Avi and Becky Katz, long-time Jewish communal leaders, have established a multi-year, multi-million-dollar national initiative with NCSY, the flagship youth movement of the Orthodox Union (OU), to support Jewish identity programs for public school teenagers. Their $3-million gift will focus on the OU’s national Jewish Student Union (JSU) program and will be called the Katz Family Initiative Driving Impact in JSU.

JSU is NCSY’s network of extracurricular Jewish “clubs” that take place in public high schools across the USA and Canada. Through its 300+ clubs in 21 US states, the program’s 100 staffers bring Jewish life and learning to more than 12,000 teens annually. JSU offers a steppingstone for teens looking to connect with their religious and spiritual identity through strong Jewish role models, experiential Jewish learning, and community.

The Katz Family Initiative includes the creation of a new position of National Director of JSU, which will be held by Devora Simon, currently the Silicon Valley NCSY/JSU Director. In addition, the Katz Initiative will fund four distinct new programmatic strategies to increase the impact of JSU by improving the retention of students and their transition to Jewish programs beyond JSU club meetings.

The Katz Family Initiative is expected to transform what JSU can do for the Jewish People by building meaningful relationships with each teen as well as developing the next generation of Jewish leaders. Towards that end, The Katz Family Initiative will fund a JSU Presidents’ Conference designed to empower select students to drive more engagement and commitment in their own JSU clubs.