Josh Halff is the NFTY TOR Membership Vice President.
I have a little proposition for you. What if I told you there was a place where you could meet NFTYites from all across the continent? What if I told you that this place also has amazing speakers and customizable programming? What if I told you that this place is still open for registration TONIGHT ONLY? Jump on this chance, because believe me; NFTY Convention will be the best experience of your life.
Take it from someone who knows. I was a sophomore at Convention ’13, and it was truly amazing. That year, in Los Angeles, I met some of my best friends, people who now I can’t imagine life without. I learned more about my Judaism. I learned more about my values. From speeches in the morning to concerts in the evening, I loved every minute of it, for three main reasons: the people, the Judaism, and the programming.
Think about your NFTY friends. Think of the laughs, smiles, and jokes you’ve shared. Think of the games you’ve played, the stories you’ve created and told. Now imagine an opportunity to march in a crowd of a thousand people just like that. At NFTY Convention 2013, I realized that NFTY wasn’t just a youth group. It’s not just a social club. NFTY is a movement, and individual NFTYites are what keep the wheels turning. What we do in NFTY matters, it defines us. The friends we make, the people we touch—these will remain with us long after we graduate. NFTYites are what make NFTY great, and at NFTY Convention 2015 you’ll have the opportunity to meet NFTYites quite literally by the thousand.
Regardless of age, region, interests, or anything you can think of, there’s one thing all NFTYites share: we’re all Jewish. Praying in a group of a thousand people is a powerful experience on its own. Make them all NFTYites from across the continent and it’s incredible. Walking into services and seeing people from all over praying to the same melody gave me a glimpse at a unique part of Judaism: that no matter how spread out we are, we are one people. We share the same beliefs. We are united. The one moment when everybody stood and prayed together strengthened my Judaism infinitely. It was the first time I realized that being Jewish isn’t just a religion. It’s being part of a tradition greater than any individual can ever be.
NFTY offers a unique opportunity to truly experience that tradition, because NFTY’s programming is what truly sets it apart. At NFTY Convention, you have the opportunity to participate in programming of your choice, programming that matches your interest. Every single participant’s convention experience is tailored specifically to them, and that is what separates NFTY Convention from an extra big regional event. For example, at NFTY Convention ’13, I knew I was going to be running for President of my TYG at the end of the year. I specifically participated in programs that would help me build my TYG up and make it great. One of my friends was more interested in social action; she was able to participate in social action programs. Any interest you may have, there’s a way to work it in to your Convention experience.
For me, Convention ‘13 was the turning point in my path to discover my Jewish identity. Judaism stopped being the reason I don’t celebrate Christmas, and it became who I am. I realized that the most important thing in my life is not school, and not work. It’s the people I meet and the connections I make. In the words of URJ President Rabbi Rick Jacobs at Convention ‘13, “Homework can wait. College essays will be written. What we’re building here in our NFTY youth community is bigger than college, bigger than doing well. It’s about doing good.” Meet people. Pray hard. Party hard.