NCSY Inducts Rabbi Michael Rovinsky, of St. Louis, into Ben Zakkai Honor Society

03 Feb 2011


From left: Rabbi Michael Rovinsky, with Rabbi Micha Greenland, Midwest NCSY Regional Director

NCSY | Jewish Youth Leadership, the international youth movement of the Orthodox Union, inducted Rabbi Michael Rovinsky, of St. Louis, into its Ben Zakkai Honor Society (BZHS) last Sunday at its Annual Scholarship Reception.

BZHS is an alumni “Hall of Fame” whose new members are nominated by, and voted on, by its current members based on the nominees’ service to NCSY and the Jewish community. The Society’s main function is to raise funds for scholarships for high school NCSYers for summer programs in North America and Israel and for teens to continue their Jewish education after high school. The Society has helped pay tribute for more than forty years to esteemed NCSY alumni and community leaders who have demonstrated their dedication to Torah and their service to the Jewish people. The January 30 event was the 15th Annual Scholarship Reception.

Rabbi Rovinsky is the NCSY district coordinator of St. Louis. He attended his first NCSY event in the ninth grade, while living in Dallas, and promptly got involved on the regional and national boards. Despite his plans to study law, he went to learn in Eretz Yisrael at Ohr Samayach Yeshiva in 1980 at the urging of Rabbi Yitzchak Rosenberg, then National Director of NCSY. While tutoring Ohr Samayach’s newer students, he decided to drop his law plans. “I got bit by the bug,” he says. “I discovered I really enjoyed teaching Torah.”

Upon his return to the United States in 1982, he helped initiate Kol Yaakov Yeshiva in Monsey, New York, before learning at Ner Yisrael in Baltimore, where he earned a masters in Talmudic Law and an MBA from Johns Hopkins University. In 1984 he happily welcomed his next milestone, marrying Selina Epstein of Phoenix, a fellow NCSY aficionado. He became assistant director of NCSY Goes to Yeshiva, the forerunner of NCSY Camp Sports, developing the program for a full decade; all the while he continued to advance his own Torah learning in the Ner Israel Kollel until 1990.

His career in Torah education continued in Dallas as Judaic Studies principal and rebbe at Akiba Academy until 1993, when he moved to St. Louis to assume the executive director position at the Epstein Hebrew Academy. In 2002, the baalei batim asked him to fill in when the St. Louis NCSY director resigned. Realizing how much he missed working directly with youth, he grabbed the chance. Nine spiritually lucrative years later, the city boasts dynamic programs and events, including the Jewish Culture Club, now under the umbrella of the Jewish Student Union.

A firm believer that Junior NCSY is critical to the success of Senior NCSY, in 2005, he started Camp Gesher, the first NCSY summer camp for juniors; the following year with the vision and support of Midwest Regional Director, Rabbi Micah Greenland, he was the first Director of Camp Nageela Midwest in partnership between Agudah Midwest and Midwest NCSY.

“I’ve always wanted to give back what NCSY has given me,” he says. “NCSY gave me the strength to persevere when I was becoming frum, when I started wearing a yarmulke in public school and had to fight for the right to do so.” He finds it deeply gratifying to watch the students from his first year at Junior NCSY coming back from seminary and getting married. Suffice it to say, a lot of NCSYers unabashedly celebrating their Judaism are sure glad Rabbi Rovinsky didn’t become Rovinsky, Attorney at Law.

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