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NFTY Convention (#NC15) means many things to many people. One of the key elements of every convention is Asefa, NFTY’s North American board meeting. Close to 200 teens participated in Asefa while their peers were engaged in off-site programming. Before I explain about Asefa, I want to share what the NFTY board members had to give up to participate.
Their peers choose from one of 25 exciting trip experiences including the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, Ebenezer Baptist Church, and the Atlanta BeltLine, a comprehensive transportation and economic development effort. These are just three of places teens visited, so the question remains, why did these teens forgo these incredible experiences? The answer is simple, the rewards gained from participating in Asefa are that much greater.
We often pontificate on how NFTY teaches leadership. When you begin to use the word “leadership” liberally, the meaning can get diluted over time, so here is an example of what we mean: The NFTY North American board realized NFTY needed a mission statement to guide their work, so during Asefa they got down to business. How many of us have had to do the same thing at work or for the causes we volunteer for?
It was fascinating to witness how the NFTY North American Board and regional boards attacked such an enormous and complicated task. As a precursor to drafting the new mission statement, which reads: “As a teen-powered movement, NFTY builds strong, welcoming communities that inspire and engage our peers. Together, we pursue youth empowerment, personal growth, tikkun olam, and deep connections rooted in Reform Judaism.” The teens conducted a listening campaign and held several conversations with various board members and stakeholders across North America.
The teen leaders proceeded to share their new statement at Asefa. They didn’t just read it or share it as a memo and solicit feedback; they creatively shared it as if it were a piece of Talmud text. They attached manila envelopes around the proposed statement and asked each board member to submit their own commentary on how they can improve upon their statement. They modeled the skills and behaviors any good management consultant would have; they collected and analyzed information, and shared their findings and recommendations with others to test and refine their recommendations. They created a process which built buy-in and consensus. Our teen Regional Board and North American Board members are being provided the tools they will use in their life, wherever their journey takes them.
The teen leaders are learning how essential it is to have an overarching guiding principal to inform their work. They understand that for a mission statement to be effective, it has to be an inclusive process that receives the buy-in from various stakeholders. They learned they had to share complex information in a constructive way that garners feedback from a wider audience. The kicker? They are also being taught Torah, Avodah and G’milut Chasidim. This is why over 200 teens willingly chose to be part of Asefa. Yes it was cool, yes it was exciting, but in reality, they knew their time was more valuably spent at NFTY’s Asefa.
Please let us know what you think of the working version of the NFTY mission statement.