By Michael Jacobs Rabbi Micah Greenland
NCSY is the only one of the five major Jewish youth groups not to hold an international convention in the Atlanta area since late December, but that’s not a reflection of the Orthodox Union youth movement’s attitude toward the South.
NCSY doesn’t have a massive convention equivalent to the NFTY and BBYO gatherings this weekend.
“It’s very hard, unwieldy, I would say, to actually accomplish things programmatically with such a large group,” said Rabbi Micah Greenland, the international director of NCSY, so his predecessor decided to end NCSY’s big convention about 15 years ago.
Instead, the organization holds more focused national gatherings, such as a leadership boot camp for 200 teens and a kallah for about 350 kids interested in an intensive Jewish learning experience.
But Rabbi Greenland acknowledged the power and excitement of bringing 1,000 to 2,000 Jewish teens together, something NCSY sees each summer at Yom NCSY, when 1,100 participants in the group’s many summer programs in Israel gather for one day of celebration. It’s also something the rabbi saw himself as a high school student in 1993 when he was elected NCSY’s national president at a national convention in New York.
He said NCSY is rethinking the decision to scrap the national convention and might bring it back if the organization believes it can conduct effective programming.
Rabbi Greenland and about 10 national and regional NCSY leaders, as well as national and regional teen board members, will get to see how effective such mega-gatherings can be when they come to Atlanta for the Summit on Youth and the Coalition of Jewish Teens preceding the NFTY and BBYO conventions.
“I’m appreciative that BBYO is convening such a forum,” Rabbi Greenland said. While it won’t be the first time the youth groups get together, this gathering is bigger than others, and it includes many of the top funders of youth programming. Having those philanthropists there will help ensure “that if we have some ideas as a group, that we’ll be better positioned to help make them happen.”
He said the Jewish youth groups increasingly are seeing one another as collaborators, not competitors, as they work toward the common goal of ensuring an engaged Jewish future in North America through connections to Israel, serious Jewish learning and leadership development.
“I think that our mutual goals,” Rabbi Greenland said, “have never been more closely aligned as organizations than they are today.”