By Sarah Friedman, NFTY-GER President
NFTY defines itself as a teen-led movement, for teens by teens, but behind every teen leader is an adult partner. Whether that adult is a parent, a youth advisor, a Rabbi or Cantor, or a regional Director, each youth-adult partnership has its own unique connection that helps it thrive. Teens accept leadership positions expecting to learn from these adults and grow as leaders throughout their terms. Depending on the teen and the adult, their work together may be more of a mentorship than a partnership.
Michael Einiger, the Religious and Cultural Vice President of NFTY-GER, says of his Regional Director, Melo Taylor, “I’ve always felt that Melo and I have had a good relationship. I’ve worked with her for so many years, I feel like her equal because we have developed trust.” Trust is an important aspect of relationships, especially in a work setting. Michael, who has been a songleader for 3 years, believes that trust can be a defining factor. When I asked him if he thought he would have the same relationship with Melo if he hadn’t built that trust with her, he said no. “In order for youth-adult mentorships to become partnerships, the teens need to be able to feel that they have the power to challenge the adult on issues that are important to them.”
Caroline McKinnon, the NFTY-GER Recruitment Vice President, agrees with the idea of mutual respect being essential. “In my position, our relationship feels like a partnership. I think that there’s mutual respect between us. We bounce ideas off of one another and we use our strengths to find the best possible outcome. Although Melo, as an adult, has more experience than me, she will let me take charge of a project with her support. My ideas are of equal value.” For teen-adult partnerships to succeed, it is crucial that everyone involved recognizes that age does not define one’s ability to work. The adult and teen are two halves of one whole, both of equal value. Without one another, the region would not be as efficient as it could be.
My relationship with Melo was not always a partnership. Instead, I experienced first-hand a youth-adult mentorship blossoming into something more. I started out my NFTY-GER Regional Board experience as a Membership Vice President. Melo and I had respect for one another and we had trust: she would trust me to do my work and I would trust her to do hers. But there was something missing. Now, working with her as President and growing with her, I realize that it was a connection. We did separate work and it felt like she was just my ‘boss.’ I contacted her when I needed to but not much in between. Now, we text almost every day and have inside jokes with one another. Melo has watched me grow as a leader and supported me throughout my time in GER, which is how our connection was born. What my fellow board members and I have in common is that we all have a personal connection to Melo, whether established through shared work or having been involved with NFTY-GER leadership for a long time. Trust and respect are important aspects within partnerships, and without a connection, that partnership will never grow.