A few weeks ago, I had the joy of being at the "NFTY-GER Ball," one of the many NFTY events being run by Reform teen leaders across North America. A room full of teens gathered at Temple Sholom in Scotch Plains, NJ to dance, laugh, get to know one another, and celebrate Jewish life.
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During the COVID pandemic in southern California, we saw our Jewish communities weaken. From our camp spaces disappearing to our teen youth groups (TYG) struggling, many of us stopped programming and decreased in membership, while a few of us thrived the best way we knew how - by joining forces. For us, as youth directors, advisors, and educators, we knew this was the way to keep teens inspired and engaged with one another.
Almost exactly six years ago, I ran for NFTY-TOR regional president. I lost. And yet when I look back at my election materials in a bout of nostalgia, I stand by absolutely everything I said, now having seen how much the ideas I mentioned still influence me and the way I think about leadership, both personally and as an organizer working with NFTY and Reform Jewish teen leadership.
NFTY has been very busy the past few months and will soon install a new North American board.
Aaron Wiener, youth director at Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills, brought together 10 congregations and youth groups from California for an in-person Temple Youth Group Leadership Training Retreat and it was a huge success.
How can centering human experience help build communities of belonging, as well as a Shabbat community?
A San Quentin inmate with a swastika tattooed on his hand greeted us as we stepped off the bus. The year was 1975, and we were a group of 30 counselors in training from Camp Swig (now Camp Newman).
Through the DREAM ISRAEL program, students can access various levels of grant funding toward their semester at URJ Heller High while learning about the act of tzedakah by fundraising for approved philanthropic causes in Israel.
On March 7, the NFTY General Board met to participate in our annual mid-term Asefah to elect our next NFTY North American Board and celebrate all of our successes in a year full of unprecedented challenges.
The weekend was extraordinary. Teens shared that it was the best virtual experience they had this year - that it felt as close as it could get to an in-person experience. Many said that they felt a new connection to NFTY.