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About The Trip

Summer 2017

Chaburah Spotlight – Noam Levy

Noam Levy (5th Summer on Kollel, 2nd as a Madrich) has the incredible privilege of being the Madrich of a bunch of the most incredible NCSYers on Kollel 2017. The tight knit crew of Avi Chansky (Sherwood High, MD), Brandon Khanyon (Great Neck North High, NY), Alan Morgensztern (Ladue High, MO), Eitan Sedaghatfar (Great Neck North High, NY), and Eitan Szteinbaum (Golda Och/JEC, NJ) has really come together, and they have expectations of strengthening that relationship for the rest of the summer.

This summer, “The Ducks” are learning about the fundamentals in Judaism; the reasons to why and how we do things. Topics like Tefillin, Shabbos, Learning Torah, and Having a Good Character are some of the incredibly important topics they have seen. But perhaps more importantly, the relationship that the guys have made amongst each other, in addition to the relationship of the entire Chaburah as a group, has become almost unbreakable as the summer has gone by. All six members (Including the Madrich!) can often be found together in the beis, near the courts, on trips, or just handing around together all the time, something that has spurred tremendous growth and inspiration, and hopefully they will continue to grow together for many years to come.

Sports Update: Poleyeffs!!

The hockey regular season has come to an end, and the basketball play-in games have all heard their final whistles, leaving us with two full Poleyeff brackets to be predicted and played.

The Poleyeffs (named for our fearless Commissioner, Tzvika Poleyeff) officially began today with a play-in round for basketball, where the 11th through 22nd seeds battled for the final six spots in the Sweet 16 bracket.  These games proved to be thrilling, with four lower seeds taking their games and four out of five games being decided by five points or less.

The two higher seeds to win were Masin Men (12) and Bak in the Hud (16), who beat Glueck Beis Medrash (21) and Abi Trippin’ (17), respectively, to lock in the 11th and 12th seeds in the main bracket.  The remaining seeds, in order, went to The Sturminator (18), who took care of Hirschey Rols (15); Hod for 1 (19), who beat Glanz N’ Roses (14) by the largest margin of victory of the day; Kroo-nick Polo (20), who edged out Early Morning Kram (13) by one point; and Stir-Fry (22), who pulled off the biggest upset of the day over Lev Tov (11).

The hockey standings have been finalized and the top four seeds have all been awarded byes, with the remaining eight teams playing for seeds five through eight tomorrow.

Meanwhile, the NIT tournament (for those teams who missed the basketball playoffs) was in full swing today with a full first round that included upsets left and right.  The top seed, Franks and Burgs (23) just barely beat The Gibber (38) to set up a second round matchup with Send Malove (31), the winner of a 74-45 blowout over The Richter Scale (30).  Shap for Gold (26) and No, it’s Joe (27) took care of their lower-seeded opponents, The SedaGhatFather: Part 4 (35) and The Gold Kup (34), respectively, and will play each other in the second round.  Another second round matchup will contain two low seeds: Fine SonSchein (33), who upset Ry-Bends (28), and Soc BBag (36), who upset Stein Removers (25).  The final second round matchup will include Green Veghs and Hain (24), after a handy defeat of the Lehman Brothers (37), and Will to Win (32), after a nice 12-point victory over Mashiach Ain’t Far (29).

Tomorrow promises to be even more exciting, with hockey play-in games, the main bracket of the basketball Poleyeffs, and the NIT second round!

Director’s Message – “Status Quo”

Throughout our summer on the NCSY Summer Kollel, there has been steady background chatter regarding all forms of “status quo.”  Particularly in the contentions of Middle East politics and negotiations, we often hear of the need for preservation of the established facts on the ground.  The US Embassy may stay in Tel Aviv for now, so as not to disrupt the balance and routine.  Metal detectors on the Temple Mount can be a rationale for international crisis simply because they upset the reality to which we are accustomed and may portend even greater change.

This may or may not be appropriate in the United Nations, but it is the antithesis of good educational policy and far from the approach of NCSY Summer programs.  Certainly, stability and immutability are desirable characteristics for our religious beliefs and personal identity.  But over-reliance on the way things are and the way they have been denies our youth the gift of growth and creativity that should define their lifestyle.

In a week during which we reflected on millennia of Jewish history and literally touched the ever-constant foundation stones of our past, there was also an even stronger counter movement against the status quo.

Our week was dominated by two mega-events that will provide a narrative not only for the past few days, but also for the summer as a whole.  These were our Tisha B’Av experience and the incomparable celebration of Yom NCSY.  While on the surface these back-to-back days had little in common, they actually were two sides of the same beautiful coin.  In one we sat on the floor, and in the other we danced to the sky.  One was marked by tears, the other by delight.  One was focused on the past and the other was all about the future.  But both were about authentic Jewish identity, overwhelming senses of unity and peoplehood, and love of Israel.  Above all, both days were almost complete rejections of the status quo.

For a number of years on NCSY Kollel, we have witnessed countless teens describe Tisha B’Av as a “highlight” of the summer or describe it as “great” and “awesome.”  In truth, while gratified by the positive feedback, we’ve always been a bit reluctant to embrace those kinds of reactions.  Is the solemnity of Tisha B’Av supposed to be great?

Perhaps.  The Tisha B’Av tears, the various moments of prayer and song, and especially the Kumzits of the World were not just sorrowful reflections on loss.  They were strong statements of yearning and longing.  Sitting at the Kotel with thousands of others (and thousands more on the webcast) wasn’t just about what was once upon a time.  It was a clear act of staking a claim and altering the world as we know it.  This was true on the personal and national levels.  Simply put, it was our way of saying that our lives as we know them can and will change, and we can direct that change in the most positive and wonderful of ways.  The energy of the kumzits grew from that basic realization and commitment.

And the energy of Yom NCSY was not that different at all.  This was not NCSYers blowing off steam or random and unfocused enthusiasm.  This was the vitality and dynamism of youth at its clearest and best.  This was an engine for change and a headfirst dive into a better tomorrow.

Yom NCSY absolutely lived up to its name.  What better showcase for what NCSY is all about?  Most everyone who saw the event emphasized the two most prominent elements in the festivities:  unity and energy.

The unity was breathtaking.  Over 2000 participants from every background imaginable came together in a way that is near indescribable.  The stream of buses filling the streets of Ranaana was a living, breathing manifestation of an ingathering and unification of exiles.  Yom NCSY was a homecoming.  As such, it would have been diminished as an individual experience.  It was so meaningful and moving because it was shared with our brothers and sisters and a worldwide audience.

But above all, Yom NCSY was a tribute to youthful exuberance and the power of hope.  This energy combined great respect for our tradition and heritage with an almost complete disregard for the status quo.  Every song and dance was a testimony to a better future and a deep desire for more.

In truth, on NCSY Kollel it is not only the jackhammer of Yom NCSY or Tisha B’Av that breaks down the restraints of status quo.  There is some more subtle chiseling that takes place on a daily basis, specifically through the daily routine.  Ultimately, the effect of these more regular behaviors will be felt on a global level, but for now they are most readily identified in the context of personal growth.  Bookending our big events this week were days of simple pleasures and great learning.  At this point in the summer, a chavrusa or conversation with a madrich can have more impact than a big stage show or production.  One shiur or chaburah can move the needle from the status quo as effectively as anything else.  So it would be difficult and wrong to dismiss or relegate our normal days of learning, mini tiyulim, and sports to supporting role status.  These are every bit the highlights of our summer.

How much more so when we have the privilege to host community leaders and other groups who arrive simply for a glimpse or taste of the NCSY Kollel magic.  This week was a seemingly endless stream of friends and VIPs.  We had delegations from the Orthodox Union and NCSY leadership, and an overflow crowd for our on-campus Tisha B’Av observances.  We also hosted multiple TJJ groups, as well as the boys from Sulam (Morasha) for an annual day of learning and competition.

There is so much more to come.  As we prepare for Shabbos together in Beit Meir, there is great anticipation and excitement for more breaking of the norm.  There is nothing quite like Shabbos Nachamu on NCSY Kollel, and we can’t wait to share the reports with you.

This year’s Shabbos Nachamu will usher in our last week and all of the passion and emotion that moves the summer to a close.  We have big plans for our final days together and the last push.  Please be in touch with any technical questions on the details of our departure and check out.

Wishing you the best of Shabbos and the most moving of experiences wherever you are.


With respect,

Moshe Benovitz

Chaburah Spotlight – Eli Goldberg

Eli Goldberg is spending his 3rd summer on the NCSY Summer Kollel. It is his first summer filling the capacity of Madrich, but he has never come to the Kollel for two consecutive summers. Combining the diverse teaching styles of the two program directors, Rabbi Lebowitz and Rabbi Benovitz, Eli hopes to inculcate in his Chaburah a sense of how to be an overall ben Torah.

An all-star line-up both in the Beis and on the courts, Eli’s Chaburah consists of a team of unparalleled enthusiasm, energy, and effervescence: Avramie Schwalb from West Hempstead, NY; Shai Rosalimsky presiding in Teaneck, NJ; Efrayim Saks, also from Teaneck; Josh Hirt from Lawrence, NY; Noah Pomerance from Los Angeles, CA; and Sam Drazin from Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Working together, this squad is an unstoppable wrecking ball in every sense of the phrase.

This summer, the Chaburah is discussing topics relating to the Jewish Holidays, from conceptual analysis of rules and laws, to focusing on the essence and major themes of each yearly period. They hope to continuously bond and grow together through the summer and the ensuing years to come.

#Number1 #BuraVsTheWorld

Week 5 Comes to a Close

After a week filled with excitement and meaning, the realization that there is only one full week left to Kollel 2017 hit hard.  But in classic Kollel fashion, rather than let it get us down, that realization fueled one of the most intense regular days of learning, sports, and Mishmar that we have seen so far.

Morning seder was rocking as usual, and the Beis was alive during Chaburahs.  The sports period saw the end of the basketball regular season and the second to last day of the hockey season, which meant a host of win-and-your-in, loser-goes-home games with the playoffs on the line and seeding being determined.  As you can imagine, this made for an intense and thrilling day of sports all around.  Finally, Night Seder and Mishmar, with some help from the visiting TJJ Bus 4 and post-Maariv shiurim from many of the Jr. Madrichim, was one of the best we have experienced so far.

We are practically bursting with excitement going into our second to last Shabbos and a final week filled with tiyulim, playoffs, banquets, and so much more!

Chaburah Spotlight – Jonathan Greenberg

Jonathan “Jon” Greenberg is returning for his second summer on the NCSY Summer Kollel in Israel and his first as a Madrich. From the village of Cedarhurst, NY, Jon spent his childhood in HAFTR. He then took his talents to Yeshivas Toras Shraga for a year and enjoyed his first two semesters in Yeshiva University this past year immensely.  After some minor roster changes, coach Jon presents this summer’s First Team All-Kollel Chaburah lineup.

At the point guard position, from Teaneck, NJ (Frisch Yeshiva), “President” Charles George Bendheim. Charlie always keeps his teammates on their toes through his humor and fascinating insights into the Chaburah’s learning.

Starting at shooting guard, all the way from Lawrence, NY (DRS Yeshiva), Elie “on time” Roz. Elie’s quick mind, punctuality, and ability to fearlessly lead a group of guys has truly shown this summer during the Chaburah slot.

At the versatile 3 from Boca Raton, Florida (KYHS Yeshiva), Etan “pull-up” Winograd. Having been on Kollel last year, Etan is the veteran on the squad whom is constantly looked to for wise tips from his fellow “rookie” Chaburah-mates.

Standing at 7 foot 2, from Bergenfield, NJ (Yeshivas Frisch), Stevie “Steve” Paul. Stevie is always looking to add to the Chaburah’s chemistry, and he is a tremendous source of chizuk to all.

Last but not least, the big man from Little Rock, Arkansas (Cooper Yeshiva), Sam “headband” Lulky. With one championship ring already, Sam looks to help his Chaburah reach unimaginable heights.

The formidable team has truly meshed as a group thus far. Through exploring topics that range from “The Greatness of Teshuva” all the way to “Why Bad Things Happen,” this special group of guys have developed a synergy between each other.  Each individual contributes to halachic and Jewish thought discussions appropriately and meaningfully day in and day out. They look forward to finishing the “4th quarter” of the summer with a bang.

Chaburah Spotlight – Jesse Steinmetz

Jesse Steinmetz’s Chaburah is a tight knit bunch and have really been enjoying their summer thus far. The group consists of six awesome guys: Yosef Cohen-Melamed (Hillel Pittsburgh), Ahron Finkel (MYY), Yitzy Kopstick (TABC), Ephraim Kroopnick (TABC), Yechiel Miller (MYY), and Yehuda Saks (TABC). 

The Chaburah has been studying different sugyas pertaining to the moadim, specifically the many Brachos we make on the yamim tovim, such as the Brachos of krias hamegillah and achilas matzah, shehechiyanu by sefiras haomer, and the birchas haTorah of parshas zachor. They have also been focusing on the lives of different gedolei Yisroel whose insights they encounter in their learning, such as the Brisker Rav, Rav Elchonon Wasserman, the Chasam Sofer, and many others. 

The Chaburah has been able to bond over different experiences outside as well. A summer-long hunt for Jesse’s favorite candy, the big gummy strawberries without the sugar, has ensued, and the race is pretty tight at this point. The Chaburah also went on an Erev Shabbos scavenger hunt through meah shearim, in order to buy food for their kiddush on Shabbos in the Old City. The Chaburah davened vasikin by Harav Neventzal Shlit”a together, and they stayed afterwards for kiddush and a Q&A. 

The group is looking forward to finishing the summer strong and B’ezras Hashem will take the lessons of the summer with them and keep in touch throughout the year.

Days of Pride

The last two days on the NCSY Summer Kollel have both been extremely meaningful.  The two days had very opposite feelings and emotions associated with them, but both contained a similar message – one of unity and pride, be it in Kollel, in NCSY, or in the Jewish nation as a whole.

Tuesday, we closed out Tisha B’Av by hosting what has come to be known as the “Kumzitz of the World,” and aptly so.  What may have at one point simply been a Kollel kumzitz at the kotel has become an amazing experience that we proudly share with the entire world, whether in person or via our livestream.  Seeing the hundreds of Jews surrounding us, many if not most of whom have no affiliation with Kollel or any summer program at all, created intense feelings of connection and pride in being Jewish, aside from the endless inspiration that we felt from singing out hearts out in front of the Kotel as the sun set on Tisha B’Av.

Today was quite the turn around in terms of mood.  On the famous country-wide holiday of Yom NCSY, there was no better way to build up our Kollel pride before the celebrations than to play in five different intense intercamp games against our friends from Sulam.  All-Star teams in hockey, ultimate frisbee, soccer, and two different teams in basketball all competed, with the entire Kollel cheering them on (we came away with victories in hockey, soccer, and our first basketball game).

Finally, we found ourselves in Park Ranaana with the rest of the NCSY Summer family celebrating Yom NCSY.  We enjoyed a delicious meal with some of the other programs, followed by the night’s main event, a Mordechai Shapiro concert with all of the programs together.  Some amazing singing and dancing (don’t worry, there was a mechitza) was highlighted by on-stage appearances from Zach Berger (Mordy Shap’s doppleganger), Dean Glover, Azi Fine, and Matthew Wexler and an amazing solo from Dovid Pearlman.  Overall, everyone left the event with a feeling of unity amongst NCSY Programs and pride in being a part of the amazing things that NCSY Summer accomplishes.

We are looking forward to harnessing these amazing feelings into enthusiasm with which we can take advantage of the final stretch of the summer!

Chaburah Spotlight – Tzvi Rotblat

This is Tzvi Rotblat’s third summer on NCSY Kollel, and first as a Madrich. Tzvi lives in Teaneck, NJ, and he attended TABC and then Yeshivat Sha’alvim for two years. His Chaburah is made up of an awesome group of guys: Leibel Weiss from Monsey, NY (Heichal HaTorah); Eitan Pfeiffer from Teaneck, NJ (MTA); Yehuda Frankel from West Hempstead, NY (DRS); Joseph Greenberg from Lawrence, NY (DRS); and Ari Rosenberg from Monsey, NY (MTA). This stacked Chaburah has really come together and can always be seen and heard in the Beis Medrash learning and having a great time.

The Chaburah is learning different sugyas and topics from each week’s Parsha together, including mitoch shelo lishma ba lishma, tadir v’sheaino tadir tadir kodem, lifnei iver, and more. The Chaburah had the pleasure of hearing from Rabbi Benovitz, the Director of the NCSY Kollel, on the topic of importance of Rebbeim after they learned and discussed the topic of lo sasur, and they had a great time walking around Yerushalayim together and playing Chaburah Basketball. This Chaburah has had an amazing summer so far and is looking forward to learning a lot and hanging out together for the remaining time on the Kollel.

Chaburah Spotlight – Moshe Spirn

Moshe Spirn is from Lawrence, New York. He just finished his first year in Yeshiva University, after attending Yeshivat Shaalvim in Israel for two years and attending DRS for high school. He will be continuing at Yeshiva University next year, majoring in Psychology and learning in Rav Michael Rosensweig’s shiur. This is Moshe’s sixth consecutive summer on NCSY Kollel, having been on Kollel since he was a post 10th grader. This is Moshe’s second summer as a Madrich. He is looking forward to using his experience on the program to ensure that his Chaburah has an amazing summer.

Moshe’s Chaburah is comprised of six members: Dovi Breuer from Hewlett, NY (Rambam); Ben Zion Kapustin from West Orange, NJ (JEC); Moshe Maltz from Woodmere, NY (DRS); Shlomo Schwartz from Lawrence, NY (DRS); Isaac Shapiro from White Plains, NY (TABC); and Yosef Teitelbaum from Teaneck, NJ (TABC); all of whom have shown tremendous growth and excitement for the learning so far.

In Moshe’s Chaburah, the learning is about many different aspects of Eretz Yisrael. This includes sugyas such as the mitzvah of yishuv Eretz Yisrael, mitzvos hateluyos ba’aretz, and the mitzvah of learning Hebrew, as well as contemporary issues such as whether Yeshiva students should serve in the army and whether we should trade captives for terrorists. The goal of learning about Eretz Yisrael is for the Chaburah to obtain the feeling which the Kuzari describes, “libi bamizrach v’anochi bisof ma’arav,” which means that even though they live in America, Eretz Yisrael is still on their minds.

The Chaburah has already developed into a warm, tight knit unit, has developed a strong sense of camaraderie, and is aiming to grow as a team through both physical and spiritual experiences this summer. It’s already looking unbelievable, and Moshe and his Chaburah know that this summer will only continue to get better over the last two weeks!