Talia Capozzoli is the NFTY Membership Vice President.
We are a youth led movement. Here’s how we should let the teens lead:
NFTY is made up of over 7,000 Jewish teens from across North America. In each of the 19 regions, there is a wide range of teens who serve on their regional board. Each has something special to add to their position, and each recognizes their role as a leader. However, what about the other teens in our movement? Why shouldn’t they have the opportunity to serve their region, too? These questions came up a lot during my time at the URJ Kutz Camp this summer, where I had the opportunity to learn from almost 80 passionate Regional and Temple Youth Group leaders in the Leadership Academy.
One teen, Zoe Light, specifically expressed her views on this issue. She is the Regional Social Action Vice President for NFTY-SAR, and her role as a regional board member helped her see the need for general leadership. In a program that the Leadership Academy ran, Zoe wrote a Kutz Talk, much like a TED talk, about shoulder tapping. The way shoulder tapping works, she describes, is “when a regional leader approaches someone in the community that can be of great help and importance and ask them for help.” This “ask” can range from help leading the birkat hamazon after a meal to writing a social action program.
The elevation of leadership within our NFTY communities prompts a sense of importance and dedication, with just a simple tap on the shoulder. So, why can’t anyone who wants a leadership role have one? Why can’t anyone who wants to go to a regional Leadership Training Institute attend? We spend so much time as NFTYites looking up to the leaders in our community, that we don’t spend enough time searching for those who lead without a title, or at least would like to have the opportunity. Leadership should not be a tough concept to grasp; successful leadership should not be an unattainable goal.
Sometimes, the most passionate people in our regions are the ones who do not serve the region directly. Sometimes, the most passionate people in our regions are the ones who would rather lead from behind than up on the stage. The idea of “shoulder tapping” is a simple one, but it is powerful. Our movement is designed for teens to lead on their beliefs, and we strive for members to have the ability to lead in their own way. By using techniques such as “shoulder tapping,” teens will be able to have more opportunities to serve their region, giving a new definition to leadership in our youth-led movement.