The Teens have reasons for JOY

Every year, many of the local Jewish youth groups come together for a blockbuster event on Purim. The joint group calls themselves JOY (Jewish Ottawa Youth). Spearheaded by Rabbi David Rotenberg from NCSY and Sasha Kathron from USY at Kehillat Beth Israel (KBI), with support from Gail Lieff from BBYO at the Soloway JCC, they create an evening event for teens only.

Embarking on a mission to invigorate and empower the next generation of Jewish youth, Kehillat Beth Israel (KBI) and NCSY have strategically bolstered their programming teams. With a renewed focus on outreach and engagement, these initiatives aim to not only expand their reach among youth but also to cultivate and nourish the budding Jewish identities within our communities. Through innovative programming and dedicated support, USY and NCSY are poised to make a profound impact on the lives of teens.

Rabbi David Rotenberg has built Ottawa’s local NCSY into a program that currently includes lunchtime Jewish Student Union’s (JSU) running in 20 Ottawa public schools, Learn and Earn evening programs running in three locations, and six Torah High classes, five for high school credit and one for Grades 7 and 8. The JSU number even includes two schools in the Ottawa Catholic School Board. Rabbi Dave is always open to hearing about schools that have Jewish students and working to create a social and cultural JSU in their school building.

His work was recently recognized by the National NCSY office, and he was promoted to Managing Director of Ottawa and Montreal, aiming to train and develop the Montreal leadership to greater success. To help make all this happen there is an Associate Programming Director, Ben Kron, who can regularly be seen at NCSY events, staffing Shabbatons, and hanging out with the students who attend programming.

“I am looking forward to using my skills and experience to mentor other educators and programmers, and through this role, getting to contribute to NCSY's incredible impact in multiple cities.  It is also an honour to be recognised for my work in Ottawa and a credit to our teens who come to the programs and connect more deeply to their Judaism. Their passion is the reason I have stayed with this work for so long and why our chapter is viewed as the model for other small/medium communities,” says Rabbi Rotenberg.

“One thing I’d like to share, is that - no matter your background, affiliation, style of observance, or interest - there is a place for you in NCSY!”

If you are interested in learning more about NCSY, JSU, or Torah High, Rabbi Dave can be reached at

To further support teens and bring innovative and engaging programming to the scene, Sasha Kathron is the new director of Youth Education and Programming at Kehillat Beth Israel (KBI) as well as the director of the Ottawa Talmud Torah, which is the supplementary school that runs out of KBI.

Her role ranges from engaging babies to high schoolers by creating programs, events, and educational curriculum. This represents a new and expanded position at KBI and one that will allow children and youth to flow seamlessly from diapers to graduation with continuous programming and engagement opportunities.

The flagship high school group is called JACCUSY (Jews Across Canada’s Capital USY) and is for Grades 9-12. It has previously been recognized for its innovative and engaging programming and their ability to recruit and retain new participants. 

Kathron says, “I love working with teens. I see their limitless potential. I think they're at that perfect age where they're starting to really form their own thoughts and opinions and they're starting to choose for themselves what they want to be engaged in as they begin their own Jewish journey.” 

She continues, “It’s the first age group where they really get to choose their own programming. Events are participant-led and supported by the adults involved, but not done for them. It gives them a chance to explore new ideas, try things out and evaluate results, and forge a path forward that reflects their interests at this time. It’s really exciting to watch and be a part of.”

To learn more about the youth programming available at KBI email Sasha at

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