In honor of the 20th anniversary of The Anne Samson Jerusalem Journey, known as TJJ, NCSY is establishing the TJJ Founders Scholarship in honor of Rabbi Barry Goldfischer to raise $20,000 to provide a full scholarship for one TJJ participant for the next 5 years.
[Click here to donate to the scholarship fund.]
“This scholarship is really crucial and meaningful because TJJ is subsidized at half the price for those who can’t afford to pay for a summer program,” said David Cutler, director of NCSY Summer. “Rabbi Goldfischer created TJJ and really connects with these teens, so it’s fitting that the scholarship is named in his honor. He exemplifies leadership and tolerance, and for a rabbi to reach these kids and inspire them year after year, it’s a personal sacrifice, and a testament to what he believes in.”
As the founding director of TJJ, Rabbi Goldfischer has worked on the program every year since its inception in 1998. Over the last two decades, TJJ has touched more than 4,000 lives and counting, largely thanks to Rabbi Goldfischer. It’s his exceptionally warm and engaging personality that draws people in, including teenagers, advisors, staff members and rabbis alike.
“Barry’s strength is his sense of humor along with his Torah,” said Rabbi Steven Burg, former international director of NCSY and current CEO of Aish HaTorah, who directed TJJ for the first few years with Rabbi Goldfischer. “There is nobody funnier or more charismatic than Barry, but at the same time, he’s also a serious talmid chacham with lots of Torah to share.”
For Rabbi Goldfischer, TJJ is a true labor of love. Every summer brings a new group of teens thirsting for Torah knowledge, growth, fun and inspiration, and he is happy to provide it all. A personal highlight of each summer is a special visit to the Kotel.
“TJJ has a kumsitz by the Kotel on the last night of the trip,” he said. “Teens talk about the way they’re going to infuse their life with Jewish practice, and it’s incredible.”
But the most rewarding part of his job isn’t even part of the trip – it’s seeing how the TJJers grow in their Judaism afterwards, and how they slowly integrate what they learned on TJJ into their lives back home.
“It’s amazing that 30 to 40 percent of TJJ alumni decide to attend seminaries and yeshivas in Israel after high school,” said Rabbi Goldfischer, who works at a post-high school seminary in Israel called Machon Maayan that caters to TJJ graduates. “I’m so proud of the kids who choose a college campus based on Jewish life there, when they play active roles at Hillel and go on to become leaders in the Jewish community. The biggest nachas for me is when TJJ graduates come back to be advisors, because they are the greatest examples for the teens.”
One of those examples is Julia Siegel. After meeting Rabbi Goldfischer on TJJ in 2008, she later attended Machon Maayan, and decided to dedicate her career to Jewish nonprofit work; she staffed TJJ for three summers and worked for Southern NCSY for seven years.
“I have been inspired by Rabbi Goldfischer’s energy and passion for Judaism, along with his ability to bring stories from our Jewish narrative to life,” she said. “He cares deeply about each individual he interacts with, and has been a great resource for me during my TJJ staffing years and beyond.”
Others are inspired Rabbi Goldfischer’s unique ability to form meaningful connections with everyone he encounters.
“Not only does Rabbi Goldfischer possess the intellectual requisites of wisdom, insight, and knowledge, but he also has a mastery of ‘emotional intelligence,’ and thus possesses the innate ability to connect with people on a deep and genuine interpersonal level,” said Jonathan Teitelbaum, who worked with him as an advisor on TJJ Ambassadors from 2010-2012. “Everybody with whom he interacts is immediately taken in by his warmth, sensitivity, and humor. Through this gift of being the quintessential ‘people person,’ Rabbi G has connected with people of all ages and backgrounds and has impacted the lives of so many. To this day, I continue to employ the educational, social, and leadership skills and tactics that I learned from him in all of my professional and personal endeavors.
This new scholarship will enable even more public school teens to go on TJJ, as the program continues to strive for new heights. “For every one of the kids on TJJ, there are hundreds more who could benefit from the same program,” said Rabbi Moshe Benovitz, managing director of NCSY.
Rabbi Goldfischer added: “We’d like to significantly expand TJJ by opening up many more buses, and partnering with NCSY to move into the JSU [Jewish Student Union] world.”
If anybody can do that, it’s certainly him.
“Barry dedicates his heart and soul to TJJ,” said Yossi Stechler, whose generous support and fundraising efforts helped TJJ gain traction in its early years. “When he teaches and speaks to the kids, his deep love for Israel comes across. He’s always thinking about how to improve TJJ and get the best advisors, and he continues to inspire generations of young people year after year.”
To donate to the scholarship fund, click here.