During the last few days of 2018, the Ocean Place Resort and Spa on the New Jersey shore became a center of Torah learning for more than 400 teens from across the United States, Canada and South America.
The annual “Yarchei Kallah” program run by NCSY, the international youth movement of the Orthodox Union, has been a signature event for almost 30 years. It capitalizes on the December public-school vacation to inject a religiously inspired week of Torah learning and unity, in addition to a traditional Shabbat celebration, into the lives of boys and girls.
The students, including many with limited previous exposure to Jewish texts or traditions, enjoyed one-on-one, group and lecture-style learning with speakers from around the world, discussing this year’s central theme, “The Life of Moses.”
Gai B. related that “learning about Moses and his leadership ability made me think. They listed the good qualities and the bad qualities of a leader, and what it takes to be successful and improve. I thought about my own traits, and what I needed to work on to become a Jewish leader.”
That spoke directly to the point, said NCSY international director Rabbi Micah Greenland. “Our theme allowed us to focus on some of the characteristics of Moses’ leadership that can best be emulated by our teens: self-sacrifice necessary to lead; pursuit of justice; and ultimately, trust in God.”
Participants also heard from British singer and songwriter Alex Clare, and Israeli Hillel Fuld, the brother of 45-year-old Israeli-American Ari Fuld of Efrat, who was killed in a September terror attack in Gush Etzion.
First-timer Ethan E. of Bel Air High School in Houston relished the program, saying, “I never learned text like this before. I did Hebrew school, but it was never like this. The learning was fun and engaging, and I feel like a better Jew. I’m motivated to learn more.”
OU President Moishe Bane said “every moment was meticulously designed to allow teens to discover, on their own terms, the joy of Jewish learning and community. It is about a united, non-judgmental, encouraging environment devoted to developing both individual and shared connections to our religious texts and shared investment in our religious future.”