By: Ione Heigham, NFTY Membership Vice President (MVP)
I didn’t expect to become so engulfed in my college community. But as the weekend drew near, and with it, a NFTY New York Area (NAR) event, I began to dread leaving my new home at college. I had never experienced this feeling ahead of a NFTY event before – NFTY is a home to me, too.
After a two-and-a-half-hour train ride and a 45-minute Uber, I pulled into the Temple Beth Abraham’s parking lot in the pouring rain. The other participants and I spent some time waiting for the bus, pressed against the side of the building to try to stay dry. Waiting in the rain is never fun, but suddenly I felt my perspective on the weekend was shifting as I began to converse with participants. Immediately, I could feel the effect of NAR’s charm and the feeling that had pulled me to every NFTY event over the past 4 years was taking over any dread I had been feeling about being away from campus.
Attending Fall Kallah was a grounding experience that only a NFTY event can provide. Not only did this weekend provide a chance for teens to debrief all that has happened in the news in a Jewish setting, but it also was an enjoyable break from the usual hustle of life. The ruach (spirit) I felt during Shabbat Morning services was spiritually awakening and certainly helped set the tone for the rest of the event. Throughout the day it felt like every member of NAR wore a huge smile on their face, never failing to make any new member feel welcomed. Although the programming and services were quite engaging, the people of NFTY NAR were really what stole my heart this weekend.
One of NFTY’s North American priorities for this year is Sexual Violence Prevention, and the program that they ran certainly conveyed this focus. The people of NFTY NAR had so much to say – not only about sexual violence, but also how the US court system has historically handled cases of sexual assault. The program allowed for participants to discuss difficult cases of sexual assault and think of how the American Judiciary system has fallen short in the past. Overall, the program was engaging, thought provoking, and spoke to the frustration many NFTYites are feeling about the current faulty system.
Looking back at my experience in NFTY NAR, I feel so grateful to be a part of the same Movement. NFTY NAR reminded me how beautiful and complex NFTY is. The 19 regions all exist semi-independently and yet have this clear relationship to each other. The event was unlike any I had ever participated in and unlike any event that will come again. NFTY can only be described in the time and place in which these events exist, and on Sunday morning after friendship circle any hope of describing my NFTY experience is lost. NFTY will never again exist in the way it did at Kutz Camp this past weekend – each event is so unique and special. It has been nothing short of a blessing to experience NFTY in this way. Thank you, NFTY NAR, for reminding us all what NFTY is– it is so easy to forget. All that is really left to say is: sEe YoU iN dAlLaS!