By Garrett Layton, NFTY Religious and Cultural Vice President
The “region of love” welcomed me warmly this weekend at their first event of the year, C-Dub Smash. NFTY CWR, for those who are unaware, is in their second year away from home, following the Bay Area fires that destroyed Camp Newman’s physical property last year. But this little fact could have been left unsaid, because the community in CWR didn’t feel like they were recovering; the participants I got to talk to were more than happy, in love with their region, and not just surviving, but thriving.
My first thank you goes to Congregation Rodef Sholom in San Rafael, California, who welcomed us into their synagogue and worked with the regional leadership to create a Friday night Shabbat service that appealed to both teens and adult temple members alike. Seeing such great teen-adult partnerships between regions and temples reminded me how important it is to stay connected with our congregations; not only are they the ones sending their teens to our events, but they are also filled with our alumni. The rabbi leading services (former NAB SAVP Adam Friedman’s mom, Rabbi Stacy Friedman, by the way) seemed overjoyed to be working together, and it only added to my excitement for the rest of the weekend.
Saturday was full of surprises – from spectacularly unique morning “mad-lib” services and leadership training seminars, to a sexual violence prevention program that engaged participants and brought up serious issues that teens should be discussing. We got the chance to have those discussions with a community as diverse as it is caring. I have to thank the CWR regional board for creating programs that left each participant with new perspectives and valuable skills for future leadership positions. They were also constantly upbeat, smiling, cohesive, and motivating. One of my favorite parts of the event happened when I watched the board sit down, without any prompting, and start complimenting each other on programs they had led, and offering tips on where they could improve for their next event. This group modeled what true group regional leadership should look like. I can only assume, from what I saw of Regional Advisor Sierra Meszaros’ involvement in the event, that she had something to do with how great this group worked together.
Another part of the event I was personally happy to see was watching recent Kutz Camp alumni utilize the skills they developed at Kutz in their program planning and leadership. It was an honor to participate in their programs, especially after having worked with them over the summer gaining these skills.
The event closed with an energetic Big Fun, a neon-themed carnival/party, a Havdalah and tziyum that brought warm feelings to my soul and a mass of grinning faces jumping along to the cheer. Sierra Meszaros was off to the side, smiling just as wide as participants. Every person that put on the weekend merchandise, myself included, embodied the words on the shirts: “I <3 NFTY CWR.”