“The Real Thing” Aspire: NCSY’s Yarchei Kallah

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06 Feb 2020

“The oldest generations is the most religious; the youngest are the most nonbelieving.” So wrote Lane Greene in a recent article in The Economist. Greene traced faith in the U.S., in historical terms, and demonstrated what we know and see: teens are not less engaged, they are unengaged. By extension, the very idea of gathering high-schoolers to study texts of a different language, during vacation time, in a strange place, would logically be doomed to fail.

This makes it very difficult to explain how I spent my recent winter-break.

For five days in early January, NCSY hosted a record-breaking conference for Jewish teens who attend public school, to study together. The conference, Aspire: NCSY’s Yarchei Kallah, is hard to pronounce. Of the 350 teens who attended, most don’t know each other. And located in New Jersey, it was decidedly cold.

NCSY’s most recent Yarchei Kallah is a High-School conference dedicated to traditional learning about a traditional topic. This past year it was about Aggadah in Jewish literature. (Aggadah is a compendium of rabbinic texts that incorporates folklore, historical anecdotes and much more.) As far as I know, no one in attendance had ever studied Aggadic literature, nor are there any video games nor Aggadic literature Apps.

The teens came in droves.


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The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.