May 11, 2014

NCSY Superstars

Till this day, prominent professionals still use the lessons and values they learned at NCSY. Once an NCSYer, always an NCSYer.

The 9 Kinds of NCSYers in EVERY Region

Dr. Henry Brem

Chairman of the Department of Neurosurgery, Johns Hopkins Medicine; Harvey Cushing Professor of Neurosurgery
Dr. Henry Brem

Dr. Henry Brem

Q: How did you become involved with NCSY?

A: I grew up in Fair Lawn, NJ, in a traditional family. My parents were Holocaust survivors and Jewish education was very important to them, so they sent me to Jewish schools. When an Orthodox Shabbat minyan started in 1969 (which later became Congregation Shomrei Torah) wanted to form an NCSY chapter, I became very involved with its creation, and eventually took on leadership roles like chapter president and vice president of regional and national education.

Q: What is your favorite NCSY memory?

A: It would have to be the 1970 National Convention that I planned, as chairman, in the Catskills. It was a beautiful event and a high point in my life. I also formed amazing friendships with people from a diverse range of Jewish backgrounds, but all of us had a common devotion to yiddishkeit.

Q: What has been your biggest professional achievement to date?

A: In the 1980s, I was asked to look at the CAT scans of Izolde Tufeld, a prominent Soviet refusenik, and it was clear that she needed surgery right away. I was then asked to operate on her in the U.S. The case, and the cause of the Soviet refuseniks, received a lot of attention. It was a career-defining moment to be able to tie in my surgical skills with a cause that was important to the Jewish people. I am also proud that I helped develop a new FDA-approved treatment for malignant brain tumors that is used all over the world.

Q: What values from NCSY carry over to your profession today?

A: The leadership and public speaking skills that I learned and mastered at NCSY have certainly come in handy in my role as chairman of what is regarded as the best neurosurgery department in the country. NCSY also helped me develop a lifelong love of Jewish learning and a deep love of yiddishkeit.


Sarah Hofstetter
Global CEO, 360i

Sarah Hofstetter

Sarah Hofstetter

Q: When did you become involved in NCSY?

A: I grew up in an observant home in Lawrence, NY, and became active in NCSY’s Far Rockaway chapter. I immediately loved the diversity I found at NCSY, and I learned a lot from spending time with teens who came from a variety of religious backgrounds. I was active in NCSY throughout high school and assumed a position on regional board as publications editor when I was a senior.

Q: How did your career begin?

A: I studied journalism at Queens College — where I met my husband, Adam — and gravitated to the public relations world, where I held a number of positions. In 2005, I joined 360i US to incubate its social media presence, and over the years, rose in the ranks of the company to become the Global CEO. Aside from Kraft Foods, other well-known clients of 360i include Coca-Cola and Oscar Mayer.

Q: What are some of your biggest achievements?

A: I named Ad Age’s 2013 40 Under 40 and CableFAX’s Digital Hot List; honored as a Social Media All-Star by the Social Media Society; honored by The Stevie Awards as one of its 2012 Female Advertising Executives of the Year; and honored as an Orthodox All-Star by Jew In The City, among other honors. However, although I appreciate these awards and professional nods of recognition, it is the validation I receive from my two children, Abby, 14, and Sam, 12, that really make me proud. Coming from a community where there are not a lot of moms who work full-time outside the home, I think the fact that my kids are proud of what I do is pretty cool.

Q: What values from NCSY carry over to your profession today?

A: I have a diverse client base and interact with different high-level marketers every day. The ease I gained in interacting with people from a wide variety of backgrounds was really because of my NCSY experience. NCSY is not only a formative time in a young person’s life in the traditional respects, but can help positively influence your career down the line, as it did for me.


Bob Diener
President,; President,

Bob Diener

Bob Diener

Q: How did you become involved in NCSY?

A: I went to school at Miami Hebrew Academy and my friends were all involved. They invited me to join them at an event and I was hooked right away. The Shabbatons were very meaningful and connected me much more with my faith. I couldn’t get that feeling just with studying, but the singing and dancing together with other NCSYers sparked something amazing in me.”

Q: What was your most memorable experience with NCSY?

A: Like a true Floridian, one of my most memorable NCSY experiences involved the appearance of an entity unknown to myself and many of my friends: snow. During a bus trip to Memphis for a Shabbaton, it began to snow along the way and in the middle of an isolated stretch of highway, the bus pulled over so the kids could run outside to play. It was a nice bonding experience for me and my classmates, as were most NCSY activities. I made new friends all over the Southern Region.recalled Diener.

Q: How did you get involved in the travel industry?

A: It was during my time at NCSY that I was first bitten by the travel bug. I traveled to many conventions outside of Miami and had a great time meeting new people and exploring new places.

I always loved business, but knew I wanted a solid profession with a steady income — something the world of entrepreneurship doesn’t always provide. So I went to law school and maintained a side business in travel. Despite the part-time nature of this business, after two years of working as a practicing attorney, I became so successful that I left law to devote my full-time attention to my real passion.I built from a small company I founded with a partner ­— each contributing $600 ­— to the world’s largest online booking company.

Q: What are you most proud of today?

A: I’m proud of the fact that I took the company public at the time when most Nasdaq internet companies were crashing, and that the business was achieving high annual growth rates despite the tough environment. I’m also grateful that I was able to study Talmud once a week for an hour during the business day, and when I started having children, I moved this to daily Jewish learning with the kids.


Talia Mashiach
CEO, Founder and Product Architect, Eved

Talia Mashiach

Talia Mashiach

Q: What is your favorite NCSY memory?

A: The conventions I attended were amazing, and I also met my husband, Shmuel, when he came with his band to sing at an NCSY event.

Q: Where did you attend college, and what does your professional career look like so far?

A: I attended Loyola Business School in Chicago, and spent the years after my graduation starting and managing various businesses. In 2004, I launched an event services and destination management company that grew to over $9 million in revenue in four years. and in 2010, using the knowledge and experience I gained running it, founded Eved. In 2013, we drove over $100 million in commerce by connecting 7,000 businesses in our marketplace. 

Q: What is your biggest achievement so far?

A: I’m most proud of my children and the fact that I fit my professional life into my personal life. From a business perspective, I’m extremely proud of the fact that I believe I’m really maximizing my potential and using the gifts Hashem gave me to build the company to the success that it’s enjoying.

Q: Was there anything that was instilled in you during your time at NCSY that you take with you in your current career?

A: I took advantage of the many active leadership opportunities that exist at NCSY, like helping to fundraise for a fellow NCSYer’s year of study in Israel, which honed my management skills. More importantly, I was brought into NCSY with my friends to be a role model for others, and I think I am doing that today in my role as an entrepreneur and CEO. You shouldn’t feel that you’re limited because you’re Orthodox or a woman, but that you can achieve your dreams without sacrificing religious and personal convictions.

Q: What is the best advice you can offer NCSYers interested in pursuing entrepreneurship?

A: Don’t be scared of failure or make excuses for not realizing your ambition. You need to be determined to sidestep any stumbling block that might get in the way of achieving your goal.


Rabbi Zev Leff
Rabbi of Moshav Matityahu; Popular lecturer

Rabbi Zev Leff

Rabbi Zev Leff

Q: How did you become involved with NCSY?

A: I was born in the Bronx to a traditional family but moved to Miami at age eight. My parents sent me to Hebrew school, and I loved Jewish learning and tutored other children. One day, my teacher at Hebrew school said he had nothing more he could teach me and suggested a Jewish day school for more rigorous learning. My parents enrolled me at the Hebrew Academy of Miami, and it was there that I became involved with NCSY, which was in its infancy at the time.

Q: What was most memorable to you about your involvement with NCSY?

A: The Southern Region played a very prominent part in NCSY’s early days, and my friends and I were among the only observant members at the time. We tried to exude a lot of ruach and energy for everyone. It gave us a sense of responsibility to help inspire others with a tremendous desire for yiddishkeit.

Q: What did you do after getting semicha at the Telshe yeshiva in Cleveland from Rabbi Mordechai Gifter?

A: While studying, I married Rivkah Minkoff, a former national vice president of NCSY from Ulster County’s Ellenville Chapter, and we moved to North Miami Beach in 1974 so I could be the rabbi of the Young Israel of Greater Miami. I also worked with the NCSY chapter in the shul, a natural extension of my own early involvement. My wife and I began considering aliyah after a trip to Israel in 1982, and we decided to make the formal move soon after I was invited to be the rabbi of Moshav Matityahu, an English-speaking community with 11 observant families at the time. We’ve been there ever since. There are 100 families in the moshav now.

Q: What do you do in Israel today?

A: I am a faculty member at various seminaries including Darchei Binah, Chedvas, Michlala and Seminar Yerushalayim. I speak at conventions of the OU, Agudath Israel of America, Torah Umesorah and others, and give a weekly shiur at the NCSY-OU Israel Center in Jerusalem, which has a devoted following.

Q: Did you take anything with you from your NCSY days to your current career?

A: NCSY gave me two things that I didn’t get anywhere else. Firstly, I was able to appreciate early on that there are a lot of different approaches to yiddishkeit, and we need to respect and admire others’ paths that might not be the same as ours. Secondly, it showed me that people are responsible not just for their own yiddishkeit but, if they can, to help inspire and strengthen others.


Laurence Zeifman
Partner, Zeifmans, LLP, Chartered Accountants; President, OU Canada

Larry Zeifman

Larry Zeifman

Q: How did you become involved with NCSY?

A: After switching from yeshiva day school to public high school in 12th grade, I knew that I needed to get involved in something to maintain my connection with my heritage and the Jewish community. So, in 1977, I joined Toronto NCSY.

Q: What is your favorite ncsy memory?

A: Meeting my wife. We were at a youth lounge night at Shaarei Shomayim in Toronto. It turned out that we went to the same school but didn’t know each other. Four years later, we were married and now have six children, two of whom also met their spouses in NCSY.

Q: What is your biggest professional achievement to date?

A: Together with my partners, we’ve grown our accounting firm to be one of the top 20 accounting firms in Canada. Additionally, the firm is the Toronto member of Nexia International, a worldwide network of independent accounting and consulting firms that is one of the top ten firms in the world.

Q: What advice can you offer NCSYers?

A: As you get older and begin to think about your professional ambitions, it’s critical that you’re as diligent with your pursuit of your connection to your heritage as you are with building your career. Both, in strong measure, will pay dividends for the rest of your lives.

Q: Why do you continue to stay involved in NCSY and the OU?

A: I have a strong sense of personal obligation and loyalty as an NCSY alumnus. I recognize and understand firsthand the important work NCSY does. It’s a tremendous undertaking and key to the future success of the Jewish people, as today’s youth are tomorrow’s leaders. NCSY helps nurture those youths.


Cindy Darrison
Vice President for Institutional Advancement, Kleinman Family Holocaust Education Center

Cindy Darrison

Cindy Darrison

Q: What did you like best about NCSY?

A: I grew up in San Jose, CA, and in NCSY, I felt part of something greater than just West Coast NCSY ­— I felt a part of the larger international movement and family. We were all connected through Judaism and through learning, growth and observance. To this day, some of my closest friends are from NCSY.

Q: how did your career begin?

A: After graduating high school, I moved to New York to attend Touro College and graduate school. Today, I live in Brooklyn and I have accumulated decades of experience in labor relations, politics and strategic consulting. Now I’m bringing that experience to the Jewish non-profit world, where I currently serve as the vice president for institutional advancement at the Kleinman Family Holocaust Education Center. The center focuses on the Orthodox experience before, during and after the Holocaust.

Q: What has been your biggest professional achievement?

A: The fact that I’ve been able to help the Jewish community through my involvement in politics is my greatest achievement. Early in my political career, I helped educate candidates and elected officials about the needs of the Jewish community, including the hidden Jewish poor families struggling with yeshiva tuition, buying kosher food and housing large families. I brought Bill Clinton to Borough Park during his 1992 presidential campaign to speak to an organization that assisted people in need in the community. Years later, I arranged for then Senator Hillary Clinton to speak to an organization dedicated to helping young at-risk frum girls — Senator Clinton spoke about how her mother had overcome an at-risk childhood.

Q: What was your position in ncsy?

A: I was the West Coast regional president of NCSY. Perhaps that set the stage for my later career in politics.

Q: What advice would you give NCSYers hoping to pursue a similar career path?

A: Treasure the friends you make at NCSY, and stay in touch with them. They are the start of a network of people you will have in your lives for many years to come.  You never know what you’ll accomplish next as a result of knowing them.


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