A Guide to Unofficial Shidduch Breeding Grounds

22 Aug

*Note: The following USBGs have a wide range of hashkafot. I have written about the positive of every organization. Attached to each organization’s name is a link to their website. Whether any particular USBG is appropriate for you is at your discretion.

Year Round USBGs

NCSY (National Council of Synagogue Youth): Horse is to carriage as NCSY is to USBG. C’mon, don’t beat around the bush, the first thing that came to mind when I mentioned USBG was this mega-social, worldwide organization. If you are passionate about kiruv and have what it takes to give Jewish teenagers a positive Jewish experience, then this is the USBG for you. NCSY is the ultimate Feel Good experience, so if you’re not into the sing-y, dance-y, tell-your-life-story-at-a-kumzitz kind of person, then you might feel a bit out-of-place, but even so, the opportunity to openly celebrate Judaism with teens who normally hide it is an indescribably precious opportunity. However, the true beauty of NCSY is the vast amount of teenagers it reaches. Some regions are entirely public school kids while others have a large percentage of Yeshiva students as well. Everyone has their own opinion on religious kids attending NCSY, but as a good friend of mine once put it when telling me why she became an advisor– any kid who is at NCSY needs it. Whether they’re there with the “right” intentions is irrelevant. As an advisor, you have the ability to make a tremendously positive impact on a high schoolers life, no matter what his/her religious background, so if you have the burning passion of yiddishkeit in your blood, are a people person, like going new places and know how to have a fun, kosher good time, then this is right up your alley. In addition to school year programming, there is a plethora of summer programs to get involved in (ICE, SEG, Michlelet, JOLT, Kollel, GIVE, TJJ and more) some co-ed, some separate.

Bnei Akiva: Another organization that offers year round involvement is Bnei Akiva. It is the world’s leading Religious Zionist youth group and has kept people of all ages excited and involved in Torah, Eretz Yisrael and AmYisrael for decades. If you were to ask any director of Bnei Akiva programming the mission of their organization, they would tell you that it is all about education. Yet you will rarely find sheets and lecturers at a Shabbat meeting or oneg. Bnei Akiva thrives on its experiential approach to education and invigorating the next generation of Jewish leaders. Though they do not run as many shabbatons as other USBGs (at least on the East Coast of the USA), their camps are their shining stars. Learning and sharing Torah knowledge is encouraged of everyone, whether a member of the Beit Midrash staff or Tzevet Mitbach (kitchen staff).  No one makes education as fun, interactive and real for kids like Bnei Akiva camps, so if you are looking to embark on the cutting edge of Jewish education and pick up top-notch educational methods and skills, it’s worth checking out. Other than getting kids revved up about Judaism, Bnei Akiva has encouraged thousands of young adults to make Aliyah and build their families in Israel. Whether you enjoy the hint of In-towner style of Moshava Indian Orchard, prefer the Midwestern charm of Moshava Wild Rose or the “Socialist Utopia” known as Stone, if you are a religious, Zionist and are pumped about making Torah interesting and exciting for persons of all ages, then this is the USBG for you. And for those of you who are ready for the big leagues, there’s Mach Hach and TVI.

Yachad/NJCD: (National Jewish Council for Disabilities): Those who enjoy working with special needs individuals should definitely join Yachad. In the New York/New Jersey area there are three divisions in which a college-age person can get involved– Juniors (ages 10-16), Seniors (ages 16-26) and Rayim (ages 26 and above). However, if you are looking to broaden your horizons, there are opportunities to get involved in “out-of-town” chapters such as Boston, Columbus, Los Angeles and even Omaha.  No matter what region you get involved in the goal is the same: to integrate Yachad Members into the Jewish community and facilitate them in making meaningful relationships. There is a multitude of programming from Sunday day trips, summer programs (Yad B’Yad and various camp programs) and of course, their famous shabbatons.  Everyone is encouraged to contribute whether it be by giving a dvar Torah at a meal, performing Skitzvas or singing zmirot. Circle time is the time to play games, sing songs and show off crazy cool talents so leave your shyness at home.  Menucha is also a great time to forge bonds whether it be over a shabbos walk, an intense game of Taboo or relaxing at your hosts’ house.  Besides for being a ton of fun, Yachad is a place where we learn from each other. With each Yachad Member you are paired with comes new lessons and insights, and though you are the one with the responsibilities, they end up teaching you more than you teach them. Once a year, the lessons go national, and if you are lucky enough, you can join the Yachad Family shabbaton. All chapters come together and share in the incredible community NJCD has created.

Those who can boogey are strongly advised to join.

Aish: If you are a serious yid and a serious chiller, then you just might be cut out for Aish. There is a lot to get involved in, from shabbatons to classes to some pretty sweet trips all over the globe. Being Jewish has never so cool! But don’t get the idea that Aish is only for the cool and carefree. You have to have your roots firm and solid in Yiddishkeit. You are the up against the college life, the night life and everything else these otherwise unaffiliated Jews have back at home. Different kiruv organizations have different approaches, so, if you like theirs, call up your local Aish rabbi and get in on it.

Summer USBGs

All of the above USBGs have summer programming but there are some that only function during the year. This list would be incomplete if I did not mention one of the most successful models of the USBG– sleep away camp. Whether it is your “thing” to work at a co-ed one or not, there are always connections to be made and opportunities unavailable anywhere else. Yes, visiting day, whether you happen to be at Mesorah or Dora Golding could very well be the day that brings you to your zivug.

Camp HASC

Camp Mesorah

Camp Morasha

Camp Simcha

And many more!

A few more USBGs to look into are:

Gateways

Local Y/JCC camps

Local Kosher restaurants in need of staff

Pesach programs at The Eden Roc, Fontainbleau (Lasko), Mendy Vim, Kosherica, Matza Fun Tours ( Jersey Shore), Leisure Time Tours (Arizona) and many more.

Going to Shul

Going to Shul and staying for Kiddush

And a personal favorite– shabbos tables!

Alright my friends, add in the ones I forgot to mention!

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4 Responses to “A Guide to Unofficial Shidduch Breeding Grounds”

  1. Chana August 26, 2010 at 11:09 am #

    This is hilarious, accurate and brilliant. I linked it to my blog. Thanks for providing us with this amusing roundup.

    • coralcap August 26, 2010 at 12:44 pm #

      Thanks for the shout out! I’m glad you enjoyed it and appreciate the raving review.

  2. info August 29, 2010 at 11:54 pm #

    FYI there is no visiting day at camp simcha. visitors are not allowed into the camp at any time and theres no day for visiting. the boys and girls have completely seperate sessions occuring during different weeks over the course of the summer

    • coralcap August 31, 2010 at 11:32 am #

      Thanks for bringing this to my attention. I know Camp Simcha runs two weeks for girls and then two weeks for boys, but I wasn’t aware that it didn’t have a visiting day, though that makes a lot of sense. I put it on this list b/c it’s a worthy cause to get involved in that maybe, maybe through it, in an indirect way, one can meet their shidduch, such as other programs on the list. I appreciate the comment!

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