Denver NCSY has been inspiring Jewish teens for years through innovative, cutting-edge social and recreational programs to help them develop positive Jewish identities. Now, they have partnered with Aish of the Rockies to create a welcoming and fun environment with impactful activities for middle and high school students.
Aish of the Rockies has been serving the Jewish community in Denver for over 25 years. They wanted a specialized team to focus on teen programming, so they decided to partner with the up-and-coming force in the Jewish community, Denver NCSY. Now together, the new Aish-NCSY program provides Jewish youth and teens from diverse backgrounds with social and educational opportunities to learn more about Judaism.
After attending numerous NCSY events, a teen named Ilona stated, “When I first started NCSY it was mostly a thing for me to hang out with my friends, but as I kept coming to meetings, my relationship with God grew stronger. I started to realize how much of an impact Judaism could have on my life if I just let it. I used to not believe in God, but when I joined NSCY, my belief came back and now Judaism is a very important part of my life.”
From 2016 to 2019, Denver NCSY has built a chapter that went from engaging eight teens to over 300 each school year, under the guidance of Rabbi Yisrael Katz.
In 2019, the vital and creative Rabbi Yonatan Nuszen was hired jointly through Aish of the Rockies and Denver NCSY as the Aish-NCSY Partnership Liaison. In his first year, he was able to expand participation to 420 Jewish teens.
In 2020 the pandemic hit, and everything – except Aish of the Rockies and Denver NCSY – shut down. “I miss the social interaction! Covid is killing my life,” NCSY teens declared. Rabbi Nuszen jumped into action. It was essential to provide safe and meaningful Jewish programming where participants could have fun and socialize. At first, they began with virtual Zoom events, but once it was allowed, the parks were full of teenagers sitting in camping chairs six feet apart and having a great time. That year, the Aish-NCSY program expanded from 420 engaged Jewish teens to 550.
Innovative programming is at the source of this expansion. With Rabbi Ephraim Miretzky, the new City Director of Denver NCSY, joining the team, he and Rabbi Nuszen recognize that different events interest different people. Aish-NCSY provides a gamut of activities, ranging from the lighthearted Latte n’ Learn, where teens enjoy lattes and share a meaningful idea about Judaism, to inviting Jewish clubs during lunch at local schools, to in-depth, focused Beit Midrash nights, where participants can study a Jewish text, research a project, and enjoy riveting speakers. Inspiring local and regional Shabbatons and unbelievable trips to Israel are also an essential part of the extensive program. What draws the most attention and interest are the big projects. The Unity Chanukah Concert, the World’s Largest Lego Dreidel project, the Sukkah Cruise, the fantastic High Holiday programming – these jaw-dropping projects electrify teens and adults alike! For these big events, Aish-NCSY partnered with organizations around Colorado to reach even more teens.
The number of involved Jewish teens exploded with the massive World’s Largest Lego Dreidel project. The participation was amazing, but the results were even better. Participants connected with the idea of thirty thousand individual Legos coming together to create an impressive whole, which corresponds to each individual Jewish person coming together in unity to form an unshakeable nation. Aish-NCSY built on the Lego dreidel turnout and followed up with each teen, drawing them back into the circle of events and excitement. With that, an incredible transformation began to emerge and over 1,000 individual Jewish teens have been engaged this school year alone!
Speaking about this groundbreaking development, Rabbi Yonatan Nuszen was quoted saying, “We thank the sponsors, parents, and teens who support these events which make a beautiful difference in the future of the Jewish People.”
For more information on the Aish-NCSY partnership, programs, and sponsorships, please contact Rabbi Yonatan Nuszen, firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn more, visit https://southwest.ncsy.org.
Business Name: Denver NCSY
Contact Person: Rabbi Yonatan Nuszen
Originally published in the Intermountain Jewish News