The problem highlighted by Gary Rosenblatt’s timely column, “Where The Boys Aren’t” (Nov. 5), is real, but readers could be left with the impression that it is also universal. While Conservative and Reform institutions report a decline in enrollment among young men, as well as a decrease in male attendance at Reform services, such trends are not the case in Orthodox circles. Before one dismisses this distinction as based upon the differing gender roles in Orthodoxy, the same is true of our outreach to unaffiliated youth.
The column reports that 70 percent of teens involved in organized Jewish activities are girls. That may be true of the population as a whole or of certain demographics, but NCSY events tend to be much more gender-balanced. A survey of NCSY’s extensive database of events across the U.S. and Canada shows that most regions actually have slightly higher rates of attendance among boys. In addition to our co-ed programming, NCSY’s two all-male summer programs, Camp NCSY Sports in Baltimore and the NCSY Summer Kollel in Israel, are consistently among the first of our summer offerings to fill up.
In New Jersey, a program called Shoresh NCSY, now in its second year, provides well-rounded educational and inspirational programming to middle school and high school boys, which appeals to both the “Jewish” and the “boy.” There’s learning and Shabbat onegs, but also paintball and sports. If you think you can’t get over 100 teenage boys to attend a Tisha B’Av program, you’d be surprised. The magic is in making the program fit the boy, not the other way around.
One could speculate as to the reason that Orthodoxy does not suffer as much from the post-bar mitzvah drop-off affecting other movements. Perhaps the reason is that we have never treated Bar Mitzvah as a goal; rather, it is a starting point. The speculation, however, is purely academic. The crisis in the greater community is real and NCSY is proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with other organizations in the lofty purpose of reaching out to Jewish boys — and girls — and inspiring them with the beauty of their heritage.
International Director, NCSY