By Danielle Wright
In Judaism, and in life, a lot of things come full circle. Two weeks ago, my life once more came full circle when NFTY Convention was held at the Gaylord Texan hotel. I am currently part of the Voyager program, Marriott’s management training program, and I’m a NFTY-CAR alumna. At NFTY Convention, I got to see my love of planning events combine with a defining affiliation: NFTY. As a Voyager, some key skills necessary include leadership, communication, partnership, adaptability, and problem solving. I believe that NFTY taught helped prepare me for the working world.
As NFTYites know, our community is built on the foundation of leadership. Regional boards create programs that get participants talking about topics, leading teens to higher-level thinking. Then, like a community, NFTYites facilitate and lead conversations. Not only do they act as leaders, but they also learn to take direction. NFTYites follow instructions and procedures, the same way working professionals follow guidelines from managers.
NFTY also taught me to be a communicator. Reform Judaism teaches to ask questions about parshiyot (Torah teachings) and to ask about each other’s opinions. This translated to the work place, too: I’ve seen that the most successful employees ask for details about projects and for feedback.
As the skills go on, so do the examples of how NFTY helped prepared me to be a great employee. The skills I learned in NFTY stuck with me long after my 4 years. They seeped into my entry level positions and allowed me to absorb valuable information to bring to each subsequent job. Like moments spent at Kallot (weekend-long NFTY events) I valued the work experiences I earned. I took what I learned in NFTY about looking at both sides of a problem and began applying it to my jobs.
One of my most memorable NFTY experiences was at a Winter Kallah at OSRUI. Our region did a program about gun control. We had to choose where we stood on the issue. Unsurprisingly, the room split like Moses parting the Red Sea. Then, a plot twist: we then had to create arguments that opposed our views. Now, as a professional, I value that moment. There are a lot of plot twists in my working day, and when I can, I take a moment to see the opposing argument and come up with a solution.
My other favorite moments included the times when we said Shehecheiyanu, a prayer to mark joyous occasions. As Jews, this prayer is truly special. The prayer is the culmination of the exciting moments that lead to an occasion. My family would say it at reunions, holidays, and times we needed to say “Ahh, thank you Adonai for this moment.” To me, it was sometimes overwhelming, and I would find a tear in the corner of my eye when the whole NFTY community sang Shehecheiyanu.
As an adult, NFTY taught me one last thing: the importance of finding a community. When I moved to Texas, 1,100 miles from family, I knew the first thing I had to do was find a synagogue. Not because my mother would be proud, but because I needed to hear something familiar. It turns out, a Cantor who was on staff at OSRUI when I was a counselor was the Cantor at my new synagogue! It was a Shehecheiyanu moment and exactly what I needed, and what NFTY led me to find.
Which brings me back full circle to the Gaylord Texan. I was ecstatic to learn that NFTY Convention was coming to the Gaylord, thus connecting two passions in my life. As a 2013 Convention participant, I knew in my soul how valuable this event was going to be for the participants and that I wanted to assist in planning and offer support whenever possible. I asked the manager if she wanted me to help surprise the URJ staff when they arrived in Dallas. During our pre-Convention meeting with the Gaylord team and URJ staff, each member of the team introduced themselves and shared a few words about their role in making the event happen. When it got to me, I knew welcoming NFTY with the Shehecheiyanu would be fitting. It was my way of saying “Wow, Thank you Adonai for letting me be a part of this.”
Together – Jews and non-Jews, Gaylord and URJ staff – we said Shehecheiyanu. We took the moment to acknowledge all that goes into running an event like NFTY Convention. And we came full circle: my former regional advisor now shared the room with me, her as URJ staff and me as an alum launching my career. We looked at each other mid-prayer and smiled. This is what NFTY is about. We knew it.