OU Alumni Connections Guides Graduating NCSYers to Jewish Programs on Their Secular College Campus

22 May 2008


High school graduation means an end to an important phase in a student’s life, including in many cases involvement in the teen programs of NCSY, the youth division of the Orthodox Union. With the goal of making sure that NCSY experiences are not forgotten, the Orthodox Union’s newly created Department of Alumni Connections has undertaken to help these students connect with Jewish life on their campus or in the surrounding area. This program has become particularly important because of the overwhelming success of NCSY’s outreach to public high schools, from which the majority of Jewish students choose to go to secular rather than Jewish colleges and universities.

The focus of Alumni Connections is to work with high school seniors across North America and to present them with choices for involvement with Jewish life on the secular campus of their choice. Among the options is the OU’s Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus (JLIC) on 15 major campuses nationwide, which sends a young rabbinical couple to create special programming to ensure the continuity of students’ spiritual growth.

JLIC, which is also sponsored by Hillel: The Foundation for Campus Jewish Life and the Torah Mitzion organization, is currently at Boston University, Brandeis University, Brooklyn College, Cornell University, Johns Hopkins University, New York University, Princeton University, Rutgers University, UCLA, University of Florida, University of Illinois, University of Maryland, University of Massachusetts/Amherst, University of Pennsylvania and Yale University.

For graduating seniors a JLIC campus would be an ideal setting, but according to Rabbi Dave Felsenthal, OU Alumni Connections Director, “We realize that not every NCSYer is going to attend the schools where JLIC is present. Therefore it’s very exciting to have the privilege of connecting students to all the wonderful Jewish programs available on the campus they will be attending.”

To date, Rabbi Felsenthal has connected with 1,000 of the 8,000 current NCSY seniors, to find out where they are going to college, and has collected information on Jewish programming at those campuses.

“There are so many great Jewish programs available that will help our students on their campus,“ Rabbi Felsenthal said.

Those students who will be attending colleges without Jewish organizations also have options. Rabbi Felsenthal is working with the OU’s Pepa and Rabbi Joseph Karasick Department of Synagogue Services and the OU’s Young Leadership Cabinet to identify rabbis, synagogues, and community leaders who will be able to help students in their area. In the coming year, Rabbi Felsenthal intends to vastly increase the number of seniors he will be connecting to programs on campus.

“NCSY believes that it is very important to keep up our relationship with our graduates and I am proud that the OU is leading the cutting-edge of follow-up for Jewish programs,” he said.

For more information about the Department of Alumni Connections and for how one can get involved, contact Rabbi Felsenthal, 212-613-8153, rabbidave@ou.org or visit www.ncsyalum.org.