By Asher Bank, NFTY Southern California
Waiting in the lobby of the Hyatt Regency in Chicago, I anticipated the arrival of my friends from my region, NFTY Southern California. I walked the perimeter of the first floor of the hotel with my best friend, perusing around for people that I knew were coming. But I experienced something unlike no other: encountering surprise after surprise after surprise.
As I walked around in search of those from my temple and city, I would run into a friend I’d made at NFTY Mechina 2016 (a North American training event for regional leaders). In that moment that we’d first approach each other, we’d lock eyes, gasp, and embrace like we’d known each other forever, even if we’d just had one or two conversations at Mechina.
This is what NFTY is: the split second when you see someone unexpected that you didn’t think you’d see again, and you mutually re-ignite the connections, magic, and support.
This made my first day of NFTY Convention 2017 unforgettable and reminded me how important NFTY is on a global scale. NFTY allows people to expand beyond the routine of our daily lives and establish bonds with people from different sides of the world, with completely different life situations and views.
But the magic didn’t stop after day one. While first glances are spectacular, and that moment of reconnection with someone is to be cherished, even more exciting was the chance to spend time with people I don’t get to see often and forging deeper unexpected bonds with people both exactly like me and also the polar opposite of me.
I spent the second dinner at NFTY Convention 2017 with a new friend from a different side of the country and people from her region. We shared experiences from our vastly different NFTY journeys and daily lives. NFTY’s the only place I can share stories about my life and hear uniquely diverse perspectives with someone who I barely know yet but feel an instant connection with, all in one sitting.
Day two broke the stigma of the “second day slump” – that lull after the initial enthusiasm wears off. The second day continued the vibrancy and unexpectedness that distinguishes NFTY from any other youth organization. After two days, it already saddened me to think about having to leave. This consistency of inclusion, love, and empowerment is like nothing I’ve ever experience in my life.
NFTY allows a uniquely connected, yet entirely diverse, group of individuals to come together and create something unexpectedly beautiful.