15 Jul 2010


A new generation of “Ambassadors” on behalf of Israel is being trained this summer as part of NCSY’s The Jerusalem Journey Ambassador program (TJJA). The program has been designed to recruit and develop top teens from North America who are leaders on their public high schools and have promising potential to be leaders on their college campuses as well.

NCSY is the international youth movement of the Orthodox Union.

In a program lasting from June 30-August 3, 47 public high school students are meeting with prominent figures and visiting key locations in Israel to discuss current and on-going struggles in the country in order that these emerging leaders will be better prepared to articulate the case for Israel.
“Israel’s most important battles are currently being fought in the battlefield of public opinion, and today we are currently outmanned and outarmed,” declared Rabbi Aryeh Lighstone, New York Regional Director of NCSY and creator of the program. “We need to educate teens who will be influential on influential campuses.”

TJJA is a first visit to Israel for many of the teens, all of whom come from public high schools. Listening to the riveting presentations and having the opportunity to hear about issues ranging from negotiating with terrorists to the current relationship between Israel and America, they are able to understand the critical matters from the very people helping to set policy.

According to Rabbi Steven Burg, International Director of NCSY, “Our Jewish Youth is on the front lines of the battle for Israel. Not a day goes by that our teens are not questioned about why Israel is so unfair to the Palestinians. We need to arm them with the historical facts of Israel and the spiritual resolve to be committed to the land of Israel. TJJ Ambassadors achieves both goals while giving the teens an inspirational trip throughout Israel.”

The Jerusalem Ambassadors were given audiences with a special presentation from Ari Harrow, former Chief of Staff for Prime Minister Netanyahu, in addition to philanthropist Phil Rosen, of Lawrence, NY. The meeting was a unique opportunity for the teens to understand the major issues facing Israel today from an insider’s perspective and from the point of view of an American who is passionate about Israel.

TJJ Ambassador Rebecca Wagner, of Westlake Village, CA, declared, “Community is a concept that is often overlooked. It only took a few hours in Israel to realize the power tsibur (community) offers. Day one, our student caravan went to Ammunition Hill where we honored the soldiers that fought then and continue fighting to keep Israel safe. Each soldier is part of a community just as each student in our group is part of the TJJA family. And as individuals in this environment we each have an opportunity and a responsibility to make positive change.”

Led by program director Rabbi Ben Zion Goldfischer of Modi’in, JAs are meeting with members of the Israeli Knesset, chief rabbis, senior generals of the Israeli Defense Forces and members of Hatzalah Israel, the ambulance service. They are visiting the security fence, running a camp for kids from Sderot, and visiting the borders as they tour each corner of the country. Additionally, JAs are meeting with the parents of a navy commando who was involved in the recent controversial flotilla from Turkey. They are receiving a briefing from engineers and officers on military equipment to better understand critical pieces of infrastructure, explain their importance and why they were designed in such a fashion.

“Surprisingly to me, I find myself mesmerized by the barbed wire surrounding the minefields in the Golan. In the Golan Heights, a place that we love so much and have fought so dearly for, a majority of land is uninhabitable – whether the mountain too steep, the ground too rocky, or the danger of spontaneous detonation too great,” declared Judah Joseph of Cherry Hill, NJ. “The concept of minefields is something American boys deal with only in video games. Here in Israel, especially here in the Golan Heights, this is real.”

The “Ambassadors” will also have the privilege of participating in an emersion program at NCSY’s own summer programs, Kollel (for the boys) and Michlelet (for the girls) for a crash course in basic Judaism, as well as hands-on training in leadership by the world famous Dale Carnegie leadership trainers.

Hundreds of applications were submitted for the desired positions, some from students with no previous connections to NCSY. Students were selected based upon their leadership potential; demonstrated knowledge of Israel, its challenges and its opportunities; and a sincere commitment towards advancing the cause of the Jewish people and the Jewish state.

When the JAs return to America, they will be tasked with monthly responsibilities to develop and implement effective Israel Advocacy programs on their high school and college campuses through a combination of conference calls, video conference group gathering, and brain-trust meetings.