Ari Elfenbein is the NFTY Northern Membership Vice President and Ari Gershon is the NFTY Chicago Area Region Membership Vice President.
Welcoming Shabbat in a mosh pit with Dan Nichols, lobbying at the White House, riding a camel in the Negev, watching a Broadway play, exploring and doing volunteer work in foreign countries, shopping in Haifa, doing an archeological dig, climbing Masada; with NFTY, you can have experiences that are unparalleled.
Two years ago, we both had the opportunity to spend our summer at NFTY’s summer home, the URJ Kutz Camp. We celebrated Shabbat with services overlooking the beautiful Lake Rolyn, played in a camp-wide softball game, and spent the summer discovering our power in the Jewish community and learning about ourselves. At Kutz, you get the chance to participate in workshops called majors in one of four categories: Leadership, Social Justice, Jewish Studies, or Art. Along with this, there are minors that you take every day. These minors cover a variety of topics like meditation, theater, sports, Hebrew, Israeli dance, and so much more. The combination of choosing your own major and minors helps to create an experience that is unique to each individual. After returning home from Kutz, the leadership skills we learned at Kutz have helped us in both NFTY and our daily lives, and the friendships we made at camp are ones that we will carry with us forever. To find out more go to http://kutz.urjcamps.org/.
As each semester ends, a lucky new group of individuals gets to study on the Eithendrath International Exchange (EIE). On EIE, I and many other teenagers spent 4 months studying on Kibbutz Tzuba nestled in the Judean Hills. While there I spent my days exploring Israel, learning about comparative religion, and becoming a proficient Hebrew speaker. I had so many rare opportunities there to begin to better understand myself as I was pushed both mentally and physically. On Gadna, a 5 day Israeli army training, I realized my limitations in life are mostly self set. As I prayed with Women of the Wall, I found a passion for activism. When I did havdallah overlooking the Western Wall, I understood that I have the power to create community wherever I go. In my opinion, EIE is an experience that is unlike any other and will truly shape you as a Jewish adult. To find out more go to http://www.nftyeie.org
Another way to get to Israel is through NFTY in Israel. You begin in Prague and Poland and then make your way to Israel. While there, you will do almost all of the same activities as on EIE but without any school work! You will have the opportunity to hike from sea to sea, experience Gadna, climb Masada, float in the Dead Sea, and more! To find out more go to http://www.nftyisrael.org/
Lastly, a somewhat new opportunity that NFTY provides is Mitzvah Corps. For teens with a passion for social justice, this is definitely an experience that they don’t want to miss. As teens from both NFTY Northern and NFTY CAR return from their Mitzvah Corps trips, we are blown away by their stories and their new-found confidence. You can do volunteer work in Costa Rica, Washington D.C, New Orleans, Israel, New Jersey, Nicaragua, the Pacific Northwest, and/or El Salvador. Our fellow NFTYites have helped feed people in need, lobbied to congress about prevalent issues, helped build towns, and worked with organizations that help people in refugee areas. They came home with friends from not only the other 17 NFTY regions, but also connections with people from across the globe. To find out more go to http://www.mitzvahcorps.org/index.cfm
So whether you find yourself in Warwick NY, Israel, or Nicaragua, your summer with NFTY will be unforgettable and life-changing. As alumni of two of these programs, we can confidently say that you won’t come back the same person you left as. Sign up now, you won’t regret it.