04 May 2010


They were jumping for joy at the Salanter, Akiba, Riverdale High School (SAR) in the Bronx and the Stella K. Abraham High School for Girls (SKA) in Hewlett Bay Park on Long Island when clubs at those two Jewish day schools were chosen as the winners of the “JUMP Challenge,” a leadership competition organized by NCSY, the national youth program of the Orthodox Union. As their reward, both teams were presented with checks to fund their projects by Donald Trump.

SAR and SKA came out on top of a competition involving seven day schools in the Metropolitan Area – SKA/ DRS (divisions of the Hebrew Academy of Long Beach), HANC and HAFTR in Nassau County; Central in Queens; the Yeshivah of Flatbush in Brooklyn; SAR in the Bronx; and Westchester Hebrew High School.

JUMP – the Jewish Unity Mentoring Program – was established in the fall of 2006 by Long Island NCSY to provide meaningful and creative chessed (loving kindness) and leadership programs for yeshiva/day schools on Long Island. With the merger of New York, Long Island and Westchester NCSY into one unit, the competition was extended beyond Long Island, as reflected by this year’s participating schools.

According to Rabbi Steven Burg, International Director of NCSY, JUMP represents a new phase in NCSY activities. “NCSY is moving towards a stronger leadership model for day school teens and this program is the culmination of that effort,” he said. “The efforts of Rabbi Lightstone and his staff will serve as a guide for NCSY Regions throughout North America.”

In past years, JUMP clubs went to New Orleans to help rebuild after Katrina and did outreach work in the United States and even in Germany to introduce teens to Jewish observance. This year, what became known as “THE JUMP CHALLENGE” consisted of two semesters of activities, explained Rabbi Aryeh Lightstone, Director of New York NCSY. “The first semester was given over to weekly leadership training seminars in each of the participating schools; the second consisted of taking the theoretical knowledge learned in the first semester and turning it into practical leadership action.”

The schools were required to undertake three competitions: to create a unique chessed event not previously run by their school or community; to design and run an outreach (kiruv) program; and to design, run and implement a fund-raising strategy to sell pizzas for the Jewish Student Union, a culture club meeting in high schools around the New York area, as well throughout the United States and Canada.

Then came the final and greatest challenge, according to Efron Sturmwind, a 2008 graduate of Yeshiva University who is Director of JUMP, assisted by Josh Gottesman, who graduated from YU the following year; both have had experience as NCSY Advisors in addition to their JUMP activities.

“The challenge was to design a unique program/event or organization that would be funded by a select group of business professionals who would judge the competition in one of the most exclusive boardrooms in midtown Manhattan – the 25th floor of the General Motors Building.”

The judges (and funders) were David M. Friedman and Philip Rosen, both leading attorneys and philanthropists. According to Efron Sturmwind, they involved Mr. Trump in the program because of his interest in community-building activities.

“All of these teens are highly intelligent, personable and, most important, deeply committed to Jewish values and continuity,” Mr. Friedman said. “We have much to look forward to with students of this caliber and NCSY deserves tremendous credit for putting this program together.”

“I’m extremely proud of these terrific and dedicated young people,” Mr. Rosen agreed. “Their commitment to chessed/good deeds is so admirable. Rabbi Lightstone and his team are doing a magnificent job inculcating great Jewish values to these boys and girls.”

Four programs made the first cut:

•SKA: Livelong: A Community Health Awareness Day, “to educate children and parents about the benefits of living a healthy and more active life,” according to the executive summary provided by the club;

•SAR: Help Someone Else and Celebrate Life, “to make it as easy as possible for high school students to take action in helping others;

•Central: Every Jewish Girl’s Dream, to work with girls from foster homes and broken homes “who dream of their opportunity to relinquish their role as a ‘Young Jewish Girl’ and embrace their new role as a “Jewish Woman”; and

•DRS: Philanthropy for the Future, “to change the way the Jewish world views the giving of Tzedakah (charity).
After hearing the presentations, the judges deliberated and found they could not choose one winner, given the quality of the projects, so they increased the prize money to two $1,800 payments rather than one for $2,500 and chose the two schools, SAR and SKA.

Then it was off to Mr. Trump’s nearby office for the presentation. According to Rabbi Lightstone, “He assured them that with their charisma, bright ideas and hard work, they were well on their way to becoming significant leaders in their own right. Mr. Trump was pleased that NCSY had absorbed the ideas and competitive spirit practiced by his organization to inspire and educate teens today to make a significant impact in the world.”

Representing SAR were Shiri Wasserman of Scarsdale, Ati Levin of Queens, and Coby Greif of Stamford, CT, all juniors. Their coach was Josh Gottesman.

Representing SKA, also all juniors, were Rachel Simon, Shira Stavsky, Gila Joseph and Stephanie Leichtung, all of Cedarhurst. Their coach was Elissa Schertz of Lawrence.

If you are interested in bringing JUMP to your community or your school contact Rabbi Aryeh Lightstone at lightstonea@ncsy.org