By Scott Rubenstein, NFTY-SW Member
Coming home from an amazing summer at the URJ Kutz Camp, I wasn’t sure how I would fit into NFTY-SW again. I had just experienced NFTY in a whole new way on the North American level, and I didn’t know how I would adjust to being back in my home turf. I assimilated effortlessly at the NFTY Southwest Leadership Training Institute, and was once again reminded of why I fell in love with NFTY in the first place.
With less than seventy-five participants, LTI was an intimate weekend for the serious and aspiring leaders of the region. The NFTY-SW regional board made it a point to help foster leadership in their regional networks, and connections were made over programming, social action, Judaism and culture, membership and communications, and overall leadership in general.
Social Action Vice President Maddy Ginis’s program on mental health was both informative and relevant. The program supported NFTY’s Action Theme of R’Fuat Hanefesh-Caring for the Soul: NFTY Addresses Mental Health. NFTY-SW proudly pledged to end the stigma of mental illness, hopefully creating a more tolerant environment for NFTYites living with mental illness.
The theme of the weekend was membership, and the programming by Religious and Cultural Vice President Cody Rosen, Programming Vice President Matthew Wall, and Regional Advisor Lynne Butner certainly reflected it. Matthew’s program on helping temple youth groups to thrive with increased membership provided customizable and attainable goals for the participants to take home to their TYG’s. Cody’s Torah study on interfaith dialogue started a much larger conversation on community and belonging. Lynne’s program centered around the power of validation, making others feel good in a confirmative way. We explored how validation is tied to membership and community.
There was a lot of discussion at Kutz about the Campaign for Youth Engagement, a massive Union for Reform Judaism movement to increase youth involvement in synagogue life and URJ programs around North America. As a fervent advocate for the campaign, I was extremely pleased to the see the conversation being continued in my home region. As NFTYites, we all deeply care about Reform Judaism and want it to survive into the coming generations. Our Leadership Training Institute empowered us to carry our movement into the future and pave the way for our peers to be involved as well. It is an important initiative and it tied in with LTI perfectly.
NFTY-SW Leadership Training Institute left me energized for a great year. As the leaders of our region, we committed ourselves to helping our region grow to its full potential, and I can’t wait to see that goal achieved this year. Most importantly, the community that is NFTY-SW is still unique and special. The friendships we have made and bonds we have formed are stronger than ever, and I hope to see these strong bonds carry NFTY-SW into a bright future. Next time in the west Texas town of El Paso for Fall Kallah!