NJ NCSY & JSU Leasdership Training Missions Educate & Inspire Volunteerism
Livingston, NJ, JAN XX 2018 — For the past two years, Livingston teens have been among the many participating in exhilarating programs offered by the National Council of Synagogue Youth (NCSY) in conjunction with the Jewish Student Union (JSU) – Leadership Training Missions. These missions drove home the importance of chesed (volunteer help) to the recipients as well as the participants. By engaging in meaningful, physical acts with immediate tangible benefits, participants learn the value of, and their responsibility for, helping their fellow man in times of hardship.
The first Leadership Training Mission by NJ Metro West’s NCSY Chapter travelled to New Orleans, Louisiana. On the very first day of that trip, one of the participants, Jillian Sperber, an alumna of Livingston’s Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School said, “Today we participated in a project with Habitat for Humanity (the renowned national program which has built and renovated over 800,00 houses for those in need with volunteer labor).
Our designated task was to put up siding on a house. Hammering one nail into a wall is easy, but when done for hours it is a lot of work and very tiring. But, the exhausted feeling we had afterwards was overwhelmed by the sense of reward and accomplishment we all shared. We really did have an impact. Learning about hurricane Katrina and it’s disastrous after effects even 12 years later, made it even more meaningful to offer a helping hand. Hurricane victims and the good people of Louisiana depended on volunteers like us to help them out, and they were always very grateful for it.”
The great majority of the teens on the missions have never experienced anything like building a house, and the experience did a lot for their personal growth. The mission participated next in another chesed project with Green Lights of New Orleans. Teens upgraded light bulbs in homes to more environmentally friendly light bulbs. “We left the families with a very positive impression of who we were as Jews and the importance of doing even little things to protect and heal our world (tikkun olam),” said Emma Greenberg, now a graduate of Livingston High School.
Last year found the Leadership Training Mission travelling to Houston, Texas. The first day of the mission was filled with work for Habitat for Humanity. The teens worked hard nailing base molding to the walls of a house for one of the many families in need. After that, they were able to squeeze in a bit of R&R at the Kemah Boardwalk theme park. Dinner and a surprise activity – Escape the Room – rounded out the evening before a much-needed night’s rest.
The following day’s chesed was performed at the Houston Food Bank. By helping to sort and transport donated items, the teens expedited getting food fast to those who needed it most. As Friday’s sun sunk toward the western horizon, there was time for a quick stop at a frozen yogurt shop before the group scattered to get comfortable in their local Jewish community hosts’ homes. Next, the Shabbat experience, in Sephardi style, began at Congregation Beth Rambam, where they met with their local peers, teens from NCSY’s Houston chapter. Games, festive sabbath gatherings (onegs) and inspiring words of Torah made the Shabbat a most memorable one.
With the program drawing to a close, the group managed a quick trip Houston’s Galleria Mall and headed back to the hotel for a late-night BBQ before their boarding their early morning flight.
“Joining the Houston trip was quite a big decision for me. I originally had other plans, but the obvious choice was doing something that would make the world a better place – I signed up for the mission. On the first day of the trip, I was already so glad that I had. I was super excited to volunteer at the Food Bank and make a real difference with my fellow NCSY’ers. This trip was amazing,” said Livingston High alumna Sarah Gordin.
The destination for this year’s Leadership Training Mission is Nashville, Tennessee, “Music City,” to take place February 21-25, 2018. The group will experience activities along the lines of past missions, but with a dash of Country. 10th – 12th grade teens with any level of Jewish observance, whether they attend public or private schools, are warmly welcome. To learn more about NCSY & JSU Leadership Training Missions, contact Jennifer Romanoff, local NCSY director at firstname.lastname@example.org