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
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
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 Camps 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 years 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
inspiring group, said Rabbi Bradley Solmsen, URJs North American
Director of Youth Engagement. I expect we will see tremendous
leadership from them in
the coming year, especially around the URJs 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,
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 NFTYs 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
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 NFTYs 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 Centers LTaken Social Justice Seminar in
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 NFTYs Mid-Atlantic Region (MAR) and a proud
alumna of the URJ
Kutz Camps Regional Board Major, Mitzvah Corps at Kutz, and NFTY in
Israels Adventure program. This spring, she is serving as an intern
Religious Action Center in Washington D.C. Olivia participated in
the URJ Biennial in 2013, and in the Jewish Culture Club in Washington
stated, Social action is more than just establishing how NFTY
should focus its tikkun olam efforts, its 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 NFTYs 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
Centers LTaken Social Justice Seminar, and NFTY in Israels LDor VDor trip. Also interested in shaking things up, Max stated, I want
to promote risk-taking and straying away from norms Lets 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 NFTYs Southern Area
Region (SAR) and an
alumna of the URJ Kutz Camp and NFTYs Camp Jenny. She also
participates in the Atlanta Jewish Teen Foundation, which is a major
contributor to URJ Jacobs
Camps Dream Street Program, and the Jewish Student Union in
Atlanta. Talia wants to find ways to engage members beyond meetings 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 NFTYs 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
From left to right: Debbie Rabinovich, Scott Rubenstein, Olivia Kessler, Max Spivak, Talia Capozzoli, and Jacob Maier
For 75 years, NFTYin congregations, in 19 geographic regions, and
throughout North Americahas offered thousands of young people the
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 Judaisms 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.