JOLT Israel
NCSY JOLT Israel- Have An Amazing Shabbos From Yerushalayim Ir HaKodesh!!

My Dear NCSY JOLT Israel Family,


I hope this email finds you all well.  Last we spoke it was the evening before our last day with the kids. It has been extremely busy and I have finally had a few minutes of down time. Our last day together was a somber one but also a day of strength and deep connection.  We traveled to Chaifa to meet with the parents and siblings of Simcha LaYeled. After a short presentation and video, we ate together and said our goodbyes. One of the things that struck me most was how the families felt so close to our JOLT Israel kids. I heard from so many of the parents that because of what we did they were able to realize how important it is to focus on the siblings of a sick child. They explained to me that very often the siblings are expected to do things that most kids their ages aren’t. They are expected to fall into line and to accept that reality without question. But most difficult is that reality, their story, is subsumed under the story of the sick sibling. These kids don’t have the opportunity to develop their own independent identity. We gave that to them. After the hugging and crying we said our final goodbyes and loaded the bus.


Our first stop was an hour in the mall in Teveria to just veg out. Form there we went up to Avnei Eitan, one of my favorite places in the entire country. It is a small Yishuv deep in the Golan. We went to a camp site with complete with Yurts, a field and of course a place for a bonfire. After Mincha we set up our areas (collected wood for our fire) and went to dinner. All the food is made fresh for us. We had a choice of Vegetarian Schnitzle, fried fish, rice, an olive sauce, green beans and of course a whole slew of fresh salads. From there we davened Maariv we got the fire started. We made s’mores and sat around enjoying the quiet. The only thing that was audible was the ongoing bombings of the Syrian civil war.  The kids started an amazing Kumsitz and I began speaking as a debrief of our time together with Simcha LaYeled. I spoke about the importance of creating space for people in life and even though we are blessed to be able to create our own stories, not every person can. Our goal on the program was to create this story for each one of our Simcha LaYeled children. My charge to each of my JOLT Israel kids was we need to do that for every person we meet who can't create that stroy on their own. That is true leadership! Everyone deserves their own story and we have a responsibility to make sure everyone is the beneficiary of that. We went around and all the kids had a chance to speak about their experiences and take aways from their time in our camp. It was a powerful moment for all of us and it brought us all closer as a unit. 

On the topic of us coming to together even closer as a family. This does not mean that all kids are in the same friend groups even though they are all friends. That isn’t normal and it isn’t healthy. Many of the parents have been asking me to help clarify real questions about friend groups in general and specifically on the program. Such as how social reshuffling works and if it is healthy.  I want to make something clear. The kids on JOLT Israel are amazing. I have connected so deeply to almost all of them and I know first-hand just how amazing they are. Baruch Hashem our JOLTers are kind, they are generous, they are sensitive and they are solid Frum Modern Orthodox adolescents who make good decisions. It’s always a good sign when your children do the right things when they are not with you. It means that they have truly inculcated the values of their respective homes! Ashreichem


When kids, in large groups, find new and good friends amongst the pack and connect closely to them, that is very healthy. That is what we want to happen and that is exactly what’s happening on JOLT Israel. The normal social reshuffling that takes place during this time is taking place and it is happening in a safe and nurturing environment. As long as everyone is kind and nice to everyone else, which the kids are, it is healthy for adolescents to find their own peer group whom they can relate to and who can relate to them. That is part of what we call identity formation. It is a very important stage in development. When parents meddle in that aspect of development it can be debilitating long term because it doesn’t allow the kids to learn the requisite skills necessary to learn and navigate new social situations. Hence, this is why I always ask parents to speak to their children who go on programs like these, as little as possible. Too good is no good. Unfortunately, people who do not deal with children/education/psychology view these new friend groups as being cliquey.  Both educationally and psychologically the way it takes place on JOLT Israel is healthy and important for the kids. Parents who want more color on this should please feel free to be in touch with me. I would be thrilled to speak at greater length.


I must say, that almost all parents have been communicating with me throughout the summer and the large majority of those parents understand the aformentioned to be true. The feedback I have received from almost all of the parents has been amazing and overwhelmingly positive about the program in general and the fact that their children have been learning how to navigate new friendships and social situations. I am blessed to have the opportunity to help facilitate these deep and meaningful relationships between fantastic kids. My goal is to continue working with the kids in this area and I appreciate the parental support. That is what I call true partnership and it is an honor to be your partner.


Getting back to our recap…yesterday we woke up early, davened in the cool Golan weather, ate breakfast and made our way to do some amazing rappelling in Dalton, near Tzfat. It was an awesome experience for our kids to really move outside their comfort levels. I’m proud of all of them. We then traveled to Kever Rashbi, where Yonatan, our amazing advisor spoke for a bit and then we davened and gave the kids time for private Tefilla by the Kever. From Rashbi we traveled to Yerushalayim. After dinner and some time on Ben Yehuda to meet friends from different programs and celebrate a special birthday we davened Maariv and then went to sleep.


This morning we did Meah Shearim and each of the kids was treated to a sefer by the Lander college divisions of Touro College. There is nothing more beautiful than 48 kids getting excited about buying Seforim! We then went artifact sifting. It is actually an important activity because it allowed us to speak for a bit about the illegal building on the Temple mount by the Wakef and at the same time allowed us to connect with our history by finding things from the Beis HaMikdash and other time periods. It was actually a really meaningful pre-Tisha B’av activity. We went back to the hotel to unload our seforim and eat lunch and then gave the kids time to go to Ben Yehuda and the shuk.


We are back in our hotel now and getting ready for Shabbos. Soon will be pictures and then we walk to the Kotel for Maariv. We will be eating in Aish Ha Torah tonight and I am super pumped about our Kumistz at the Kotel!!


It’s going to be a very meaningful next few days and I look forward to being in touch with you again soon. May we merit to not fast this Sunday but rather dance and sing in the streets of Yerushalayim HaBenuyah.


With warmest wishes



Rabbi Dr. Noam Weinberg

Director, NCSY JOLT Israel

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