Article written by www.vosizneias.com
Hoboken, NJ – Instead of kicking off their annual winter convention with a fun filled evening at the Palisades Mall, 250 Jewish teens spent this past Thursday night hosting a carnival for underprivileged youth in Hoboken whose lives have been adversely affected by Hurricane Sandy.
“Normally we start our regional convention by heading straight to our hotel for a recreational program,” Rabbi Yaakov Glasser, executive director of the New Jersey region of National Council for Synagogue Youth, told VIN News. “But this year we decided to something that was less self serving and more altruistic. We had been planning a trip to Dave and Busters and possibly a scavenger hunt at the mall, but after the hurricane we found ourselves in a new reality and we wanted to do something that resonated with where people were at.”
Looking for a venue that would be strategically located for the NCSY teens who represent communities from all over New Jersey and attend both public schools and yeshivas, Rabbi Glasser settled on Hoboken.
“We reached out to the housing authority and told them we had seen how hard Hoboken had been hit and we wanted to do something extraordinary for underprivileged children, many of whom were affected by the hurricane,” explained Rabbi Glasser.
The housing authority put up a tent in the parking lot adjacent to Mama Johnson Field and with that, a carnival was born, fitting in perfectly with the convention’s theme of internalizing the midda of chesed.
The free carnival, which took place last Thursday night, featured games, clowns, magicians, a ventriloquist, basketball, manicures, balloon animals, juggling and face painting, as well as a kosher kid friendly meal of hot dogs, wings, cotton candy and popcorn. Free clothing was also distributed to the approximately 300 carnival attendees.
According to Rabbi Glasser, it was a night to remember for both the NCSYers and residents of Hoboken.
“They had seen volunteers show up before, but to focus on their kids like this and show them a good time like this, had them totally amazed,” enthused Rabbi Glasser. “Much of the relief work that they have seen so far was just about replacing stuff they lost. This was just about letting the kids have something they could enjoy. It was a mixture of populations that you couldn’t possibly imagine and they are begging us to come back again next year and do it again.”
But clearly Hoboken’s children weren’t the only beneficiaries of Thursday night’s event.
“We had a optional chesed program set up for the kids the next morning near our hotel in Kerhonksen,” said Rabbi Glasser. “We got to our hotel and until the kids got to sleep it was probably close to 2 AM. Not expecting a big turnout after such a late night, we booked vans to transport fifty to sixty kids to a few nearby facilities to do some volunteering. You can’t imagine how shocked I was when I woke up for early shachris the next morning and found 150 kids had also gotten up early and were ready to volunteer in the community. The energy that had carried over from the carnival was clearly evident, not just that morning but throughout the entire Shabbos.”
In a generation where so many are worried about the dangers being faced by our teens, Rabbi Glasser praised Thursday night’s carnival as proof positive that with healthy outlets, our teens can shine.
“We talk constantly about the challenges of today’s youth, with the internet, Facebook and other issues,” commented Rabbi Glasser. “But experiences like this show you that our teens have greatness within them. It is so important that instead of giving up on our teens, we provide them with opportunities to bring out the best in them.”