Blog  Hugging it Out at NFTY Convention

Hugging it Out at NFTY Convention

Ilana Symons is the President of Temple David Youth Group in Monroeville, PA and General Board Member of NFTY PAR. She is an alum of Camp Harlam, Kutz Camp, NFTY in Israel, NFTY-EIE, and HUC Binah Study Retreats. She is also a member of HaZamir, the International Jewish High School Choir. Schawarma enthusiast.


During my NFTY experience, one prominent factor has been present throughout: hugging. It’s a physical sign of the mishpacha, the family, we have formed together. NFTY Convention 2013 was no exception. I hugged my sister when we finally landed in LA after five hours of traveling, three time zones, and one layover. I hugged someone I’d never met before in the airport and who I couldn’t stop talking to on the bus. Amidst joyous reunions at the hotel, I hugged my friends from NFTY-PAR, HUC weekends, Kutz, and all the other friends I’d made at URJ programs over the years. I gave “Shabbat Shalom” hugs and “See You Tomorrow” hugs and “I Love Harry Potter, Too” hugs. I hugged the president of NFTY and Dan Nichols. I hugged the rabbinical student who I had the amazing opportunity to lead a program with. I hugged my tree planting partner at a social action project and the people who sang all of “Bohemian Rhapsody” with me on the way to our next activity. I hugged every NFTYite I met as we all played on the beach and ran to the next ride at Universal Studios. I hugged everyone when the last day came too soon and we had to leave with our T-shirts and sleep deprivation, our pictures and promises to call again as soon as we landed.

I can only describe NFTY Convention as the biggest and most Jewish bear hug that I have ever given and received. It was a chance for me to show NFTY as a whole just how much it means to me; a summary of my NFTY experiences and a projection of the ones yet to come. It showed me the true unification of NFTY and how ‘mishpacha’ does not begin to explain the friendships we make, the good we do, the legacy we are carrying, and the sheer power of so many young Jewish voices joining together. Hugs are the only way I know to quantify this, to show how NFTY is far more than a welcoming community and Convention more than that community’s gathering. It’s where the first hug means I can’t wait to be your best friend and the last means I know we’ll see each other again.