Blog  NFTY Leaders Join the First Coalition of Jewish Teen Leaders

NFTY Leaders Join the First Coalition of Jewish Teen Leaders

Coalition of Jewish Teen LeadersLast weekend, six leaders from across the NFTY world met in Boston for the first official summit meeting of the Coalition of Jewish Teen Leaders, an assembly that convened young leaders from NFTY, BBYO, and Young Judaea.  Jewish youth movements have a long history of working together to create great social change – including freeing Soviet Jews in the late 1980s and responding to the Haiti earthquake two years ago.  This gathering of these groups was the first time we have come together proactively – without an imminent crisis at hand.  It was designed to begin a conversation opening the door for Jewish action and voice from a unified front, featuring all of the youth groups for American, North American, and Global Jewish youth.

LAUREN FILLER, NFTY-NAR PRESIDENT:  Before arriving in Boston, I really didn’t know what would come of the CJTL weekend. But what I walked away with was so much greater then what I ever could have dreamt. I learned how NFTY, BBYO, and Young Judaea are so similar in some ways and yet so different in others. Each movement strives for many similar goals of Jewish youth engagement, such as Tikkun Olam, education, and Jewish study to name a few. But each organization has its own personality that makes it unique. For example NFTY is a Reform Jewish youth movement, whereas BBYO and Young Judaea are non- denominational and must accommodate all streams of Judaism during events. BBYO has chapters (regions) internationally, unlike NFTY, which is only with in North America. Learning about these differences gave me a greater appreciation of both the other groups as well as NFTY. I was amazed that by learning about others, I could reflect so much on my own Jewish experience.

In addition to learning about the groups and other teens there, the weekend showed me the potential of the Coalition for Jewish Teens. I have always known how incredible NFTY is, and what power we have as a youth movement. But I was shocked when I realized how strong a voice this coalition could have. Between just the three movements currently involved, we represent tens of thousands of teens. When we all come together there is no way our voice won’t be heard, whether it is about social justice, politics, or Israel. The movements within CJT have so much to learn about one another and we collectively have so much to offer the world!

JACOB GEORGINOW, NFTY-STR RCVP: What I am most excited about is getting the chance to enhance my knowledge of the other youth organizations.  The difference in what I knew before the weekend about BBYO and YJ and after the weekend is tremendous.  It is beautiful to have a full comprehension of how each organization operates.  This past weekend in Boston made me realize just how similar each of our movements really are, and that we all have the same common goals.  I hope that this CJTL community goes much farther than any of us could have hoped for at the meeting, and that it will have not only a North American impact, but a worldwide outreach.

EVAN KARSON, NFTY-NAR WFMVP: How did I feel spending the weekend rooming with three other boys from BBYO? Let’s just say I was ready for anything.

Going into the weekend summit of CJTL, I knew very little about the other youth movements in attendance – BBYO and Young Judaea. Sure, I knew the stereotypes that floated around at NFTY events, but never before that weekend had I really met someone from either youth group. And as I slid my room key into its electronic reader, I was trying to visualize what my hotel room was going to look like, inhabited by Mattison, Sam and Ryan. Greeted by warm smiles and friendly handshakes, I was instantly sold.

Of course, the meetings did what they were meant to do – I got to see the similarities between the different movements. And after tradition sharing, I saw how near our values and principles are to each other. But what brought me closest to the others were those late nights we shared in the room – where I got to see Mattison, Sam and Ryan. Not necessarily BBYO, just Mattison, Sam and Ryan.

No doubt, some of my most memorable experiences from NFTY have taken place in an overcrowded hotel room filled with guys. And the more crowded it was, the more fun we had. And as we dragged out the Boston evenings, I was surprised at how at home I felt with these three guys I had met 6 hours ago. We were from Nashville, Austin, Chicago and Westchester. how incredible it must have been to see us all cracking jokes and telling stories. Incredible indeed.

LIZA MOSKOWITZ, NFTY PVP: Throughout all of high school, I had friends that participated in both NFTY and BBYO. My BBYO friends always tried to explain the rituals and traditions of their chapters to me, but I never fully understood them because they felt so distant. I knew that we were both Jewish youth groups, but I didn’t know of any other similarities.

I was excited to hear that part of our weekend was dedicated to sharing a tradition from our own youth group. The BBYO leaders “initiated” us into their youth movement and gave all of us all pins. These pins are very significant to BBYO and the members receive them during special moments in their time as BBGers (girls) and Alephs (boys). This tradition reminded me of “NFTY beads” that some of the regions participate in. Just like the pins, the beads signify important memories and events to NFTYites.

I am so grateful to have had this opportunity to participate in the CJTL summit. I went into this meeting knowing more about the differences between NFTY and BBYO, rather than the similarities. We often use our differences to tear us apart, but the similarities such as the pins and the NFTY beads, actually bring us together. CJTL was an opportunity for us to use our unique traditions and communities to find a common ground. Over the weekend, we took the first steps on this common ground to better the present and future of Jewish teens.