By Andrew Keene, Incoming NFTY North American President
A brilliant unknown scholar is quoted to once have said, “Blessed is the generation in which the old listen to the young; and doubly blessed is the generation in which the young listen to the old.” This quote was brought to life two Shabbats ago at the URJ Board meeting in Brooklyn.
The meeting served as my first interaction with the URJ Board community and the weekend turned out to be a transformative experience for me, NFTY, and the URJ. An underlying topic of conversation amongst board members was teen engagement and the future of NFTY. These conversations took place in plenary sessions, breakout groups, and hallway chatter; all culminating to a component of the Friday plenary where Rabbi Bradley Solmsen, Director of the Campaign for Youth Engagement, made a bold statement. “We need more Evans in the room,” he said, referring to Evan Traylor, the outgoing NFTY President, and my predecessor. The room cheered; an affirmation of the fact the leadership of the Movement needs to reflect the thoughts of all age groups. The statement was both meaningful and hopeful; maybe one day soon there WILL be more Evans in the room; ready and eager to share the youth voice in the leadership meetings of the Reform Movement.
That day came quickly. In fact, it came that night. Members of the URJ Board approached Evan and asked him to be the Evan in the room- literally! Shabbat services ended and the URJ Board had a new nominee, a 19-year old determined, committed Jewish leader. At the public announcement of his nomination, the URJ Board burst into applause.
In one day, the Reform Movement truly moved; in a dynamic way. No longer is the youth voice in Reform Judaism symbolic. The URJ has made clear its commitment to engaging teens in all aspects of Reform Judaism, and furthermore has prioritized utilizing the skills and expertise of NFTY leaders to serve as a partner in paving the future of Reform Judaism.
This is an exciting time for NFTY, the URJ, and Reform Judaism. Between the Campaign for Youth Engagement, NFTY’s 75th anniversary, and the appointment of young leaders to the URJ Board, we are amidst amazing change and I am excited and honored to serve as the NFTY President in a culture and in a Movement where the young listen to the old and the old truly listen to the young. Shabbat Shalom!