Ten Minutes of Torah - NFTY

Ten Minutes of Torah - NFTY

by The NFTY North American Board 

As NFTY’s 75th year comes to a close, we find our Movement at a crucial moment in time. While we honor our rich history, we also look toward our vibrant future with much anticipation, joy, and excitement. This year it has been our privilege to serve as the leaders of NFTY, and we want to share and celebrate ten important headlines from NFTY’s 75th year. 

By Rabbi Allan Smith

Rabbi Allan Smith, affectionately known as “Smitty” by NFTYites, is a great figure in the history of NFTY. He created the NFTY Leadership Academy at Kutz Camp in 1972, expanded the number of URJ Camps during his tenure, raised millions of dollars for the purchase of new camps and the improvement of others, and overall expanded the population capacity of URJ camps by 300%. Smitty is known for his total commitment to young people, and his insistence that all people, especially young people, be treated with dignity and respect.

By Greg Kellner

I can’t remember in great detail my time as a NFTYite or back 16 years ago when I was a camper at Eisner, but the moments I do remember are the ones that shaped who I am today and how I approach my life’s work: raising the next generation of Jewish youth.

By Blaire Weinberg

Our tradition tells us in Psalm 149, “Sing unto God a new song.” For 75 years, NFTY teenagers have shaped, written, and led songs that have allowed Reform Jewish teens to connect with Judaism in an entirely new way. NFTY musicians sit at the epicenter of Jewish music, experimenting with new takes on traditional songs and writing music that serves as the musical scores of Reform Jewish life. Through NFTY, more than 100,000 teenagers have connected with Judaism in innovative and meaningful ways, continuously pushing the boundaries of Jewish music. Since 1939, NFTY has consistently redefined the call to action found in Psalm 149.

By Amy Bebchick

I was never a member of the NFTY North American Board or Regional Board. I attended some NEFTY (now NFTY-NE) regional events, but I can’t remember which ones or where. I didn’t meet my husband at a NFTY event, and my closest friends are not from my NFTY years. But my local Temple Youth Group, NFTY weekends, NFTY in Israel trip, and URJ Kutz Camp were transformational experiences for me that undoubtedly shaped the person that I am today.

by Shelley Schweitzer

May the Source of strength,
Who blessed the ones before us,
Help us find the courage to make our lives a blessing,
And let us say: Amen.

The year was 1999 and the NFTY-Northeast Lakes (NFTY-NEL) community learned that there were big changes ahead. Long-time regional advisors Terry Pollack and Neil Poch would be retiring at the end of the calendar year. As the community’s members began to process that news, they learned, too, that a member of their NFTY family was ill – Terry’s wife Maxine had cancer. Teens from around the region wanted to do something, and youth workers were looking for ways to help the NFTY-NELers respond in a Jewish way.

by Sarah Ruben

I am a third-generation NFTYite and URJ camper, so it was a given that once I was old enough, I, too, would participate in NFTY, the Reform Jewish youth movement. When the time came for my first regional event, however, despite my familiarity with NFTY and my excitement at finally being a part of it, I was shy and nervous.

Until the dance session. When it was announced, I perked up, excited by the idea of doing something I’d been doing since childhood.

By Josh Nelson

I could see her sitting against the wall. She was different from the other kids, withdrawn and separated from the group. My grandmother would have called her “a bit of an odd duck.” She was just… other.

The kids leapt into the air, singing at the top of their lungs. “Ivdu et haShem b’simcha…” (Worship God with gladness) Arms intertwined, they called out with joy, lost in the extraordinary moment that is a Friday evening song session.

By Jeremy Gimbel

That is how a leader begins the Birkat HaMazon, the blessing recited after a meal. When I think about the process that led to the publication of Birkon Mikdash M'at: NFTY's Bencher, this proclamation resonates like the beautiful walls of sound created by NFTYites and campers as they sing this blessing.

by Rachel Mersky Woda

Growing up in a Reform Jewish household meant that you learned at an early age the value of tikkun olam, repairing the world. In our home, we were surrounded by opportunities for activism, and the one that occupied us for years was the plight of the Jews in  Russia.

In the early 1980s, those of us preparing to become b’nai mitzvah were paired with a “twin,” a Russian refusenik (one who was refused a visa to exit the USSR) who didn’t have the opportunity to achieve this milestone. It was up to us to prepare for this important day with our twins standing on our shoulders so we could enter the Jewish community as young adults in their honor as well.