Nominated and written by Rabbi Moshe Benovitz
My early involvement with NCSY was motivated by the usual combination of social factors and some vague appreciation for religious inspiration. Along the way I encountered a legion of highly dedicated young torah scholars who made a less anticipated impact on me.
In my high school years, many Shabbatons were staffed by some of the best and brightest from YU and Stern. These included many “typical” NCSY advisors and kiruv workers. They were charismatic and blessed with infectious enthusiasm. They could captivate a room and single-handedly transform teenage apathy into something electric. Yet, this protoytpe did not preclude the involvement of advisors who were highly knowledgable and exceptionally dedicated to their learning. In later years I would see these advisors as absolute pillars of the YU Beis Medrash community.
On one level, I gained from them an extraordinary knowledge base. The content level of their sessions was extraordinary. There seemed to be no question that they couldn’t answer with stimulating and satisfying sources. Beyond that, their personal example was invaluable. They created a direct link between high level learning and our group of teens. They demonstrated, without equivocation, that deep commitment to Torah study could thrive harmoniously with concern and devotion to the klal.
For me, Rabbi Bini Blau was first and foremost amongst these advisors. (There were surely others in this category. Rabbi Yitz Twersky, Rabbi Steven Prebor, Rabbi Marc Penner and Rabbi Blau’s younger brothers come to mind.) I remember (from 26 years ago!!) a session he gave on daily karbonos. This was not regular NCSY educational fare. But he made it interesting and relevant. In doing so, he opened a window into a world that was exciting and infinitely deep, and that I definitely wanted to learn more about.
Rabbi Binyamin Blau is the current rabbi at Green Road Synagogue in Beachwood, Ohio.