March 2020 newsletter


Rabbi Jonah LernerMessage From Our Regional Director

To my dear Atlantic Seaboard Parents, Teens, Alumni, Supporters, and Partners,

A household name, NCSY plays a tremendous role in shaping the lives of Jewish teens around the world. We are an organization dedicated to connecting, inspiring, and empowering Jewish teens. NCSY encourages passionate Judaism through innovative program built on Torah and Jewish values for teens of all affiliations, levels of understanding, and backgrounds. NCSY provides teens with opportunities for leadership development and community involvement; as well as a fun, engaging environment in which to deepen their Jewish education.

Atlantic Seaboard NCSY offers exceptional programming for all types of teens in the region. From all-girls programming and all-boys programming to JSU culture clubs in public schools, NCSY has something to offer every demographic of Jewish teen. The flagship Senator Ben Cardin Program, which was started in Baltimore, has expanded to six cities within the region with over 200 participating teens. Every week, public school teens are offered the opportunity to learn Torah and life values from successful business leaders from within the Sabbath observant Jewish community.

The most recent additions to Atlantic Seaboard NCSY offer a wider range of programming to reach teens who would normally not feel comfortable in a co-ed environment. Philadelphia has introduced their NCSY GO (Girls Only) program, which offers weekly programming specifically for Yeshiva Day School girls, and Baltimore has merged with the Torah Youth Association to offer Yeshiva boys football, onegs, and more.

To date this year, Atlantic Seaboard NCSY has reached over 2239 teens, significantly impacting 451 students who became regulars at programming and took the next steps to enhancing their Judaism. But NCSY doesn’t stop when the school year does. NCSY offers over 24 summer programs for all different types of teens. This past summer, over 120 Atlantic Seaboard teens traveled with NCSY to Israel, Europe, the West Coast, etc. to learn more about their Judaism and spend time with like-minded teens and inspiring educators and advisors.

All of this is accomplished with the generous support of community members like you. Thank you for coming out tonight and showing your dedication to the Jewish future.

As the first half of this programming year comes to a close, we wanted to give you the opportunity to read about the amazing things that have been going on in your communities. Take a look through this newsletter to hear about what we’ve done so far, what’s coming next, and to “meet” the people making it happen.

Thank you,

Rabbi Jonah Lerner
Regional Director


Josh KentTapping Into Our Potential

by Rabbi Josh Kent, Potomac JSU Coordinator

As members of the Jewish nation, we believe that we have the utmost duty to constantly grow and be greater. In fact, we truly think that in every situation – and even in the most obscure places at times – there is something to learn from it.

The Mishnah in Pirkei Avos asks, “Who is wise? Someone who learns from every man.” Along with the rest of the Jewish world, we recently learned about the beginning of our exodus from Egypt in the weekly Torah portion and we must look at the situation of the plagues and Pharaoh’s refusal to release the Jewish Nation as something more than just a story of our beginning.

In fact when we look deeper, the midrash brought by Rabbi Eliezer Ben Hurkonus states explicitly: “Come and learn the power of Teshuvah (repentance) from the wicked king of Egypt, Pharaoh.”

The midrash states that when Moshe and Aharon first came to Pharaoh, he led one of the biggest open rebellions against Hashem by laughing at him with the words, “Who is the Lord, that I should hearken unto his voice?” The midrash tells us that this same Pharaoh who made a mockery of Moshe and Hashem in his court would later give us a new understanding and wonderment with those words, and in fact, we say them twice a day: “Who is like thee, O Lord, among the mighty?”

What was it that changed Pharaoh’s mind about Hashem?

From here we turn back to the plagues. Rav Chaim Shmulevetz, one of the former Roshei Yeshiva of Yeshivas Mir, instructs us to investigate why Pharaoh was ready to let us go, specifically after the plague of boils? It is clear that if not for the fact that Hashem hardened his heart, he actually would have. Something specific to this plague scared him to his core as if it were different than any of the other miraculous displays of nature that came before.

Chazal tell us that before the downfall of Adam, he was created from one end of the world to the other. We understand that this could not have meant that Adam was a giant, but rather the message is about his strength and potential. In fact, this strength is still available to us – we only need to know how to tap into it and it is there waiting.

As children, we learn the famous midrash that Basya the daughter of Pharaoh miraculously reached out to grab Moshe from the river by stretching her arm beyond her physical capability. We were taught, wrongly, that it was a miracle that Hashem created her to save the future leader of the Jewish people. In fact – it was nothing of the sort – it was an act of nature that she was able to extend her arm.

How did she do it?

She had no choice. She saw a baby waiting in the Nile with no way of rescuing it – so she tried with all her might and capabilities to save that baby. When she did everything she could, when she reached as far as her arm would go, and only when her physicality was pushed as great as she could, that’s when her arm kept going – she tapped into the strength and potential of Adam!

The verse tells us that before the plague of boils Hashem instructed Moshe and Aharon to “Take yourselves handfuls of furnace soot, and Moshe shall cast it heavenward before Pharaoh’s eyes.” Rashi tells us that anything thrown with strength can only be done single-handedly. Pharaoh laid witness to this. He saw a man of flesh and blood stand before him and throw the soot heavenward, he then watched as it spread all across the land of Egypt – that’s what scared him. Moshe tapped into this strength of Adam.

Pharaoh then realized that he was not just dealing with Hashem – but rather the potential of Man, the potential of a man who will do whatever it takes to accomplish his goals.

We can learn from this that we only need to try as hard as we can to accomplish our goals. When we give our full potential and we try as hard as we can to accomplish something then anything is possible. That strength still exists in us –
we only need to try to use it!



yarchei kallahYarchei Kallah

At the beginning of January, ATS NCSY spent the most incredible 5 days with over 300 teens from across the country in a beautiful hotel in New Jersey. Teens had the chance to spend time learning Torah and being inspired by peers, advisors and educators. Yarchei Kallah 2020 was an unforgettable experience!

shwekey concertThe Concert of the Decade

ATS NCSY held the 45th Annual Isaac H. Taylor Jewish Music festival on January 12th, featuring Yaakov Shwekey. The concert featured both old and new hits and had a sold-out crowd for this incredible show that reined in the new decade.

The New York Experience

new york experienceThe New York Experience served as this year’s first regional Shabbaton for Upperclassman. It started off the year with a kick! Upperclassmen had some “quiet” fun at a silent, glow-in-the-dark disco this past November. On the Underclassmen Shabbaton in January, the teens had a blast at Aviator – an ice skating, arcade, and sports complex. On both Shabbatons, teens enjoyed a beautiful Shabbos with wonderful families who opened their homes to us in Brooklyn, NY.

JSU-summitJSU Summit

JSU SUMMIT took place mid-February in New York. Over 50 public school teens boarded busses on Sunday morning for a fun and meaningful trip to the Big Apple. With a jam packed schedule, everyone had an awesome time. The trip included escape rooms, shopping in Times Square, knockerball, Blue Man Group show, an inside peak into the world’s largest volunteer EMT service, a hands-on tour of artifacts from the times of the temple, hearing from the former president of the Israel club at NYU, and a fantastic hypnotist! The JSU SUMMIT was also joined by our guests Chaim Wielgus and members of the Judah Fellowship.


JSU Clubs


Senator Ben Cardin Jewish Scholars Program