More than 270 public school teens from across the country gathered together at the Stamford Hilton in Connecticut as they began to discover and ignite their Jewish souls at NCSY’s National Yarchei Kallah, which took place last week. Yarchei Kallah is a five-day learning program designed to connect public high school teens with their Jewish heritage through learning Torah, asking questions, late night discussions, and most of all, having fun during their winter break.
Rabbi Yaakov Glasser, Director of Education for International NCSY and Regional Director of New Jersey NCSY, explained, “The week of Yarchei Kallah was filled with classes, smaller learning groups, guest lectures, and optional learning. The primary focus of the week was delving into Megillat Esther. Additionally, there were classes given in Talmud, Psalms, Prayer, Jewish Law, Prophets, Ethics, Hassidic Mysticism and Jewish Thought. Thanks to a generous donation by Touro College, every participant received two books from the classes they attended to add to their personal Jewish library.”
He emphasized, “All year NCSY does an extraordinary job teaching teens about Judaism. Yarchei Kallah isn’t about it –Yarchei Kallah is it.”
For Adele Lerner, a junior at Vestal High School in Binghamton, NY and Regional Historian for Upstate New York NCSY, “I came on Yarchei Kallah last year because I was curious about Judaism, and wanted a connection. I returned this year to strengthen my inspiration and continue learning about my heritage. I didn’t give up my break, because this was my break from public school and everyday life. One of the most incredible dynamics of NCSY Yarchei Kallah is that it provides an opportunity for regular public schoolers to experience something so extraordinary.”
Jewish music superstar Eitan Katz thrilled the crowd Thursday evening as participants sung and danced to Jewish music.
Culminating with a Shabbaton in Teaneck, NJ, the teens were able to experience first-hand Shabbat in a thriving Jewish community. They met Teaneck community members outside of the NCSY staff who embrace a Torah way of life. Furthermore, it gave the community an opportunity to see first-hand the impact NCSY is having on teens across North America.
Jackson Nemeth, a senior at Shaker Heights High School in Cleveland, reflected, “Through each activity that passes on the Yarchei Kallah schedule, I not only understand Judaism more, but myself and what I believe and stand for. It warms me to know that I am surrounded with teens my age who are willing, able, and wanting to philosophically engage with each other to learn and grow.”
Adele noted, “From energetic dancing and concerts to classes, NCSY Yarchei Kallah 2012 had it all. I’ve spoken to Torah giants like Rabbi Zvi Sobolofsky, the Rosh Yeshiva of RIETS, and I’ve asked questions that I’ve had for a long time. I don’t think I can express how much this week inspired me. While everyone has challenges in their lives, NCSY Yarchei Kallah is the best motivation to overcome them.”