By Jacob Schwartzberg of NFTY Missouri Valley
Over President’s Day Weekend, 150 jewish teen leaders from across North America came together for an unforgettable weekend at URJ Olin-Sang-Ruby Union Institute (OSRUI) for NFTY Veida, NFTY’s biennial business meeting. As always, I was inspired by those around me and the amazing things that they’re doing.
On Sunday, we were all given the opportunity to attend two short “think tank” sessions of varying topics. I, like many other NFTYites beginning to think about those who will come after us, decided to attend a think tank led by Debbie Rabinovich, NFTY’s immediate past president, entitled “How to Make My Successor Better at My Position Than Me.”
Once everyone had settled in, Debbie began to tell us a story. The day that her successor was elected, they went on a long walk and talked about the non-NFTY aspects of their lives. She told us about how important this was to their predecessor-successor relationship, and just their friendship in general. She then gave us the opportunity to take a walk with someone else in the room and talk about the one person who has made the biggest impact on us in NFTY. A girl next to me immediately turned to me and said, “I don’t know you, but do you want to be my partner?” Of course, I agreed and we began our short walk around camp. We had similar stories of someone who was close to us and inspired our mutual passion for NFTY. I was glad to have made a new friend, but I didn’t really see how this could relate back to our successors.
After we had all returned and sat back down, we began to discuss some of our conversations. We talked about how we could become these people for our successors, and why that’s important. By the end, we had come up with a list of thoughts from the discussion.
In Debbie’s think tank, we spent a lot of time on the idea of training and working with our successors so that they would feel ready when they begin to work on their own. People were offering thoughts like “remember/reflect what worked and didn’t work for you” and “anyone can learn or teach your successor skills, but only one person is their predecessor.” These are very important to note, but we’ve all heard them before.
Then, people began to discuss ideas like “talk about other things in the world,” “learn other people’s passions,” and the seemingly shocking idea that people are more than their position. There is life outside NFTY. These ideas are what spoke to me most. We decided that to be the best predecessors that we could, we must create a deep friendship with our successors. We have to take long walks with them, stay up late to talk about everything with them, and be there for them. But our ideas can extend so much further. Our conversation only focused on these things regarding the predecessor-successor relationship. But our ideas can extend so much further. They apply to every NFTY relationship. Sometimes, we get so stuck inside NFTY that we forget all of the things outside of NFTY. These are the things that make us individuals. Each and every one of us went home after Veida and did something that differentiates us from the entire community that we spent the weekend with. Maybe someone sang, maybe someone practiced a monologue, maybe someone worked on their novel, maybe someone rehearsed for their dance recital. These are just some of the things that we are passionate about outside of NFTY. Learning someone’s favorite color and whether they fold their toilet paper or not can only get a relationship so far. But taking the time to learn that the sophomore you’ve never talked to makes movies or that the senior you always see at events went to the Olympics is what not only makes people feel included in the NFTY community, but creates the strong, enduring friendships that will last until our successors successor’s children are in NFTY.