Sami Spencer is the Central Recruitment Vice President for the NFTY-Garden Empire Region.
Leadership opportunities have defined my experience with NFTY. I am the type of person who loves getting involved and have always taken advantage of leadership opportunities. Starting as Communications Vice President in my local temple youth group (TEMTY) freshman year, to now being the Central Recruitment Vice President of NFTY-GER, it is safe to say that none of this would have been possible without people believing in me and giving me opportunities.
Freshman year, when my Rabbi (Rabbi Mark Kaiserman), told me about NFTY and how TEMTY had no representatives at the upcoming regional event, I knew that being in NFTY was something important. Being a freshman delegate at my first asefah, is still the most memorable part of my first event. Delegates on either side explained asefah to me and the entirely new vernacular that was being used. At that first event, where I saw the Regional Board, Chairs, and tenured members leading the region, it inspired me to keep coming back. These people who, by just being themselves, reached out to a quiet freshman on the outskirts of the room is what made me feel most welcomed. I wanted to become a leader who would be the reason that a new member would return just as they had done for me.
Sophomore year, I was given the opportunity to write and lead a program at NFTY Convention 2013. This was one of the most valuable experiences that NFTY has awarded me. Working alongside a regional director, my former Rabbi, and fellow NFTYite, in three different time zones, we worked tirelessly leading up to Convention. The program was called “How to Ask Tough Questions”. We discussed questions that were hard for teens to discuss, along with adults and how this related to the Torah and other Jewish texts. The thought provoking discussions led to meaningful conversations outside of the program. Seeing it all come together and hearing the positive reactions from peers was incredible. This leadership opportunity was the top of my many highlights from Convention 2013.
By junior year, I had found my niche within my region. I was selected to be the Regional Yearbook Business Chair and participated as a “Big” in our Big/Little program. The Regional Board gave me many opportunities to lead group programs and I felt like I was finally giving back to my region, which is all I ever wanted. In April of 2014, I ran for regional Central Recruitment Vice President and won! I finally felt like my NFTY experience had come full circle. I had accomplished all my freshman year goals. My success was due in large part to the people who had held those positions before me. They shaped my NFTY experience to what it is today.
Even though I felt like my NFTY experience had reached its peak, I could not have been more wrong. This past summer I participated in two NFTY summer programs. I was a participant at the URJ Kutz Camp and afterwards I spent two weeks at Urban Mitzvah Corps, a program near and dear to my home region. Going into Kutz, I had the mindset that I was going to become a better board member for my region. However, in leaving, I realized that I went to Kutz and became a better person for myself. I just didn’t know it at the time. Becoming a stronger board member was an added bonus. Participating in the leadership academy opened up all these passions that I never knew I had. It taught me about how to elevate others and finding your successor and the importance behind it. Attending Kutz taught me how to give opportunities to others, which was eye opening for me.
I am so grateful that I was given the opportunity to find out about NFTY my freshman year. As a past MVP, and current Central Recruitment VP, it is so important to realize that everyone comes to NFTY for different reasons. Yet, people stay because of those people who reach out and go the extra mile to befriend a new member. As MVPs, or even loyal members of NFTY, it is critical for us to always remember that these new members of today, will be the leaders of tomorrow for our movement. It all starts with giving them the opportunity to be welcomed into our community. All these opportunities I have received shaped me into the leader I am today. It is my hope that when I leave NFTY at the end of this year, that I leave it with many opportunities for the rising leaders that will move this movement to new heights.