I’m writing to you from my dorm room in Machon Mayan, a seminary in Israel. Three years ago, I’d never have dreamed I’d be spending a year here, or writing you this letter.
Don’t get me wrong – I’ve always been a proud Jew. For a long time, I even had what you might call “religious” views. I just wasn’t practicing them.
My story begins when I was 16, and my family moved to Glenview, Illinois, where I enrolled in Glenbrook South, a local public school.
That summer I went to an NCSY event about Israel advocacy. I met some people and thought it was cool. When school started, I went to the NCSY Jewish Student Union club at my school, and from there to Latte & Learning. It was fun and interesting and it gave me a sense of meaning.
Then I went on a regional Shabbaton. It was “Whoa!” I was so inspired. I realized that there was so much more I wanted to know, and so much more I needed to learn. But it didn’t happen overnight.
Over the next couple years, I became more involved in NCSY, going to events, learning with advisors, and joining the North Shore chapter board. I also spent an incredible month in Israel on TJJ. The more involved I got, the more meaningful my life became.
But the real turning point came this past year, when I became president of my NCSY chapter board. I started thinking about myself as a leader, and as a Jew, and how I needed to practice what I was preaching.
Around this time, my school was putting on a large-scale theater production. I love theater, and I was debating whether to go to the show or to a chapter Shabbaton that weekend. I had already been talking with my advisor, Aviva, about keeping Shabbos, but I wasn’t sure it was practical. Now, I was worried about missing out on this great high school memory. On the other hand, I wanted to go to the Shabbaton.
It was a tough choice. I chose the Shabbaton – and it was super amazing. And since then, I’ve been keeping Shabbos every week.
When I think of my “most inspiring” NCSY moments, it wasn’t a particular weekend or event. It was what happened after the Shabbatons, after all the inspiration was over. How was I going to incorporate Torah and Judaism into my everyday life? For me, the answer was learning – whether Tefilla, Parsha, or studying about Israel. NCSY gave me the resources I needed to grow.
And it was also the people, the NCSY staff and advisors, and the teens themselves. When you see other people around you growing, it’s hard not to want to grow yourself. The inspiration is contagious. And then you realize that when you grow, you are inspiring others around you, too.
There’s one more thing I want you to know. This may be my story, but it’s really the story of thousands of teens just like me – teens who, without NCSY, wouldn’t have the resources they need to make Judaism a real and meaningful part of their lives.
This Yom Kippur, please help NCSY give thousands of teens throughout the Midwest the amazing opportunity I had. Your donation, of any amount, helps. Together, we can inspire the next generation by giving them the greatest gift of all, a connection to their Jewish heritage.
Thank you in advance for your support.
NCSY North Shore Chapter President
P.S. Where would I be today if not for NCSY? I probably wouldn’t keep kosher or Shabbos. I’d be just another Jewish teen who went to public school. Every teen deserves the chance I had to discover the beauty of Judaism through NCSY. Please help give them that chance.