Alongside all of the standard Winter Kallaot, Junior Youth Group retreats, and Social Action weekends, one event particularly piqued my interest. Ohio Valley hosts a Study Kallah every year at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion at their campus in Cincinnati. As a Religious and Cultural Vice President, I definitely fit the stereotype: this event sounded like one that I most definitely should attend.
Upon arriving, I was struck by the significance of the event. The opportunity was given to the participants to be taught by the next generation of great leaders of the Reform Jewish movement, the next generation of Rabbis. Not only were resources available that would have been unattainable anywhere else, but the opportunity to get the education on HUC’s historical campus offered an even more spiritually uplifting and meaningful experience. I had the opportunity to songlead in the Scheuer Chapel, the beautiful prayer location on the HUC campus. On a personal note, as an aspiring rabbinical school candidate, I found this to be particularly meaningful, and am sure that this opportunity would not have come similarly without the benefit of this great event.
During the course of the weekend, we as a community took the opportunity to look at a text gathered by the college from a Congregation in Newport, Rhode Island to President George Washington. The letter was a correspondence thanking the President for the freedom granted to all members of America, and praising the American government for its acceptance and understanding. When reading between the lines, the letter was actually an opportunity for the congregation to ensure that Washington continued to hold the nation accountable for the religious and political wellbeing of the Jews as well as all other faiths and backgrounds in this nation. This was particularly meaningful to our community of American Jews, who have experienced religious freedom and safety. Having the opportunity to see our ancestors asking for this freedom and being guaranteed it by our country’s most famous leader is one that only strengthens the power of the Study Kallah and what it means both to Ohio Valley, and to NFTY as a whole.
The ability for a regional board to work in conjunction with rabbinic students and NFTY regional staff was a testament to the success of the weekend. A successful conclusion with a wide range of educational opportunities paves the way for other NFTY regions to commit to educational programming that can truly be entertaining as well as enlightening.