Matt Mandel is the New York City Membership Vice President for NFTY-NAR.
I believe in the power of deep and meaningful relationships.
I belong to one of the largest congregations in New York City and for many years I had never heard of NFTY. I thought there was nothing in the world that was like CRuSTY, and I kept attending youth group events because of my friends. CRuSTY was a chance to be who I wanted to be and while I was just having fun, my rabbis and upperclassmen continued to push me to think deeper about Judaism. I attended one of the Religious Action Center’s L’Taken weekends for the second time in January 2013, where I met NFTY-NAR’s head song leader, Jenna Zitomer. My relationship with her is the reason why I know what NFTY is. I could talk to Jenna about anything, and she quickly became one of the most important people in my life. Jenna is my original NFTY giant and she’s the reason why my eyes were opened at NFTY-NAR’s Fall Kallah 2013 at the URJ Kutz Camp. The programs we were running in CRuSTY were nothing in comparison to the impact that the New York Area Region was having on its participants. I fell in love over and over during those 36 hours and that is why I looked for every opportunity to get more involved in NFTY-NAR. After Fall Kallah, I attended temple youth group events all over New York City and got to know everyone I could. My hunger for more NFTY introduced me to Jules Ilian, who inspired me to run for her position in March 2014. My curiosity did not end when I was elected to regional board, but was increased exponentially as I decided to devote my summer to attend URJ Kutz Camp and take on the Leadership Academy major to strengthen my leadership and outreach skills. In November 2014, I went full-circle as now I was able to impact Fall Kallah participants just as I had been one year ago.
It is way too easy to say no to a new opportunity just because it is unfamiliar. I learned to keep taking chances with people, opportunities, and challenges. It may be cliché, but it is because it’s true: if you believe you can do it, then you can; you can turn any belief you have into a reality. In everyday life, it’s too easy to do what is comfortable and as an effect let amazing opportunities pass you by.
The sole reason I love NFTY is because it is changes lives. NFTY is my favorite program I have taken part in because of the people who are willing to go farther, think deeper, and feel more. People feel nostalgic about the places they call home because of the atmospheres created within them. An atmosphere of love and care is one that is welcoming and accepting of everyone who is willing to take the chance of joining in. As the New York City Membership Vice President, I have taken the initiative to tweak my job description. My job is not to recruit members and increase members, but to do what I love to do: meet amazing people, create meaningful relationships with them, and then show them the beautiful world of NFTY.