On Wednesday night, more than 2,500 Jewish teenagers from hundreds of communities in North America gathered at the Latrun Armored Corps Museum near Jerusalem for the annual National Conference of Synagogue Youth Israel summer mega-event. Affiliated with the Orthodox Union, NCSY is the largest Jewish youth movement in the Diaspora.

Held under the stars, the event featured a massive barbecue, concert and talk from incoming Jewish Agency chairman Isaac Herzog. The NCSY participants are high-school students spending their summer vacation in Israel on various programs led by the organization.

“The energy and enthusiasm of these young people was contagious,” said Orthodox Union executive vice president Allen Fagin. “It was wonderful to see them all come together—from all parts of the world and from many different religious backgrounds—to celebrate their summer together, sharing in a love of Torah and Israel.”

NCSY offers a number of tracks on their Israel programs, giving teens an opportunity to tour the country, participate in Israeli summer camps and conduct volunteer work with nonprofit organizations.

The goal for all is to instill a spirit of Zionism in youth, while teaching about their Jewish heritage and history.

In addition to the festivities, the event highlighted the 20th anniversary of the Anne Samson Jerusalem Journey, NCSY’s premier touring program for public-school students.

Herzog remarked to the group: “I’ve walked around and have talked to many here tonight from hundreds of communities throughout North America, who have arrived excited and enthusiastic to visit Israel. There is no greater Zionism than this.”

He added that “next week, I will begin my role as the director of the Jewish Agency, and I look forward to partnering with the O.U. … Organizations such as the O.U. are shining examples of how to establish connections between world Jewry and Diaspora Jews in Israel.”