By Jacob Georginow, NFTY Religious & Cultural Vice-President
I’ve wonder why the majority of people that I’ve talked to said that they “hated their first NFTY event.” I know I did.
My first NFTY event was at a temple in Boca Raton, FL, which, coincidentally, was actually where my final NFTY event in the Southern Tropical Region was. It’s funny how things come full circle. Anyway, I’m at my first NFTY event and I get there and the registration line is huge, full of people hugging and pushing to get their nametags. If you think outside of a NFTY setting, wearing your ID in middle school was never a really cool thing, and I was an eighth grader at the time, so you could understand my reservations about this identification card swinging from my neck on a weekend, when I had to have one all week at school. Beyond this, being an extraordinarily introverted person, I was not going to throw myself into a meeting and greeting kind of situation if I didn’t have to.
Most of the event was really a blur, but I do remember bits and pieces about being in the wrong room for track time, or getting lost in the three-story synagogue. It was a struggle being in a foreign place for a weekend.
Fast forward four years. I’m in the middle of one-hundred and fifty sweating, screaming NFTY-STR men in a gender program in the Orlando Marriott Airport Hotel, screaming Adonai S’fatai as loud as I can. I am on my second term as NFTY-STR Religious and Cultural Vice President, and my three board brothers Lucas, Jordan and Michael are there with me in the middle, supporting each other like family.
In that moment, in the two years as RCVP , all of the things that I had been doing finally made sense, and I couldn’t just stop in June of 2012 when I was to graduate from high school. No way was I ready to be done creating meaningful relationships with reform Jewish high-school teenagers across North America. No way was I done working and struggling with advisors who pushed me past my limits in programming and in life lessons; no way was I done bridging the gap between NFTY and BBYO and the other great youth movements of our time. There was still work to be done, and there ARE still youth that are not yet engaged.
Fast forward two months. I’m back at URJ Henry S. Jacobs Camp in Utica, Mississippi, where I spent my summer. I’m already back after six months- which only felt like a few days. I’m reading my speech to the General Board of NFTY regarding my candidacy for the next Religious and Cultural Vice President of NFTY. My speech was over the allotted time if I spoke it at the normal speed, so I rushed with a combination of excitement, nervousness and the time-allotment on my mind.
Fast forward two days. After a very fulfilling, all day Asefah session, where we decided the next NFTY study and action themes, where we passed resolutions and recommendations on NFTY’s use on polystyrene and launched the resolution to add Mitzvah Day to our calendar each year, it was time for the voting procedures.
Fast forward 45 minutes. Evan Traylor is the next NFTY President. The room is buzzing, and I am sitting just two tables away from the next President.
Fast forward an hour. Jordan Rodnizki is the next NFTY Programming Vice President. The room explodes, and I’m overwhelmed at how proud I am of my fellow STRite, board member and close friend. Now that I’m between both the President and PVP, things start becoming more and more real.
Fast forward 45 minutes. Joy Nemerson is the next NFTY Social Action Vice President, she steps forward and shes smiling so big and people are crying and hugging and her radiance fills the room. Three-fifth’s of the next NAB was just elected, and I’m asked to leave the room to go to a holding room with three of my very best friends. It felt like an eternity until Forrest Yesnes, the NFTY President at the time, came in and announced to us that there was a run-off. When he said my name I was so stunned and everything hit me like a ten-ton truck. Jesse Paikin started to read us descriptions of movies backwards, and it eased the room a lot. 25 minutes passed.
Suddenly, I am the next NFTY Religious and Cultural Vice President of NFTY. Walking. Embrace. Tears. Laughter. Happiness. Zoot. That’s basically all I remember from that 5 minutes of trying to reach my table to vote for the MCVP.
Fast forward another 30 minutes and I am in the middle of the Asefah room, holding Marlee, Joy, Jordan, Evan and Beth so tightly and so happily.
If you had to ask me why I came back to NFTY I would tell you that I didn’t want to. I skipped a fall event, and was signed up without a choice by a boy in my youth group and my mother in my temple youth lounge. At that event were a few defining moments. One of which, I met my would-be president of my first regional board, Jenna Gorlick, and the NFTY-STR President at the time, who would soon be the NFTY PVP, personally handed me a Kutz flyer and said, “Jacob, I think this opportunity will be good for you. I challenge you to look into it.”
Fifteen minutes later I was in my hotel room on the phone with my mother asking her to sign me up for the Kutz: NFTY’s Summer home for reform Jewish teens. And now, two camper-summers later, I’m on staff here.
Mike Fuld, the assistant director of the Kutz camp runs a program for a small group of campers called Advanced Leadership Seminar. One of the intense things we did in this minor was something called a “This I Believe” statement. Looking back, my This I Believe still rings true.
Time, place and people are everything- this I believe.