On Sunday, May 6, the Greater Washington community came together at Beth Sholom Congregation in Potomac, Maryland, for the annual Cheryl Stern Memorial Event. This year, Atlantic Seaboard NCSY hosted “The Q,” a night of trivia, fun, and prizes. Two hundred donors, parents, and NCSY alumni attended.
The evening was named in memory of Cheryl Stern, who was actively involved in the Philadelphia chapter of NCSY as a teenager, serving both on her local and the Atlantic Seaboard Regional boards. Following her involvement with NCSY, she attended Stern College and became a vital member of the Greater Washington community. Cheryl shared NCSY’s values as she opened her home for teens on Shabbat, and always strove to create meaningful Jewish experiences for those around her.
NCSY has been addressing the challenge of “inspiring the Jewish future” for decades, including right here in Greater Washington where NCSY is entering its 56th year. Through their signature Jewish Student Union (JSU) culture clubs, NCSY goes into secular private and public schools, offering something for the body and the soul. With a slice of pizza and some Jewish learning, teens find a way to connect at their level and at their pace.
And clubs are only the beginning. Students are provided with a myriad of programs, like hanging out and learning with staff in local coffee shops, lobbying on Capitol Hill, and spending summers in Jerusalem.
“We view ourselves as opening Jewish doors,” said Rabbi Jonah Lerner, Atlantic Seaboard NCSY regional director. “Each teen is unique and different, we therefore need to utilize our endless array of opportunities to ensure that they appreciate the true beauty of Judaism and what it has to offer. For some it’s the Shabbat table, for others it’s Israel advocacy, and for some it’s just a shmooze with a staff member which empowers him or her to take an active role in their Jewish community.”
Atlantic Seaboard NCSY’s Rabbi Aryeh Wielgus, now finishing off his second year as NCSY’s Jewish Student Union (JSU) coordinator in Greater Washington, oversees JSU programming at public and private high schools in the area. Over the past year and a half, Rabbi Wielgus has expanded the program into 13 different schools in the Greater Washington area: Winston Churchill High School, Montgomery Blair High School, Northwood High School, Quince Orchard High School, Thomas S. Wootton High School, Walter Johnson High School, Oakton High School, Richard Montgomery High School, Briar Woods High School, Dominion High School, Potomac Falls High School, Sherwood High School, and James Madison High School.
“The goal of JSU is to allow every single Jewish teen to connect to their Jewish heritage,” said Wielgus. “Going into the public schools allows us to reach teens on their turf and give them the ability to find their own connection to Judaism.”
By Rashi Pachino