When I was growing up, I never met any rabbis other than my congregation’s rabbi. Dr. Renov (we never called him ‘rabbi’) was a scholar. Our congregation, Temple Judea, was small and he served there part-time. Dr. Renov also taught college and perhaps the academic arena was his first love. While he was a nice man, Dr. Renov did not exactly have a way with children or teens. He was formal and reserved. Our confirmation class was made up of three boys. On Sunday mornings, we would meet with Dr. Renov in his small overheated office. I don’t remember what we studied in his class, but I do remember the musty smell of the room, the hiss of the radiator, and struggling to stay awake.
April 15, 2014
By Sophie Foxman The concept of tikkun olam (repairing the world) was introduced into Judaism in the early rabbinic period. It was introduced to me — and has shaped my life in astonishing ways since then — when I entered NFTY. Growing up, I idealistically believed I could do anything and help everyone, a concept understood by my friends, counselors, and others at URJ Camp George, where I spent my summers. That’s where the seeds of my desire to be part of something bigger than myself initially were planted.
April 8, 2014
NFTY in the 1960s was remarkably like NFTY today. Except in those areas where it was different. It was the same because, in most ways, kids are the same. Adolescence is a tumultuous time when kids are suddenly vulnerable and suddenly sexual. They are desperate to know who cares about them. They want to find a place where they belong. They love their parents, but also can’t stand the sight of their parents. They care too much about clothes and body image. They are caught up in a need to fit in, but also a need to rebel.
February 27, 2014
Earlier this winter, my synagogue played host to NFTY-NAR’s Winter Kallah. Because we’re of the “go big or go home” belief, our cantor arranged for Jewish musician Dan Nichols to be our artist-in-residence the same weekend. Ever a consummate mensch, Dan participated the entire weekend in activities with NFTY, the religious school, and programs for our adult congregants. Beginning Thursday evening, Dan rehearsed with our adult, teen, and youth choirs for our Friday night service. On Friday evening just before Shabbat, more than 130 teens and their NFTY-NAR advisors started to arrive by car, by minivan, and by bus. As months of tireless and careful planning came into play, the weekend began to take on a life of its own. There are not enough words to express the gratitude to these dedicated people who do so much for our youth beyond planning such kallot. The weekend was, in a word, awesome. It began Friday night, with Dan leading our congregation in a musical Shabbat service. I have been going through some soul-searching recently, and Dan’s music, paired with the NFTYites’ reactions to it, gave me reason to take a step back and feel as though I might have found some of what I’d been looking for.
February 4, 2014
By Susan Klau To my family, one of the most important aspects of Reform Judaism is community. My Jewish journey through adolescence was much different than my parents'. My dad, born in New York and raised in Puerto Rico, experienced a limited and informal Jewish education. Puerto Rico’s Temple Youth Groups are associated with NFTY-NAR (the New York Area Region) and my dad did one year of NFTY his sophomore year of high school. As he tells it, his NFTY experience consisted of sitting in a circle with some of his classmates, eating pizza, talking about Jewish 'hot' topics, and singing To Everything There Is a Season. My mother became a Jew by choice after meeting my dad, and one of the things that she loved so much about Judaism was the friendship network that came with the religion. When I was born, my parents knew that they wanted Judaism to be an important part of my identity.