AN INSPIRATIONAL NEW YORK NCSY REGIONAL CONVENTION
Part of New York NCSY’s Regional Board singing together during Havdallah.
This past Shabbat, New York NCSY hosted its annual Winter Regional Convention at the Stamford Plaza Hotel in Stamford, Ct. A record breaking number of 500 participants attended and included a blend of Jewish teens from public schools and yeshiva/day schools from all over New York; advisors; staff; and esteemed guests and their families. All participants were treated to an amazing and powerful Shabbat weekend. The jam-packed program kicked off on Friday morning with a trip to Sportstime USA for fun and games. After lunch and a brief orientation, the teens boarded the buses to the hotel to prepare for Shabbat.
The moving Friday night davening set the tone for the rest of the weekend. After a sumptuous meal catered by David Kay of Seasons, all participants came together in the famous NCSY Circle for inspiring divrei Torah (words of Torah) and zmirot (Jewish songs sung on Shabbat). Innovative and creative sessions followed including “The App Store – Choose Your Own” where the NCSYers chose from 16 various sessions that presented different perspectives on stories from Tanach.
During “Friday Night Live,” everyone enjoyed light and “delicious” entertainment. There was an animated and vivacious oneg and tisch stocked with snacks, candy and chulent. Adult guests were treated to a round table discussion titled “Getting to Know NCSY and NCSYers” with Rabbi Steven Burg, Managing Director of the OU and International Director of NCSY; Mr. Steven Savitsky, Chairman of the Board of the OU; and Rabbi Aryeh Lightstone, Regional Director of NY NCSY. As part of the discussion, a panel of NCSYers shared their stirring stories about their personal journey to finding an appreciation, understanding and love of their Jewish heritage and why they choose to live a passion filled life committed to Jewish values.
Another session for adults featured Dr. David Luchins, Senior Vice President of the OU, and Chairman of the Political Science Department at Touro College. Dr. Luchins brought in New York NCSY’s Regional Board, Council of Presidents of the public school JSU clubs and the Jerusalem Ambassadors summer program leaders in a discussion entitled, “After Shalit, Israel and the Arabs.”
Minyans, Minyans, Minyans
Shabbat day boasted four minyanim, including a hashkama minyan, a “Beginyan” minyan, a prayer workshop and a main minyan. Following an informative and stimulating drasha from Dr. Luchins, everyone was treated to an elaborate lunch buffet. Subsequently, everyone on the Shabbaton gathered in “the circle room” for wonderful divrei Torah, zmirot and bentching. After lunch, Rabbi Lightstone introduced a special learning beit midrash session called “The Miracle of Chanukah.” We created our own miracle as all 500 participants split up into small groups and learned from prepared source sheets. Wherever you looked, whether it be in the ballroom, “the circle room,” the shul or the lobby, you heard words of Torah.
After a short menucha, we joined in the ballroom for seudah shlishit which was generously sponsored by Touro’s Lander Colleges. All too soon, it was time to see Shabbat slowly fading away. Everyone gathered for the last time in “the circle room” as we heard moving and expressive divrei Torah form NCSYers that left many misty eyed. The singing at Ebbing was full of emotion and passion. Suddenly it was time for Maariv and the much anticipated Havdallah extravaganza. No one was disappointed. Enthusiasm and excitement was evident on everyone’s face and all eyes were on Rabbi Steven Burg as he spoke in the shadows of the giant Havdallah candles. As the darkened room was filled with hundreds of kids adorned in colorful glow sticks, Havdallah was sung to a completely silent and attentive crowd. When the band, Except Saturday, started to play, everyone broke into dance and you could feel the overwhelming warmth and love that permeated through the NCSY family.
The night activity included a carnival with blow up rides and taco making followed by an awesome Kumsitz which lasted late into the night. Sunday morning after davening and breakfast, everyone assembled to hear from Rabbi Yehoshua Marchuck about SAGE, NY NCSY’s new innovative online educational program offering high school and college students affordable high school and college credit. Regional Board also launched their Shmirot HaLashon campaign. We heard from a young man who attended one of NCSY’s summer programs, The Jerusalem Journey (TJJ). You could hear a pin drop as he described his experiences in Israel, including seeing the Kotel for the very first time. Echoes of “I don’t want to leave;” “This was the most amazing Shabbos EVER;”“I LOVE NCSY” and “When is Spring Regional?” permeated the lobby as everyone waited to board the buses home. It is certainly a Shabbat that will remain in everyone’s heart for a very long time to come.
For more information about NY NCSY and its programs, including SAGE, please call 516-569-6279.