In the aftermath of the 2009 financial crisis, a new phrase began to emerge: “The New Normal.” With the economy reeling, people wondered whether the economy and life in general would ever revert back. Now people are wondering the same. Of course, no one wants illness and limitations to become a new normal of any sort. Especially after experiencing so much pain and change in such a short amount of time, society is anxious to return to a more familiar form of normal. But the angst surrounding the new normal may be unwarranted. Normal is always new. Every generation is confronted with a new paradigm and every generation develops the ingenuity and resilience to transform unfamiliar territory into fertile terrain for growth.
“Everything that is normal around us was once a wild idea,” explained Paul Glover, a noted Philadelphia economic leader in 2009. “We have all adapted to new normal,” he explained, “Hard times can be fertile ground for reinvention.” One of the most normal things about the angst surrounding “the new normal” is the anxiety itself. Society, organizations, and individuals resist dramatic change—certainly when it is introduced under such painful circumstances. But students of history know never to underestimate the bounds of human resilience.
Following the flood, Noah built a vineyard. He drank the wine, got drunk and was ashamed. It is a strange footnote to the story of the flood. Shouldn’t Noah have been more aware or self-disciplined, rather than drinking to excess after narrowly escaping the destruction of the world? My dear friend, Rabbi Yaakov Glasser, once shared a remarkable explanation from Rabbi Yehoshua Aryeh Leib Alter, known as the Sefas Emes. The wine Noah drank was the exact same amount and type he was used to drinking. Noah didn’t drink to excess—he just did not realize that the world had changed. The same glass, the same wine—once innocent—would now wreak havoc. Normal is always changing. The question is whether we will have the capacity and awareness to adapt our behavior.
There was never a normal for NCSY. Inspiring teens to connect to Torah and their Jewish identity has never been a normal trajectory for high school students. NCSY has been embracing new norms across the decades. In 1954 we began inspiring teens in synagogues across the country. When most teens stopped showing up to synagogue, we inspired them in coffee shops and culture clubs in public schools within our JSU network. And now, with the world evolving, we have adapted once again. We’re connecting online, reimagining Shabbaton programming, and mobilizing teens throughout the country to help those in need. NCSY prays together with the rest of the world for a time where we can once again connect together in-person and all who are sick are healed. But we are not allowing any normal—new or old—to impede our efforts to inspire the next generation of teen leaders.
With warmest wishes for safety, health and happiness,
Program of the Week: Escape the Zoom
Zoom burnout is real. We know that now. So, why not escape the Zoom? New York NCSY and Canada NCSY each developed amazing programs, based on the nationwide “Escape the Room” phenomenon, where teens were given interactive assignments, clues, and missions to collaborate together to “Escape the Zoom.” We may all be stuck here, why not have some fun trying to get out?
18forty: Exploring Big Questions
Last year, NCSY was approached by a frustrated parent. They found that after leaving high school, so many of the serious questions facing young adults about life and Judaism were not addressed in a satisfying way. Issues such as morality, biblical criticism, the minutia of Jewish law, were either brushed aside or diminished in favor of more light-hearted programming. Together a new initiative was created: 18forty.org, a new media platform to address in substantial ways some of the biggest questions about life and Judaism. Every month, the site will approach a new subject with substance, candor, and authenticity, incorporating different views and perspectives to spark conversation and thought. Each monthly subject includes an introductory video, a series of podcasts, a text-based guide, and a reading list for further exploration. 18forty is not about definitive answers, it’s about a journey together confronting big questions. To sign up for weekly content in your inbox, visit 18forty.org/join.
Yom Ha’atzmaut Events
In partnership with Yachad, NCSY has an amazing Yom Ha’atzmaut program for teens. Featuring a concert with Gad Elbaz and top speakers, join us as we celebrate Israel’s Independence Day.
We also want you enter our “What Israel Means to Me” contest. We can’t wait to see when you post your favorite image and tag @ncsysummer and @myncsy for a chance to win.
We may not be able to travel to Israel, but we can still celebrate together.