NCSY’s second annual YouthCon convention, held on August 19 at the Stamford Hilton, was a smashing success with more than 500 attendees. Participants came from across America: from Teaneck, New Jersey to Omaha, Nebraska to Los Angeles, California to Hollywood Florida. Presenters from over 65 participating organizations spoke about topics ranging from bullying inside Jewish schools to using technology to promote student participation.
NCSY is the international youth movement of the Orthodox Union.
“Participants learned about the scope of options available for them as educators and leaders in the Jewish community,” said Rabbi Steven Burg, Managing Director of the Orthodox Union and the International Director of NCSY. “Shaping the next generation of Jewish leaders is the mission of NCSY and the Orthodox Union.”
Presenters ranged from Jonathan Rosenblatt, senior rabbi of the Riverdale Jewish Center and current candidate for the seat of Britain’s Chief Rabbi, to Yael Buechler of Midrash Manicures who patented her own parsha-themed nail decals.
“From the ‘Good Morning’ email sent the day of the event, to the speakers and visceral presentations, YouthCon has become adept at practicing what it preaches, delivering an experiential experience at a conference on Experiential Education.” Said participant Hillel Goldman, the assistant Principal of Rambam Mesivta.
The highlight of the event was the afternoon plenary which featured a discussion moderated by Rabbi Burg between Richard Joel, President of Yeshiva University; Ruth Messinger, CEO of American Jewish World Service and Shimon Waronker, Headmaster of the New American Academy. All three spoke about their journeys to become leaders in the field of Jewish education. Joel had the closing word for the plenary that echoed the message of the importance of Jewish education.
“If we are to survive, our children have to know their story and own their story” Joel said.
Days afterwards, educators discussed the impact of the convention throughout the online world. Rabbi John Gross, the senior rabbi of the Beth Israel synagogue in Omaha, spoke about YouthCon on his blog, http://www.amerabbica.com.
“I think the best thing about Youthcon was that there was clearly no agenda other than sharing ideas on how to engage Jewish youth,” wrote Rabbi Gross. “I felt as if no ideas were off limits.”
One presenter, Rabbi Dov Emerson, assistant principal of DRS Yeshiva High School for Boys in Woodmere, NY, wrote what he felt was the “secret sauce of the convention”:
“NCSY and OU clearly appreciate the importance of professionalism in our field, and the experience at YouthCon demonstrated this over and over again,” he wrote. “The conference was located in a beautiful hotel, the schedule was clear and carried out with precision.”
Another point Rabbi Emerson raised was the low cost of the event: only $36 for the full-day conference, including a fully catered lunch and snacks throughout the day.
“NCSY wanted as many people as possible to attend, and they did not allow cost to serve as a barrier,” he wrote.
Dovid Bashevkin, director of Programming for YouthCon spoke about how the convention built on last year’s efforts.
“We’re changing the perception of informal and experiential education in the Jewish world,” he said. “Just wait until next year.”