The Ben Zakkai Honor Society (BZHS) of NCSY, the international youth program of the Orthodox Union, will honor California-native Cynthia Darrison of Brooklyn with Ezra Ben-Zion Lightman Memorial Award at the 14th Annual Ben Zakkai Honor Society Scholarship Reception, Sunday, January 10 at the Lincoln Square Synagogue in New York. The evening will also pay tribute to the legendary legacy of Moses I. Feuerstein, z”l, honor two other individuals and induct five new members.
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. 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. Isabel Novak of Los Angeles serves as Chair of the BZHS.
Dinner proceeds go towards direct scholarships for NCSY members to continue their Jewish education after high school, or to participate in national NCSY programs, such as Camp Sports for Boys, National Yarchei Kallah, and Summer Experience for Girls.
Cynthia Darrison has been described as a remarkable NCSYer. She came to her first event in 1971 — she was already an articulate and charismatic seventh grader. But it was in 1975 when she first burst onto the National NCSY scene, coming out of nowhere to win an election for Regional President that no one thought she could win. And what a Regional President she was! The teenagers that she mentored — most of them only two or three years younger than her — led West Coast to its glory years rarely matched in NCSY’s heady history.
But when Cindy came to National Convention in 1976, where she was nominated for the Ben Zakkai Honor Society, it was to say goodbye. She had been accepted to a fine secular college. NCSY had been fun – but she had her whole life ahead of her. And then, she decided to turn her back on UCLA, change her life plans, and apply to Touro College’s new and still unaccredited Women’s Division in New York City. Her aim was to pursue Judaic studies on a college level.
Thousands of teenagers have made similar “life transforming” vows. But Cindy Darrison was different. Cindy came to New York and never left. She went on to earn a Masters’ degree in Industrial and Labor Relations from Cornell University and then set out to be a labor negotiator and then arbitrator. Having mastered that demanding career, she promptly set off to build a peerless reputation as a political and campaign finance consultant. She has worked with candidates and elected officials including President Bill Clinton, Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Governor Mario Cuomo, Attorney General and then Governor Eliot Spitzer, Governor David Paterson, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, Congressman Charles Rangel, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, Manhattan District Attorney-elect Cyrus Vance, and many more.
Through the internship program of her firm, Darrison Barrett & Associates, Cindy continues to mentor young people. Additionally, she has been an adjunct professor at New York University for the past eight years (where she teaches graduate courses on campaign finance and on strategic government relations for non-profit organizations) and is a frequent lecturer on political topics.
Cindy, the mother of Rachel, a first-grader in Flatbush’s prestigious Prospect Park Yeshiva, is active in a staggering range of good causes including the National Board of Directors of the Orthodox Union, the Board of Directors of the Council of Jewish Organizations of Flatbush and of her alma mater, Touro College, where she was a founding member of the Women’s Division Board; the first alumna to address a college commencement; and the Chair of the dedication of the Lander College for Women’s new Anna Ruth and Mark Hasten School. She is also on the Board of Directors of the Worldwide Orphans Foundation – a cause close to her heart since she adopted her daughter in China in 2004.
Cindy is originally from San Jose, and today she is a member of the Agudath Israel of Midwood in Brooklyn. She is the daughter of Marilyn and Judah Darrison of Beverly Hills (members of Beth Jacob Congregation). She is the sister/sister-in-law of Sue and Steve Darrison of Valley Village (members of Bais Tefilla Congregation).