By: Megan Berger, NFTY Chicago Area (CAR)
After an early morning flight from Chicago to Texas, followed by lots of coffee, we finally made it to the Gaylord Texan Hotel for NFTY Convention. My friends and I checked in and made our way to the indoor campfire, where I felt instantly welcomed. Right away we were greeted by “Hi I’m ___, I’m from ___, where are you from?”
Within an hour, I found myself in the hotel’s game room, sitting in a circle with a group of teens from all over the country – we had already labeled ourselves as best friends before we could even memorize each other’s names. Being so used to cliques at school, I was taken aback by the kindness I felt from every single person I met, and this feeling stayed with me throughout the entire weekend.
I had participated in a L’Taken Social Justice Seminar with the RAC (Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism) the week before, so I was very excited to see what types of social justice opportunities NFTY Convention had in store. One of these opportunities ended up being my Offsite Experience – a tour of the Genesis Women’s Shelter in Dallas. In our regular NFTY programming, we hear about organizations like the Genesis Women’s Shelter, and even sometimes get to hear personal stories, but being able to see in person what this organization actually does to help women in need was a surreal experience.
We heard many amazing speakers throughout the weekend but having just read David Hogg’s book, and having been a part of the March For Our Lives myself, I was most excited to hear him speak. He spoke with passion and sincerity that moved and inspired me. He not only focused on the need for gun violence prevention, but also touched on topics such as economic inequality and the prison to school pipeline. Each of these topics are social justice issues that I am personally passionate about, so I was moved to hear someone else discuss the same ideas.
After NFTY Convention, I was able to meet with my fellow TYG (temple youth group) board members to go over the great things we learned throughout the weekend, and talk about ways to get our community involved. We really want to focus in on social action and making sure our community is welcoming to everyone, especially those who aren’t Jewish.
NFTY Convention gave me opportunities I would have never gotten anywhere else: meeting friends from across North America, exploring new ideas, learning more about causes I’m passionate about, and so much more. I’m truly grateful that I got to have this experience.