Nominated and written by Sonny Kugelman, NCSYer
On my first shabbaton as a 9th grader, I didn’t know anything about NCSY and only knew a handful of people. I was awkward, self-conscious and shy and didn’t understand what was flying, until a crazy advisor swooped in and took me under her wing. She asked me questions, she wanted to know all about who I was as a person; who I was as a Jew. She filled me in on everything. She made sure I was having fun. But most of all, she recognized the potential in a quiet kid who she easily could have side-stepped.
That Shabbos with Rachel was the first day of the rest of my life. I started learning with her, I started talking to her, and I began to make more friends because I was more confident. She pushed me to test my own limits, to see what I could achieve, to do more for others. She encouraged me when I succeeded, and never gave up on me when I failed. Above all, Rachel listens and cares. Since that first Shabbaton four years ago, I can safely say that we have not gone a week without speaking because it is so important to her to know what’s going on and to be able to give guidance when needed. I am now a senior on Regional and National Boards in NCSY, and it’s all because Rachel saw in me what others may not have. Rachel saw that I was looking for a way to break out of my shell, a way to grow and be inspired, and all I needed was a push and someone to believe in me. I thank Hashem every day that she did because I can now inspire and see potential in others, just as she did for me. There are so many countless kids whose lives have been changed solely by the fact that Rachel is invested in them; that Rachel is a person who lives and breathes for her NCSYers. As I look back on my time in NCSY, I couldn’t have asked for a better role model to inspire me!