Friday, February 06, 2009

A History of NCSY

Zev Eleff, a YU undergrad, recently published a history of NCSY titled Living from Convention to Convention: A History of the NCSY, 1954-1980 (press release). The book is remarkable for a number of reasons. First of all, it is extremely well researched and organized. It is the work of a trained historian coming from a college senior. He clearly delved into archives and found excellent information that reveals the challenges and politics of NCSY in those early years.

Click here to read moreSecond, Eleff does not shy away from the difficult issues. He discusses both opposition to and cooperation with NCSY from the right wing, including an episode in which the Lubavitcher Rebbe and the journal Ha-Pardes publicly criticized NCSY. He addresses the various crises and YU-OU politics that NCSY had to overcome. He also deals with opposition from parents and local synagogues, particularly regarding mixed dancing and services without a mechitzah (NCSY does not allow either). He also broaches what is perhaps the most difficult of all subjects, the relationships between less-observant parents and their more-observant children, and where NCSY fit into all of that.

However, I feel obligated to say that while this book has all the benefits of an academic history, it also has the detriments. It is a dry read. There are few anecdotes and no truly inspiring stories or speeches. I would have thought that a book about NCSY should try to give the flavor of the inspiration that NCSY has imparted to so many people. It doesn't.

I'm not sure where you can buy the book online but it is available at the SOY Seforim Sale.

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