Blog  Netzer Veida: One Community, One Family

Netzer Veida: One Community, One Family

This post is the reflections of Maya Rosenberg as she visits Netzer Veida, January 17th, 2015.


The world shrunk this weekend. Three days ago, France was millions of miles away, Australia was on a different planet, and Israel was light years away. Today, I have 14 new countries in my backyard. These countries became places filled with real people and real problems; they jumped out of the news headlines and the TV screens all because of the people we met in the past couple of days.

It becomes hard to concentrate on the seminars and sessions sometimes because I will have to take a minute or two just to let the intensity of this opportunity sink in. Young adults of over a dozen different nationalities and backgrounds have come together to discuss Israel and Progressive Judaism, sharing opinions more complex and insightful than many older, more experienced adults. In 72 hours we have discussed the contrasting narratives of the Israel/Palestine conflict, the perceived value of keeping outdated yet meaningful ideologies, the universal power of music to connect, educate, and inspire, and whether creating policies that connect all the snifs more concretely is more helpful or harmful to the individual communities. Every individual has a different idea than the person next to him, and listening to all the opinions has opened my eyes about the nature of Reform or Progressive Jewish life in other countries better than any book could. No discussions end in complete consensus and yet once the food is opened or the guitar is brought out all barriers and tensions drop immediately.

The tefilah, in the multiple forms I’ve participated in through today, have convinced me more than any other aspect that Netzer Olami is one community and one family. The very first distinguishable moment of complete connection between every participant was on the very first night. We couldn’t even remember each other’s names yet, and yet when one delegate suggested we end the night with the Shma everyone immediately circled up, arm in arm, and swayed to the traditional melody. I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. It didn’t matter that this wasn’t the melody my NFTY region used or that I couldn’t remember the names of the people whose arms were around me; I was part of a worldwide community that had broken through borders in seconds and that made me as happy as my very first siyyum circle as a NFTYite. The same thing happened when in Kabbalat Shabbat services we all knew the same nigunnim and in Havdalah where Debbie Friedman’s gorgeous tunes came pouring from our lips a couple hundred yards from the wall of Jerusalem’s old city despite our varied native tongues- it was as if the songs reminded us exactly how interconnected our entire worlds are.

I will be forever changed by this experience. When news of Israeli towns flood the news I will now have someone to frantically call to make sure they are alright. When a wave of antisemetic terrorism sweeps any city, it will be more than a headline I care about because of my religion, I will care because I will know people whose daily lives will be irrevocably changed by the horror splashed across our front pages. My eyes are open now- my connection with Netzer Olami will not fade when I return to my home and my region. Instead it will grow as I  share what an amazing community my fellow NFTYites and I have belonged to for years and never realized how lucky we were.

It would be immeasurably selfish to keep this experience to myself. I know NFTY is a family but it seems as if until now, I have gone through my NFTY career without the wonderful, ingenuitive, interesting, funny, crazy, caring cousins I see around me. We need to broaden our reach past the borders of North America in order to share NFTY’s 75 years of growth with the rest of our Reform Zionist movement. NFTY can learn so much from our fellow Jewish Reform teens to grow along with our peers around the world. I now know I will do everything I can to help others feel what I now feel, and NFTY’s relation with Netzer will continue to expand and flourish as Reform Jewish teen communities around the world put out their hands to reach for ours. I hope with my whole heart that NFTY reaches back.