NCSY (formerly known as the National Conference of Synagogue Youth) is an Orthodox Jewish youth group sponsored by the Orthodox Union. Founded in 1954, it has members in the United States, Canada, Israel, Chile, and formerly also in Ukraine. Its slogan is Inspiring the Jewish Future. NCSY is led by International Director Rabbi Micah Greenland and is directly supervised by the Orthodox Union's (OU) Youth Commission chaired by Avi Katz of New Jersey.
NCSY is the organizational successor to the National Union of Orthodox Jewish Youth, established in 1942 as an Orthodox youth movement similar to a synagogue men's club or sisterhood. Over time, its emphasis moved to outreach and teaching religious behaviors to adolescents.
Though outreach to public school youth was started by Chabad in the 1930s , the Torah Leadership Seminar, created in 1954 by DCS of Yeshiva University under Dr Abraham Stern, developed the Shabbaton model. There was a core of NCSY from two early founded regions Midwest Region (founded 1951) and Southern Region (founded in 1952 by Rabbi Abraham Isaac Rosenberg and Mr. Abe Rabhan of B'nai B'rith Jacob synagogue in Savannah, Georgia). In 1954, Harold and Enid Boxer donated the money to create a national organization from the already-existing Southern and Midwest Regions.
In 1959, NCSY hired Rabbi Pinchas Stolper as the first National Director.
In the 1960s there was an emphasis on NCSY Publications with many volumes written by Pinchas Stolper and then later the Aryeh Kaplan Series.They also put out the NCSY Guide to Blessings and the NCSY Bencher.
In 1962, NCSY received outstanding praise from Rabbi Meir Kahane, after his having participated as an advisor to the NCSY annual convention.
During the social upheavals of the 1960s and 1970s, the Orthodox youth of NCSY strove to temper social change through religious tradition. In this period, at least one NCSY chapter took public action on this point, passing a resolution rejecting marijuana and other drugs as a violation of Jewish law. At the 1971 NCSY international convention, delegates passed resolutions in this vein, calling for members to "forge a social revolution with Torah principles."
In 1970, the Israel Summer Institute for Jewish teens was founded. Rabbi Stolper assisted NCSY in expanding internationally into Canada, Israel, Australia, Chile, and Ukraine.
By 2015, NCSY Summer Programs included The Anne Samson Jerusalem (TJJ), NCSY Kollel, NCSY Michlelet, NCSY GIVE (Girls Israel Volunteer Experience), NCSY JOLT (Jewish Overseas Leadership Training), NCSY BILT (Boys Israel Leadership Training), and other summer programs. There were 1097 participants in NCSY Summer in 2015.
The organization has produced many Jewish children's entertainers who have remained in outreach work, including Uncle Moishy and the Mitzvah Men and Zale Newman.
The organization possesses an International Director within the Orthodox Union, and is subdivided into national, regional and local chapters.
NCSY is divided into geographic regions throughout North America. They are New England, Upper New York, New York-Long Island, New Jersey, Atlantic Seaboard, Central East, Southern, South Florida, Greater Midwest, Southwest, West Coast, Northwest, and Canada. Additionally, NCSY runs programming branches in Israel and now Chile and Argentina. Each Region is divided into chapters. A chapter is typically a city, or a group of surrounding towns. In heavily populated Jewish areas like New Jersey, counties may have several chapters.
Many chapters in NCSY appoint or elect a group of NCSYers to serve on a chapter board,who work with the advisors or city directors to assist with programming or outreach. Many regions do the same thing, and have a regional board, who do similar things for the region. The International Board consists of representatives from many different regions.
NCSY's programming is divided into two age groups, "junior" and "senior"; these generally encompass 5th–8th grades and 9th–12th grades, respectively. Some programs span both age groups, but most programming is unique for each.
NCSY's original model was to create the regional Shabbaton, a weekend-long social and educational Shabbat experience based on learning sessions, following in the model of Abraham Stern of Torah Leadership Seminar.
Currently, while on Shabbatons kids are treated to skits, learning sessions and ebbing, where participants sit in a circle around the "circle guy" where they sing songs and do "funny" routines. They are housed either in hotels, camps, or grouped with sponsor families who take them in for the weekend.
- NCSY's programming includes Jewish Student Union (JSU), a division of NCSY, which operates in many public schools.
- NCSY works with Agudath Israel of America in running Camp Nageela Midwest.
- NCSY Summer Kollel Program is hosted by Ohr Yerushalayim
- NCSY Camp Sports is hosted by Ner Israel Rabbinical College
- NCSY has always maintained a relationship with Touro College and Yeshiva University, which offers NCSY participants scholarships and recruits both students and personnel from NCSY.
Baruch Lanner is a former director of NCSY convicted for sexual misconduct with minors whom he had contact with through the organization. The investigation began on July 12, 2000, he was indicted in March of that same year and surrendered to authorities and entered a plea of "not-guilty" on April 20, 2000. Lanner was convicted on one account of fondling a student on June 27 of 2002.
Baruch Lanner was hired by NCSY's founder Pinchas Stolper in 1970 , and remained his superior until 1994. Lanner was already threatened with suspension for sexual contact with two teenage girls in 1972.
At the time, in 2000 one journalist, Gary Rosenblatt of The Jewish Week argued that the Orthodox community had failed to deal with Lanner properly, and argued that NCSY workers often put the ends above means, sometimes with insufficient regard to the family dynamic or the alienation of teens from their parents. It also sometimes tends to a charismatic quality.
In response the Orthodox Union set up a special commission of investigation. A 54-page public report summarizing a much longer document of investigation, found the following.
The report cited "profound errors of judgment" in the way OU leaders dealt with Lanner and also noted a larger problem of "poor management practices" in the OU, including a lack of accountability by professionals to volunteer leadership, lack of involvement by lay leaders in matters of governance, lack of financial controls and a "total absence of any policies regarding basic ethical issues" in both the OU and NCSY.
As a result of the Lanner scandal, NCSY conducted a thoroughgoing internal review and reformed its structures and running. It created conduct standards, and published a manual on behavior. NCSY has also established an ombudsman hotline.
In October 2011, NCSY was sued by a former advisor and employee for violation of the US Fair Labor Standards Act. The class action lawsuit claims that she had to work much longer hours than the allowed 40-hour work week.
- Orthodox Union, the sponsoring organization of NCSY
- KEDMA, an Orthodox college outreach group
- United Synagogue Youth, the youth group of Conservative Judaism
- National Federation of Temple Youth, the youth movement of Reform Judaism
- Young Judaea, the pluralist zionist youth movement of Hadassah
- BBYO, the leading non-denominational Jewish youth movement
- Pinchas Stolper
- Aryeh Kaplan
- Nathan-Kazis, Josh (October 14, 2009). "Rabbis Still Want Role in Abuse Cases". The Jewish Daily Forward. Archived from the original on October 11, 2012.
- Yeshiva University (April 2, 2009). "Yeshiva College Honors Student Zev Eleff Publishes Book on History of NCSY". Yeshiva University. Archived from the original on October 11, 2012.
- NCSY Background, Orthodox Union, 2000 Archived April 10, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
- Marc Lee Raphel, ''Judaism in America'' (Columbia University Press, 2003), ISBN 0-231-12060-5, p. 92. Books.google.com. Retrieved 2012-07-04.
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- Etan Diamond, And I Will Dwell in Their Midst: Orthodox Jews in Suburbia (University of North Carolina Press, 2000
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- "The Brightest Jewel". The Jewish Press. December 14, 1962.
Last year I was asked to participate as an advisor to the annual convention of the NCSY.... Words are too poor to describe the scene as children from irreligious homes gathered in a synagogue ... joined in Kabbalas Shabbos (Friday night prayers) ... at first awkwardly, and later with sureness and confidence. The Sabbath Queen herself tapped her toes in happy rhythm.
- Etan Diamond, ''And I Will Dwell in Their Midst: Orthodox Jews in Suburbia'' (University of North Carolina Press, 2000), ISBN 0-8078-4889-1, p. 104. Books.google.com. 2000-10-30. Retrieved 2012-07-04.
- "Winners and Losers in Denominational Memberships in the United States - Chaim I. Waxman". Jcpa.org. Retrieved 2012-07-04.
- Nathalie Friedman, Faithful Youth: A Study of the National Conference of Synagogue Youth (New York: National Conference of Synagogue Youth, 1998).
- "Case of Rabbi Baruch Lanner (AKA: Bernard S. Lanner, Baruch S. Lanner, Bernard Lanner)". The Awareness Center. Archived from the original on October 15, 2008. Retrieved 2008-12-15.
- The Dark Side of Outreach: Does NCSY value religious observance over family harmony? Reassessing the culture of charismatic kiruv. Rosenblatt, Gary The Jewish Week 08-04-2000
- "News report 2001". Jewishjournal.com. Retrieved 2012-07-04.
- "NCSY Conduct, Policy, and Behavioral Standards Manual". NCSY. Retrieved 2008-12-16.
- "Youth group adviser sues Orthodox Union over unpaid overtime".
- "Lunger v. Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America (Orthodox Union)".