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October 1, 2014 | 7th Tishrei 5775

Six Jewish Teens to Watch: North American Reform Jewish Youth Movement Elects New Board

March 20, 2014, New York, NY --- NFTY, the Reform youth movement, has elected an extraordinary team of leaders for its 75th anniversary year. The new NFTY North American Board for 2014-2015/5774-5775 will be installed during the next NFTY general board meeting in June at URJ Kutz Camp in Warwick, NY.

NFTY North American Board positions generally are held by recent high school graduates. For the first time in more than 15 years, a high school senior will serve on the board. This board also includes two new positions: Communications Vice President and Membership Vice President, which were a joint position for the last 12 years.

The NFTY Board works to maintain and advance Reform Judaism from generation to generation by representing the voice of teens within the Reform Movement. Serving on the NFTY North American Board is considered a tremendous honor that comes with many responsibilities and duties, including mentoring teens at URJ Kutz Camp’s leadership academy during the summer, traveling to NFTY regions throughout the year to train regional leaders, and planning NFTY convention, a bi-annual gathering of Reform teens from throughout North America. This year’s NFTY Board members will focus on building knowledge and awareness of Gender and Sexuality Identities, and working with their peers to discover and explore their own beliefs and spirituality through the Wrestling with God study theme.

“Those elected to the NFTY North American Board are some of the best and brightest Jewish teens in their own communities and together form a dynamic and inspiring group,” said Rabbi Bradley Solmsen, URJ’s North American Director of Youth Engagement. “I expect we will see tremendous leadership from them in the coming year, especially around the URJ’s Campaign for Youth Engagement which will open NFTY to any teen who wants to participate, and will put in motion a year-round integration of all of the URJ's youth work, including camps, NFTY, Israel, and Mitzvah Corps.”

The newly-elected NFTY Board members are:

Debbie Rabinovich of Congregation Beth El in Charlotte, NC , is President-elect. Taking the helm from Andrew Keene, Debbie will follow a line of illustrious NFTY leaders. Debbie currently is President of NFTY’s Southern Area Region (SAR). She joined her Temple Youth Group in 8th grade, has been a volunteer on several committees, and was a NFTY delegate to the URJ Biennial in 2013. She also served NFTY-SAR last year as the Social Action Vice President and is an alumna of URJ Kutz Camp. Not afraid to challenge the status quo, Debbie stated, “We won't be able to achieve growth without shifting aspects of the culture and identity of our Movement.”

Scott Rubenstein of Temple Chai in Phoenix, Arizona, is Programming Vice President-elect. Scott currently is Religious and Cultural Vice President of NFTY’s Southwest Region (SW) and also has served on the Temple Youth Group board of Temple Chai, the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Phoenix Grants Committee and the Youth Philanthropy Board. He is a two-time alumnus of URJ Kutz Camp. Scott also has participated in the Religious Action Center’s L’Taken Social Justice Seminar in Washington, DC, the Jewish Student Union in Arizona, and attended Camp Hess Kramer. “The URJ as a whole is striving to engage more and more teens and is taking risks in order to do so,” said Scott. “We as a NFTY community must be on board and work together on this goal as well. This is an enormous task that is already underway and we will not finish it by the end of the coming NFTY year. However, we must work as hard as we can to leave NFTY in a better place than we found it and not stray from the ultimate goal of engagement.”

Olivia Kessler of Temple Micah in Washington, DC , is Social Action Vice President-elect. Olivia currently is Social Action Vice President of NFTY’s Mid-Atlantic Region (MAR) and a proud alumna of the URJ Kutz Camp’s Regional Board Major, Mitzvah Corps at Kutz, and NFTY in Israel’s Adventure program. This spring, she is serving as an intern with the Religious Action Center in Washington D.C. Olivia participated in the URJ Biennial in 2013, and in the Jewish Culture Club in Washington D.C. Olivia stated, “Social action is more than just establishing how NFTY should focus its tikkun olam efforts, it’s about equipping all NFTYites, no matter their position, involvement, or ability, with the tools they need to pursue justice.”

Max Spivak of Temple Beth Shir Shalom in Santa Monica, California , is Religious and Cultural Vice President-elect. Max currently is Religious and Cultural Vice President of NFTY’s Southern California Region (SoCal). He is an alumnus of many NFTY/URJ programs including Binah: NFTY Study Institute at Hebrew Union College, the URJ Biennial in 2013, the Religious Action Center’s L’Taken Social Justice Seminar, and NFTY in Israel’s L’Dor V’Dor trip. Also interested in shaking things up, Max stated, “I want to promote risk-taking and straying away from norms… Let’s work more to find new methods of presenting Divrei Torah, new means of finding spirituality and significance within services, while still holding true to beloved NFTY traditions.”

Talia Capozzoli of Congregation Dor Tamid in Atlanta, Georgia , is Membership Vice President-elect. Talia currently is the Membership and Communications Vice President of NFTY’s Southern Area Region (SAR) and an alumna of the URJ Kutz Camp and NFTY’s Camp Jenny. She also participates in the Atlanta Jewish Teen Foundation, which is a major contributor to URJ Jacobs Camp’s Dream Street Program, and the Jewish Student Union in Atlanta. Talia wants to find ways to engage members beyond meetings and conventions, and create ways for NFTY to be present in their daily lives.

Jacob Maier of Central Reform Congregation in St. Louis, Missouri , is Communications Vice President-elect. Jacobs currently is President of the Central Reform Temple Youth (CRFTY), a post he has held for the last two years. He is an alumnus of URJ Kutz Camp and currently serves as the Regional Kutz Representative to NFTY’s Missouri Valley Region (MV). Jacob also is a lifetime member of Hadassah. Jacob says he is “passionate about making change for NFTYites and really listening to what they have to say.”

2014-15 NFTY North American Board

From left to right: Debbie Rabinovich, Scott Rubenstein, Olivia Kessler,
Max Spivak, Talia Capozzoli, and Jacob Maier
About NFTY

For 75 years, NFTY—in congregations, in 19 geographic regions, and throughout North America—has offered thousands of young people the opportunity to explore and live Reform Judaism. NFTYites actively create their Jewish identity in consonance with the goals and values of Reform Judaism. In the coming year, NFTY will launch NFTY6, which will expand programming to 6th graders. Learn more at nfty.org.

In honor of NFTY's 75th year, the URJ will reconnect with 75,000 alumni from all its youth programs during the coming year, reengaging adults as mentors, advocates, and supporters of our young people. Alumni and friends are invited to join the network and share their memories for the NFTY archives.

The Union for Reform Judaism’s Campaign for Youth Engagement marshals the resources of the URJ, as well as congregations and institutions of the Reform Movement and beyond to engage in meaningful ways a majority of Reform Jewish youth in Jewish life. As core components of the campaign, URJ Youth Programs – NFTY, Camping, Israel Programs and Mitzvah Corps – bring inspiring experiences to thousands of young people each year.

For more information or to interview any of the teens elected to NFTY Board, contact Annette Powers.

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