By Hanna Rinner, NFTY-STR Member
With a certain finality, the wheels of my airplane touched down in Tampa, Florida, putting an end to one of the best experiences of my life. As we taxied to the gate, I couldn’t help reflecting on the amazing weekend I had just had through a program called NFTY Nashir. Nashir, a song leading workshop for Jewish teenagers all across North America, takes place three times a year, and I’m still trying to comprehend the intensity of the programming and the close bonds I formed over an extremely short period of time.
Since Nashir is a song leading workshop, we spent most of our time with guitars and microphones. We kicked off the weekend singing Ellen Allard’s Henei Matov with Alan Goodis, the man who makes Nashir possible. After a quick name game, we set to work with song selections and rehearsals, and by that evening, we were ready to tackle our first challenge: leading Friday night services at Congregation Ner Tamid in Las Vegas, Nevada. The service went off without a hitch. The passion for Judaism could be heard in our voices, and the harmony and ruach made the room come alive. I’ve never felt a group come together in such a short amount of time. The rest of the weekend would only bring us closer.
The next morning, we jumped straight into a program on song leading for children. We learned how to manipulate the energy of the group, and how to keep people engaged. We also learned some silly songs to sing with kids. The program flowed into a T’filah of a style I’ve never experienced. We talked about overcoming obstacles, and reflected on our own personal traits that we like, as well as our unfavorable traits. Alan Goodis talked to us about how society might put us down for being unique, but really it’s something to be embraced. After closing up services, we shifted our focus to an exercise called a teach. Three participants took the opportunity to teach the group a song, and we critiqued them and helped each other learn how to song lead more effectively.
After a quick break for lunch, we transitioned into electives. I got to learn how to write a T’filah service effectively, an important skill for any song leader. I also took an elective called Song Leading in Unique Spaces, in which I learned how to create a group in a space that might not be suitable or set up for a group. I also learned how to read a group and pick the right songs. Some of my friends took electives such as one that taught further into song leading for younger ages, or one that focused on guitar skills. Electives were our chance to gain specific information to bring back to our individual roles in our region or youth group. After electives, we prepared to lead the Sunday School in song session or T’filah, and called it a day. We spent the evening on the strip, and got to take a double decker bus tour of the city. It was great to take some time to just be social and look around and create memories.
Sunday morning, a few of my friends and I went to the third and fourth grade classroom and led them in a fun song session. We taught them Miriam’s Song as well as some Passover songs. We accompanied them to T’filah with the rest of the Sunday School and Nashir participants. After the kids went home, we had a closing circle and closed with the same song we opened with, Ellen Allard’s How Good. From there, it was off to the airport for a sad flight home.
Although the programming was great, what really made Nashir amazing was the people. Upon arriving, I was reunited with my best friend from URJ Kutz Camp, as well as a few other I had met while I was there. On top of that, there were three other people there I recognized from Kutz. There were also fifteen people I had never met. By the end of the weekend, we all considered ourselves a Nashir family. Nashir to me was an opportunity to build on my skills as a song leader, but more importantly, it was a chance to make connections with people from all around the nation that will last me a long time.