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By: Ilana Elbaze, NCSY Conclave attendee from Winnipeg Special to the Winnipeg Jewish Report

Just a few months ago, as I was looking at a map of regions of NCSY,  the youth movement of the Orthodox Union of North America.  I noticed that Winnipeg did not appear on the map. In an article I read about the great benefits that this youth movement had brought to Jewish communities. It made me think that, notwithstanding the wonderful opportunities for youth in our community, there was something missing.

Not long after, a group of boys at the Herzlia synagogue asked me to attend  NCSY’s Winter Conclave in Chicago, that welcomed chapters from various cities. I was intrigued and decided to go along with my younger sister, Julia, thinking that it would be a wonderful experience for us to share later on.

I was highly impressed by the dedication of that group of boys. They had gone to winter Conclave two years before, but this time, they took responsibility and helped organize the trip. As opposed to what other chapters, we, Winnipeggers went on the lookout for chaperons, were able to create an entire chapter and were actively part of the organization of the trip. Many adults also helped us, such as Herzlia’s President Sherman Greenberg, along with Harvey Cohen and Fay Rosenberg Cohen.

We had a few preliminary meetings and I started to get to know the others in the group. It would take more than that though to make a bunch of individuals into a full fledged chapter! The excitement mounted as the trip approached. We got together for a song writing session. There were many phone calls and yes, even the threat of a major blizzard. Up until the last minute we weren’t sure if we were going to be able to bus to Chicago. Finally it was decided; we would leave the night before the scheduled departure time in order to beat the storm. This early departure and our extreme motivation only made the Winnipeg chapter even more spirited and ready to conquer the Mid-West.

As we loaded the bus on the night of the 23rd of December, I could not stop thinking of what I might be doing at my first NCSY convention. Winter Conclave was a much anticipated event by the Herzlia synagogue and by past participants.  We had an endless yet entertaining, 16 hour, bus ride with song writing. We picked up the Minneapolis chapter half way there and after a long route and a lot of bonding with the members; we finally arrived at our destination: Lincolnshire, IL, just outside of Chicago.

We waited in the lobby of the Lincolnshire Marriott until our rooms were ready. As the delegates came in to register, I couldn’t help but introduce myself. They reciprocated and I quickly made friends from all over the Mid-West. We had all come from very different places geographically, but all shared a common passion and devotion to Judaism. I was truly inspired and touched by the love the members had for our religion, traditions and for making connections with each other
Throughout the weekend, everyone enjoyed the Conclave’s various activities. On Friday morning: ice skating; on Saturday night: skiing; on Sunday shopping or movies … BUT most especially: SHABBAT, with its dancing, its singing, its food and its joy!

How to find Joy was the theme of our weekend, and many Rabbis from the United States and Israel gave inspiring lectures on this theme. I myself had found joy, by simply meeting new friends from all over with whom I shared common interests and/or even the same love for Judaism.

I was finally witnessing and actively participating in what  was referred to in the article I had read a few months earlier: “Jewish youth coming together to share a memorable Shabbaton and experience.” NCSY accomplished its mission.

Our Winnipeg chapter had not only made a successful march in but we had also made ourselves known as a devoted chapter that was ready to take any challenges, such as a 16 hour bus ride, and endless preparations. We were devoted and do truly deserve our place on the map.

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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