Mollie Zoffer is a member of NFTY Mid-Atlantic Region and president of her Temple Youth Group, DRTY, at Judea Reform Congregation in Durham, NC. She is an alumna of the Mitzvah Corps, Kutz Camp, and L’Taken programs.
What Exactly the High School Participants are Doing at URJ Biennial 2015?
The exact same things as everyone else! This year’s URJ Biennial is the first where high school participants are granted full access to all programs and are able to choose our own paths. The only true difference is in our registration. Registering as a high school attendee means that we were assigned an adult mentor, typically a NFTY Regional Advisor, to meet with virtually before the event and check-in with throughout. On-site, we were given the option to participate in youth-based programming such as the Youth Social Action Symposium, where Rabbi Jonah Pesner, Rabbi Elizabeth Wood, Miriam Chilton and Dr. David Bryfman, discussed engaging our generation and we participated in small group discussion. We have also met with Rabbi Rick Jacobs, Ari Shavit, and the North American Board of NFTY. On Saturday night, along with all other attendees, we got to hear Vice President Joe Biden!
The teens attending URJ Biennial, which means spending five days away from school and home, are likely those who are already the most committed to NFTY and the Reform Jewish movement. As a group, we are Regional and Temple Youth Group board members, Mitzvah Corps, L’Taken and URJ Camps alumni. We are expected to be mature enough to actually attend learning sessions and make the most of our time here, and from what I’ve seen, we are all doing that and more.
In my personal experience, I have attended sessions where I was the only participant under the age of 30. In an intimate 13-person workshop on Paid Family Leave, group members went around the room sharing their own stories of how this impacted them. When my turn came, others shifted in anticipation and waited for my response. They were, I believe, pleasantly surprised when my response was simply that I wanted to become educated. Similarly, in a small group discussion about racism in America, group members seemed pleased by my interest and knowledge–much of which I gained during my participation in L’Taken, URJ Kutz Camp and NFTY-MAR events. This all goes back to an idea covered in the Youth Social Action Symposium. Reform Jewish youth are not merely the future of the movement. We are an active and integral part of its present–growing, thriving, and contributing along with more senior members. This year’s URJ Biennial recognizes that and treats us as fully fledged members. Thank you to the URJ Biennial for letting us fully participate in this amazing experience.