By Kathryn Fleisher, NFTY President, and Jordan Iserson, NFTY Programming Vice President (PVP)
“History has its eyes on you.”
Whether you’re a Hamilton fan or active on Twitter, you’ve probably seen this quote before. Its message is simple yet profound; actions have real consequences on us and the people around us, both now and in the future. Living in the 21st century—an era of transparency and easy access to information—our actions and inactions are more pertinent than ever before. Furthermore, in a highly globalized world, history-altering information can be circulated around the globe in the blink of an eye.
This past week, we were able to experience this phenomenon while attending Netzer Veida in Jerusalem. Netzer is the worldwide progressive Jewish youth movement, of which NFTY belongs. Netzer Veida is the yearly meeting for leaders of Netzer’s branches (sniffim) to come together and discuss global Jewry, conduct Netzer’s business meetings, and strengthen youth empowerment. While the content of the event was informative and interesting, the conversations we had with our peer delegates from other countries was even more fascinating. Originating from Germany, France, England, Belarus, Russia, Ukraine, Panama, Australia, the Netherlands, Brazil, Spain, South Africa, and Israel, there was a vast range of knowledge and backgrounds in the room. However, one piece of knowledge that all delegates had in common was (at least) a basic of understanding of American politics.
Regardless of home country, everyone we met could recount the US Presidential Election, give updates on executive actions, and talk about the recent Women’s Marches. In a number of countries, international politics dominated domestic news. For example, we learned that student protests at universities across South Africa were covered on the nation’s news for a matter of minutes before flipping back to the latest updates from America. Conversations about Germany’s refugee policy, wherein the country has allowed one million refugees through its borders, included America being scrutinized for not making similar efforts. Clearly, the United States has an influential voice on the global stage; a voice that our new international friends had already heard and internalized in their own countries.
Over the course of the week at Veida, we found ourselves constantly discussing American politics and feeling compelled to both explain and respond to our country’s actions. Because we typically only engage with those from the US, it’s hard to imagine just how wide America’s sphere of influence truly is. In a world where a quote from a government official can be reported halfway around the world in only a few minutes, we must be aware of the consequences and implications of actions.
Being in the unique environment of Netzer Veida allowed us to draw fascinating parallels between relationship of NFTY to Netzer and the United States to the world. Just as NFTY has internal priorities that need to be addressed in consideration to what our affiliates (like Netzer) desire, the United States has a responsibility to address internal needs with a consideration of the external impact that those actions will have on the international community. While we were already aware of the currently contentious environment within the US, we are now also hyper-aware of the fact that the whole world is looking at us — watching and waiting for what will happen next. We are immensely thankful to have spent this past week with our Jewish community from around the world, connecting to global Jewry, exploring Israel, and gaining an invaluable perspective about America’s position and influence in the international community.