity of OU donors who subsidize these trips. Offering scholarships makes it possible for these families to enrich their teens’ Jewish identity and connect with Israel. These scholarships are more than just numbers; they open doors and help build a more inclusive Jewish community for the future.
I grew up in Calgary, which doesn’t have much of a Jewish community. I joined NCSY at 13 and it had a profound impact on me. Initially, NCSY was a casual experience, more about fun activities like laser tag than serious learning. My older sister, already active in NCSY, encouraged me to get more involved, so I joined TJJ (The Jerusalem Journey), an NCSY summer program in Israel. The experience was transformative.
TJJ was my fi rst deep dive into Orthodox Judaism, where I could ask serious questions and engage in Jewish learning at a new level. I found the trip meaningful, despite some initial discomfort with unfamiliar practices like modesty rules. TJJ led to my second trip, TJJ Ambassadors to Poland, and there, I started to more seriously explore my faith. I committed to regular synagogue attendance and eating kosher.
Financing these experiences was challenging, and I benefi tted from fi nancial aid and scholarships. Without this assistance, I wouldn’t have been able to participate. Financial support plays a pivotal role in facilitating these life-changing experiences, not just for me but for countless other young people in similar situations. The need for increased fi nancial aid cannot be overstated; it truly makes a difference in the trajectory of young Jewish lives.
Justifi Thailand is founded on the idea that personal transformation leads to a better world, a concept grounded in Torah values. Upon landing in Bangkok, we held an orientation where teens, including Ruty Aron, shared deeply personal life events. Ruty revealed that her turning point was entering foster care. On our last day, we visited a foundation in Northern Thailand that supports street children and orphans. We bonded through games and shared experiences.
Ruty later spoke on the importance of these support organizations, using her own experience as a reference. She urged the children not to lose hope, and her words, translated into Thai, resonated deeply. This moment exemplifi ed Justifi Thailand’s mission for many: inner growth catalyzes external impact, in line with Torah learning.
“I AM SO GRATEFUL TO YOU AND THE ENTIRE 18FORTY TEAM FOR PROVIDING ME A VOICE WHEN I WAS SCARED INTO SILENCE, AND A FAMILY WHEN I FELT ALONE IN THE QUIET CORRIDORS OF DOUBT. I AM SO APPRECIATIVE OF YOUR WORK!”
Many NCSY and JSU alumni embark on transformative journeys with their Judaism as they take gap years in Israel, attend college and pursue other life avenues. NCSY Alumni and its campus partners, Olami and OU-JLIC, are devoted to ensuring the ongoing success of these young adults with numerous opportunities for personal and spiritual growth.
NCSY Alumni helped send a total of 194 public school students, plus over 600 yeshiva high school graduates, to gap year programs in Israel.
“NCSY ALUMNI PLAYED AN IMPORTANT PART IN MY JEWISH AND SOCIAL GROWTH. THEY SPONSORED A WEEKLY LUNCH WHERE 20+ GIRLS LEARNED TOGETHER AND A WEEKLY OLAM HAMIDDOT BOOK CLUB MEETING. THESE EXPERIENCES UNDERSCORED THE IMPORTANCE OF CHARACTER BUILDING, LEARNING TORAH, AND CONNECTING TO MY FELLOW BROTHERS AND SISTERS. I’M FOREVER GRATEFUL FOR THAT LIFE-CHANGING SUPPORT."