Headlines from NFTY’s 75th Year

January 13, 2015
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.  1. Engaging teens from 75 new congregations The NFTY General Board, comprised of more than 130 teen leaders from throughout North America, has committed to engaging teens from 75 URJ-affiliated congregations that are not currently involved in NFTY regional events. We are hard at work on this initiative, which launched in June 2014. To date, we already have 40 new congregations. 2. Opening NFTY’s leadership training event, Mechina, to all NFTY leaders This year we opened Mechina—held every summer at URJ Kutz Camp—to any teen with a leadership position in their region. Historically, only members of the elected Regional Board were eligible to attend this important event. Leadership development was offered to head songleaders, regional cabinet members, and event coordinators. This new paradigm was in sync with the guiding mantra for Mechina: Elevating Teen Leadership in Reform Jewish Life. 3. Expanding Nashir, NFTYs teen songleading seminars From Dan Nichols and Alan Goodis, to Eagle Eye Cherry and John Denver, we love our cherished NFTY songs. In the past two years, NFTY’s Nashir Teen Songleading Seminars have expanded to locations throughout North America. Hosted by URJ congregations and led by professional musicians, these weekends have allowed us to bring the NFTY music experience, and high-level songleader training, to more teens everywhere. The expansion of Nashir, made possible through a grant from Dr. Arthur and Marilyn Lieber, is a remarkable example of success in specialized teen programs. 4. Collaborating with other Jewish youth movements For the first time in our history, NFTY Convention will bring together more Jewish teens than ever before. Over 3,000 participants from NFTY and BBYO will come together during their International Conventions for a day of learning and networking. Immediately prior to the Convention, a group of NFTYites will collaborate with youth movement teens from BBYO, USY (United Synagogue Youth), NCSY (National Council of Synagogue Youth), and Young Judaea. By convening this group that represents a cross-section of the Jewish landscape, teens will be equipped with the skills to take a critical look at membership, inclusive religious practice, and other elements that will help our Movements create vibrant Jewish futures. 5. The NFTY North American Board visits all 19 regions From Toronto to Phoenix, The North American Board keeps a pulse on all NFTY developments unfolding throughout the Movement. Traditionally, this has been done primarily through regular communication with each regional board. This year, a North American board member will visit each of the 19 regions, connecting us with thousands of teens involved with regional programming! In an era where so much of our interactions are happening on Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook, being together in person is still the most influential way to interact with NFTYites, and we are fortunate to be present in each of these incredible communities. 6. NFTY Convention offers tracks for specialized programming NFTY Convention 2015 will offer three specialized tracks designed for focused learning in three areas: Madrichim/Teaching Assistants, Songleading, and Social Justice. These tracks will provide meaningful and intentional programming to prepare teens to bring the skills they learn back to their home communities. Unlike past Conventions, the opportunity for participants to choose these targeted experiences will allow them to meet other teens with similar interests, and will also help them hone skills and interests that will leave a lasting imprint on their communities. 7. Event registration inclusive of all gender identities When registering for NFTY Convention 2015, teens had the opportunity to choose between “male,” female,” and “neither of these options describe me.” By allowing NFTYites to choose a gender identity that best represents them, we’re building an authentic culture of inclusion without marginalizing our peers who neither identify with being “male” or “female.” Multiple gender options encourages the welcoming community we strive to create and lead, and allows participants to be their most genuine self when immersed in NFTY. 8. Expanded NFTY representation to the Netzer Conference It is extremely powerful to be connected to NFTY, as well as the global progressive Jewish youth movement, Netzer Olami (the youth movement of the World Union for Progressive Judaism). Following a discussion that began with a group of teens at URJ Kutz Camp this past summer, NFTY representatives across North America examined our relationship with global progressive Judaism and came to understand the importance of being part of something even larger than NFTY. In January, for the first time, two teens who are not part of the North American Board will travel with the NFTY president to Jerusalem, to Netzer Veida Olamit, the board meeting for leaders from each branch of Netzer. 9. Reconnecting with alumni A great part about being involved in NFTY is the myriad of opportunities to stay connected post-high school. This year, there are many opportunities for NFTY alumni to staff NFTY events, including NFTY Convention and regional events. This past Hanukkah, we introduced a great way for alumni to celebrate NFTY’s 75th birthday through Reignite the Spark, an initiative that invited NFTY alumni to host and participate in Hanukkah celebrations in communities around the country. NFTY may begin in high school, but it doesn’t end there. The connections we make and the family we form last a lifetime. 10. NFTY mobilizes action for social justice initiatives As a Movement, NFTY takes stances on issues with the intent of educating teens and spreading awareness. With any initiative, it is important to have tangible aspects that can be influential in more than an educational way. This year, NFTY is taking action on three key social justice issues: gun violence prevention, gender and sexuality equality, and the inclusion of people of all abilities. With informative North American campaigns and interactive theme-based workshops at the NFTY Convention in February, we are continuing to forge the path towards a more evolved and impactful youth movement. The NFTY North American Board is the six-person executive body of NFTY at the North American level. These leaders are elected each year in February and serve terms beginning and ending in June when they are installed in front of more than 100 peer leaders at the URJ Kutz Camp.

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