Blog  NFTY-PAR: Inserting Judaism

NFTY-PAR: Inserting Judaism

Mikey Pliskin is a sophomore, and serves as a MaLTY Executive Board Member. 

Mikey, center, alongside members of the NFTY-PAR community.

Mikey, center, alongside members of the NFTY-PAR community.

Judaism is what brings us together. It is the one thing all kids in NFTY-PAR have in common, no matter how religious one is or what synagogue they belong to. The interesting question that raises is, should Judaism be incorporated in our programs and activities and how? Or should it be just our shared characteristic?

I had the opportunity to explore this debate during Matt Nussbaum’s (NFTY-PAR’s Programming VP) Board Workshop at PAR’s Summer Leadership Kallah. This workshop, entitled “Insert Judaism Here,” consisted of analyzing past programs, finding the Jewish component in them, and having a discussion about whether or not it is important to have a Jewish aspect in a program. For every program there is a Touchstone Text. The Touchstone Text is a piece of Jewish text or philosophy that is the basis of the program — or should be. While analyzing programs at SLK, Matt guided us through questions, such as: Do you believe this is a good program? What do you like and dislike about it? Does it have to do with Judaism? Should there be more of a Jewish piece or is it good as it is?

The two programs we evaluated were very different. The first one was about pluralism and how we can understand it. The next one was listening to music of different eras and having it spark a discussion about problems in those time periods. While the programs were very different, we asked the same question – does it have a Jewish component, and, if so, is it addressed well in the program? The answer to that question was not always clear.   Of course, technically there was a Jewish component in both because they both had a Touchstone Text, but sometimes it was difficult to guess whether the program was written around the text or if the text was found after the whole program was written.

NFTY-PAR participants evaluating Jewish values within regional programs.

NFTY-PAR participants evaluating Jewish values within regional programs.

Dissecting these programs was a very interesting experience for me. I personally think Judaism has a role in PAR and it is not just something we all have in common.  Judaism is a beautiful foundation and way of living that we teenagers should be exploring together. As Reform Jews, we each may not observe all the customs in the Torah exactly how they were written or the same as each other, but it is important for each of us to figure out how to interpret them in a way that is personally meaningful.  While I don’t believe that every program we do should revolve exclusively around the Torah or the Talmud, I do think that Judaism is our shared bond and it should be reflected in our programming.

I strongly encourage everyone to explore your own beliefs on when, how, and whether Judaism should be a component of life or a way of life. Do you think we should live our lives, like a program, based on the Touchstone Texts, or do we live life and “insert Judaism” every so often?