A team of high schoolers from Berman Hebrew Academy in Rockville, Maryland, won NCSY’s annual Jewish Unity Mentoring Program (JUMP) competition. The Berman team included students Niv Leibovitz, Liora Guberman, Zach Winters, Baruch Lerman, Noach Lerman, Alexa Boltax, Shai Margulies, Shayna Kagen, and mentors Aryeh Wielgus and Jonell Hector.
NCSY is the international youth movement of the Orthodox Union (OU), and JUMP is the NCSY national leadership program. It was created “in order to provide leadership opportunities for high school students who are looking for innovative solutions to issues facing Jewish youth,” said NCSY’s Managing Director Rina Emerson. “We’ve been running the competition for more than 10 years, and each year we are impressed with the inventive approaches these students take to solve issues that their peers are grappling with.”
With the goal of making Halacha (Jewish law) as accessible as possible while still conveying the halachot in an interesting and captivating way, the students launched Helpful Halacha, a text-messaging initiative whereby students send out interesting halachot every weekday. After canvassing their schoolmates about which topics within Halacha they were most interested in, the students decided to focus on halachot related to davening, lashon hara, and Shabbat.
This year, 17 high school teams participated in the competition, including four public-school teams. Teams were challenged to respond to issues facing the Jewish community in the areas of Jewish education or Jewish advocacy.
In addition to Berman’s team, four other finalists were chosen from the original 17 applicants. Projects were judged based on replicability/scalability, project execution, creativity, and their written proposals. Finalists’ projects were judged by OU Executive Vice President and Chief Professional Officer Allen Fagin; Evan Bernstein, New York/New Jersey regional director of the Anti-Defamation League (program co-sponsor); Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP Partner and NY NCSY Board Member Phil Rosen; Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield Vice President of Marketing and Director of Community Education at Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun Rachel Kraus; and UJA-Federation of New York Deputy Chief Planning Officer Hindy Poupko.