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NFTY-PAR: To be an Individual

By Gadi Paskoff, NFTY-PAR Western Vice-President

NFTY-PAR: To Be an IndividualFall Kallah in PAR is known for its superb programming. The schedule is program-packed and they are usually the best of the year, and the programs that PARites connect to the most. This year, however, we had one program that really stood out to the region. NFTY has become somewhat of a blanket for many participants. NFTY is a safe environment where everyone feels comfortable and it allows us to escape problems from home. Having a place like this where a person can go to participate, is something very special that most teenagers do not have in their lives. There is one problem, however, with NFTY and its secure environment. Instead of teenagers using what they learn and building self confidence at these events and bringing it to their schools, participants build confidence during the weekend and then return to old habits at their home. Sometimes, NFTY stresses too much on the whole group rather than the individual.

This year at Fall Kallah, we had had a program that addressed individuality. In the beginning of the program, the program leaders read “To Be A NFTYite” by Chad Rochkind, and then ripped up the paper. The region then separated into mini groups. Questions were asked that in the beginning were light and maybe even funny, and then moved towards more serious and personal questions. Each person answered the question and wrote it on a piece of paper and put it in the middle of the circle. Each person picked someone else’s message and read it out loud to the small group. We then had to guess who wrote each one. Everyone was then blind-folded and paired with a random person from the region. Without knowing who this person was we grabbed their hand. The program leaders read statements about individuality and we had to snap if we agreed or squeeze the hand of the other person if we really agreed. If we did not agree we did not do anything. A few of the statements included, I think I am beautiful, I never lie to my friends, I am scared of death. It was very scary sharing deep feelings with a random person.

The last question of the program was, I really want to know whose hand I am holding, so of course everyone strongly agreed. We took off our blindfolds and saw the person who we had shared some of our most intimate feelings with. I was personally paired with a new member, someone who I had never talked to before yet I shared things that my closest friends did not even know. The last part of the program was to stare into our partner’s eyes for an extended amount of time. We all make eye contact, but we never really look into the person. It was a little awkward in the beginning, however, one of the most meaningful experiences I have ever had. There was no talking, however, I felt like I knew this person just from looking into their eyes. You were really able to look at the individual.

To conclude the program, members of the region stood up and explained what it is like to be an individual. Instead of reading “To Be A NFTYite” at Havdalah, we read To Be An Individual. This program was one of the most meaningful programs I have ever been a part of. The region responded very well to the program and took a lot away from it. I realized that NFTY is not the only place where I can be secure; I can bring it back to my school. Finally, I do not need to rely on the group to be comfortable, individuality is so special and unique that we need to celebrate it, not hide it in large groups.  I was able to connect with members I normally would not have. It was a truly special ending to a truly special weekend.

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By NFTY-PAR, Fall Kallah 2011

To be an individual
To be comfortable in your own mind and body no matter what your mind thinks or what your body looks like
To touch other people while still maintaining your sense of self
To be you no matter who’s looking

To be an individual
To know it’s okay to act crazy
To look into the eyes of every being and see the beauty in them
To understand you need love, too

To be an individual
To accept life and anything that happens
To be proud of yourself and your accomplishments
To know that flaws make you who you are

To be an individual
To do what makes you come alive every chance you get
To not look down upon someone if you wouldn’t want to be looked down upon
To do what you want to do with whomever you want to do it with

To be an individual
To tell each person you meet why they’re special
To know that you are amazing
To never doubt yourself

To be an individual
To doubt yourself
To live life to the fullest
To not let people tell you what you should and shouldn’t do

To be an individual
To share yourself with the world
To wish you were different but love who you are
To surround yourself with people who love you for you

To be an individual
To not conform
To know that not every silence is awkward
To take risks and embrace the outcome

To be an individual
To know that it always gets better
To believe in who you are
To have people truly see you
To be an individual
To know that your spirit is the core of you
To live your life without hiding behind lies
To do you

To be an individual
To make mistakes because of your own decisions and not the decisions of others
To know that there is no such thing as normal
To pursue who you are

To be an individual
To be a first-rate version of yourself, not a second-rate version of someone else
To be honest with those around you
To know that you can’t love someone else unless you love yourself completely first
To be able to love someone else with all of your heart