Blog  Meet Incoming NFTY President Kathryn Fleisher

Meet Incoming NFTY President Kathryn Fleisher

By Kathryn Fleisher, NFTY President, 2016-2017

kathrynheadshot-293x300-293x300I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to serve as NFTY President for the upcoming year, as I am deeply invested in the successes of NFTY and the Reform Movement. Having grown up in an interfaith family, I truly understand what it feels like to be on the outside of the Jewish community. However, as I chose to live an actively Jewish lifestyle, I also discovered what it’s like to be wholeheartedly welcomed into our community; to experience, firsthand, the audacious hospitality that we pride ourselves on. Because the doors to the Reform Movement were so graciously left open to myself and to my family, I have been able to fully embrace my Jewish identity. I hope that my story shows that practicing inclusion has the power to deeply impact lives. In my case, utilizing welcoming and inclusive practices, had the power to bring in an unengaged child and transform her into a leader of the Reform Jewish youth movement.

My personal experience, along with a multitude of other reasons, drives me to be an unrelenting advocate of inclusion and accessibility. This year, I am looking forward to working towards alleviating the barriers currently prohibiting Jewish teens from engaging in NFTY and Jewish life. I fully believe that the opportunities and experiences that NFTY offers are parallel to none, and should be accessible to every Jewish teen. From regional kallot to North American events, every Jewish teen should have access to the incomparable community, perception altering programming, real world social justice work, and opportunities for spiritual growth that NFTY offers.

With this vision, comes the understanding that inclusion comes in endless shapes and sizes. For some, this means a commitment to gender identity inclusion through a gender sensitive housing policy, gender neutral restrooms, and a continuation of advocacy for transgender rights. For others, this means disability inclusion through ongoing efforts to better accommodate the needs of those with physical and developmental disabilities. Others face a different type of barrier to involvement in NFTY and URJ Youth programs; cost. With event price tags in the hundreds and other travel and summer opportunities in the thousands, there are major financial barriers. Though these barriers are unintentional, they inhibit Jewish teens from engaging in our movement. Despite our efforts to create an internally inclusive community, financial barriers persist as a formidable obstacle to engagement. Throughout this upcoming year, I hope that we can work together to diminish these barriers, build up scholarship funds, and enable more Jewish teens to find their place in NFTY and the Reform Movement.

Kathryn Fleisher of Temple Beth Israel in Cleveland, Ohio is the incoming NFTY President for 2016-2017. Kathryn is currently President of NFTY’s Northeast Lakes Region (NEL) and has served for three years on her temple youth group board. From beginning her NFTY journey while in 8th grade, to becoming active in social justice work through her temple, Kathryn has always found a home within the Jewish community. Kathryn is also a proud alumna of many URJ programs, having attended the URJ Kutz Camp, the URJ Goldman Union Camp Institute (GUCI), and the URJ Biennial 2015. Deeply invested in assuring that the Reform Movement is accessible to all, Kathryn states, “It is vital that we fully commit ourselves to alleviating the barriers prohibiting Jewish teens from joining our kehillah kedosha; when we strengthen our inclusive communities, we strengthen the Jewish people.”