Blog  Thank you, NFTY

Thank you, NFTY

To the leaders of tomorrow,

You may not realize yet but something inside you is calling. Somewhere deep inside, you know that something needs to change. And in this moment, you are learning that you must be the one who will need to bring this change. Through times of need, desperation, celebration, and frustration, you will need to find hope, compassion, focus, and a voice. However you find these things, you will begin to see how to integrate them within yourself and you will begin to see the other traits you admire in the leaders you surround yourself with. In no time, you will be filling the shoes of these leaders and finding new teens to fill yours. Your time learning and improving hasn’t finished here, but you have completed a cycle that will propel you forward and bring others in. These cycles come like the turning of seasons and allow us to move through life continually striving to become our best selves.

Over the past year, I’ve had an experience like no other. I have had the honor of serving as NFTY President. For the past 12 months, I’ve been privileged to give back to an organization which has nurtured me for a decade and shaped me into who I am. During my tenure, I’ve had the opportunity to lead our movement in times of great pride and celebration as well as challenging moments that unified us to demand change and cry out. Throughout these experiences, I have been humbled and transformed as I work with so many amazing leaders from our teen community and our partner movements.

The NFTY North American Board had a busy year. From the URJ Biennial to Veida to the March of our Lives, the energy never stopped. This year we were able to begin the process of evaluating NFTY culture in relation to sexual violence through our Brit Kehillah language, pledges, and partnering with the Religious Action Center (RAC) to create legislation for the Biennial. We reaffirmed our stance on religious pluralism in the state of Israel and released some of our most successful teen-driven content during Israel’s 70th anniversary. We’ve rallied as a movement to tackle the national crisis of gun violence and have put a new focus on supporting grassroots/local level leadership. In addition to these moments, this year we created new content for our regional financial vice presidents, Temple youth group (TYG) leaders, adult partners, regional leaders, and teens across the country through our NFTY videos, committees, resources, NFTY Study Theme, and program collections. Leaders from every corner of our movement joined our board to bring these initiatives to fruition, and we can’t begin to express our gratitude.

This year, my goal was to help teens feel a genuine connection to the work NFTY does at the Movement level. We are the NFTY Movement. As I’ve traveled from region to region, I’ve met so many one-of-a-kind teens being raised up out of our programs. My role as NFTY President was not to be a single voice that represents every teen in our movement, but rather, to find the amazing teens in each of our local communities, raise their voices for all to hear, and ensure that all teens get a seat at the table. Making teens’ voices heard is the embodiment of everything NFTY stands for.

It is time for us to focus on our local communities more than ever. As the modern world becomes less and less religiously engaged, and teens’ schedules are becoming more and more ambitious, we must make sure that each of our communities feels supported and embraced. This year we began the work of supporting local leaders through the Temple Youth Group Engagement Committee and Parent Inclusion committee. These two demographics are the most valuable contributors to NFTY. Now, more than ever, we need to unify these important partners.

Information needs to be accessible, teens need to be heard, and now is the time to make change happen. The most rewarding part of this job is to see so many inspired teens taking action. I truly believe the young leaders attracted to the work we do are some of the strongest leaders entering the world. Each of them has created something during their years in NFTY and have likewise learned something to take with them for the rest of their lives.

NFTY has changed my life and helped to form who I am today. Thank you so much to each of you who were support me in the journey. If I hadn’t been blessed with this opportunity, I wouldn’t have met so many passionate individuals who challenged me and worked with me to make our movement the best it can be. Thank you NFTY for giving so much to me and for continuing to grow so that others can experience all that you have to offer. To the leaders of tomorrow, thank you for your commitment to building and cherishing something I love so deeply. The future is bright. The future is in each of you.

Never forget these years, I know I never will.

Thank you NFTY,

Zach Herrmann
NFTY president 2017-18