Exclusive: As NCSY And The JSU Part Ways, NCSY Moves To Keep The JSU Name To Further Its Deceptive Public School Missionary Work
by David Kelsey • Special to FailedMessiah.com
The National Council of Synagogue Youth (NCSY), the Orthodox Union's youth outreach arm, had disproportionate power and presence in the Jewish Student Union (JSU), so disproportionate that it had near-absolute control over the organization.
JSU clubs and chapters are allowed to operate within the public school system based on JSU's claim that it is a cultural, rather than a religious, organization – something we have long argued is false.
NCSY used JSU to do what can only be described as religious missionary activity. True, that religious missionary activity was directed at non-Orthodox Jews. But it is religious missionary activity nonetheless.
The JSU and NCSY have consistently denied that its combined purpose was to recruit non-Orthodox students into Orthodoxy and NCSY.
But NCSY and the JSU are now parting ways, and an official email sent to students and parents to announce this change admits what we have reported for years – JSU was little more than a front for NCSY, and NCSY's financial and other support for JSU was based soley on JSU's ability to deliver recruits for NCSY:
Historically, JSU has had many community partners in seeing this vision to fruition – but none more prominent than NCSY, the Orthodox Union’s wing of teen outreach. In a partnership that saw JSU provide oversight (to ensure standards of programming diversity and excellence were being met in a public school environment) and NCSY provide staff and some resources (to run programs), clubs operated successfully for quite some time. The tremendous investment of resources and time from NCSY to this effort cannot be understated.
However, as the success of JSU grew, local and national leadership became even more focused on creating a pluralistic organization: on our staff, on our board, and in our school programming. As demonstrated by our broad spectrum of community partners in staffing and overseeing JSU clubs across the country, our organization and leadership has never been committed to any specific religious, cultural or political agendas. As this shift occurred, NCSY’s support of this model dwindled considerably as a result of clubs not recruiting a “fair share” of teens to NCSY programs.
From an organizational perspective, our management’s commitment to a non-denominational, non-religious program in the public schools is absolutely non-negotiable. As a result, unfortunately, our organization and NCSY are no longer jointly working together in Chicago or across the country.
In other words, when JSU got enough money to function without NCSY, it broadened its programs, including many more non-Orthodox and secular programs in its mix while at the same time removing NCSY partisans from positions of authority in JSU. In response to this, NCSY pulled its funding from JSU. NCSY was never involved for "cultural" reasons – it funded JSU to get access to non-Orthodox Jewsih kids it would never otherwise have had access to. And it used that access to try to convert them to Orthodoxy.
The NCSY/JSU split is cause for celebration for those concerned about separation of religion and state (in this case, separation of NCSY missionary activity from public schools), and for those who insist missionary groups of all denominations and religions act with honesty rather than with deceit. But NCSY is still behaving badly.
NCSY wants to continue to operate clubs in the public school system, still under the guise of promoting Jewish "culture." To do this it intends to keep the JSU name for itself, despite reportedly promising JSU's non-NCSY leadership that it would not do this. (See below.)
NCSY brass insists its primary interests are the boosting of "Jewish identity" and Israel advocacy.
But their own internal videos and documents demonstrate this is not so.
When JSU public school clubs began, NCSY noted the importance of the "success" of the public school club prototype, because it convinced young secular Jews to give up college education at the best schools in the country in favor of yeshiva study or enrolling in dual curriculum 'Jewish' colleges like Touro College, which emphasize Jewish religious studies and which were much lower ranked. (Until recently, these recruits were not sent to Yeshiva University for reasons beyond the scope of this article.)
Many club members ended up turning down the finest universities in the nation, including Harvard, Johns Hopkins, Boston University, Brandeis, New York University and other esteemed institutions of higher learning in order to engage in some genuine “higher learning.” Some of us went to study at Ohr Somayach or Kol Yaakov in Monsey, New York. One member deferred Harvard for a few years, ultimately becoming one of the metzuyanim [star students] of the Mir Yeshiva kollel in Yerushalayim (and undoubtedly left someone in the admissions office in Cambridge scratching his head). Two club members went to Neve Yerushalayim College [for Women] in Jerusalem. In truth, deciding to defer college in order to further our Jewish education was the proper application of the Stuyvesant school motto, “Pro scientia atque sapientia” (For knowledge and wisdom).
What is so unnerving about NCSY's internal boasts of deceptively recruiting non-Orthodox kids and sending them to haredi institutions is that the OU's own constituency would never want that for their own children.
But for non-Orthodox teens, it's okay to make them poor and ill-educated. It's okay to destroy their ambition. It's okay to make them second class citizens. It's okay to render them b'nai niddah. Its all okay, including the deception used to make it happen, as long as they turn out frum, Orthodox.
It should be noted that Brad Sugar and Susan Holzman Wachsstock deserve credit for extricating the JSU from NCSY's hands. It should also be considered that NCSY's head, Rabbi Steven Burg, has made serious efforts to add Modern Orthodox options after decades of NCSY's complacency in steering public school teens to either black hat institutions and the uncompetitive Touro College. Nevertheless, NCSY still intends to deceive:
The organization formerly known as Jewish Student Union will now be operating as Jewish Student Connection (JSC). The intent of this process was to retire the name Jewish Student Union altogether, and early discussions with NCSY regarding our parting indicated that they too would retire the name so that there would not be confusion in the marketplace. It has come to our attention that NCSY may continue to use the organizational name “JSU,” even after this split has occurred. Thus, we wanted to make sure you were aware that any clubs bearing that name, or any support to an organization bearing that name in Chicago, will go directly to the Orthodox Union
If you are a prior (or future!) financial supporter of the organization previously known as Jewish Student Union, now known as Jewish Student Connection, please note that support made out to Jewish Student Union may be assumed to be for the NCSY run clubs.
You can't take the deceit out of NCSY, it seems. Non-Orthodox Jewish students everywhere – and their families – beware.