When I found out that Biennial was taking place in my hometown, I just had to be there. What’s better than NFTY friends, Judaism and, a Boston Harbor boat cruise to get you through a cold Massachusetts winter? It was about two months before I would step on a plane and head to Israel to finish up my school year at URJ Heller High, and I knew Biennial was the place for me to be. I decided to attend URJ Biennial for a few reasons. First off, I truly value the youth adult partnership in my Jewish world, and this was sure to be a great place to strengthen that. Then there was my love for NFTY. I would never be able to stomach such a huge event taking place in my backyard, and not attending. And lastly, as the host region, NFTY-Northeast had to come through in numbers! I’m really happy I went – I learned a ton and will remember the weekend for the rest of my life.
At Biennial, I spoke to so many teens and adults from around the world about amazing opportunities happening in their communities. It inspired me, and after Biennial, I knew I wanted to take on leadership roles at my synagogue and NFTY region. Because of these conversations, I ended up attending URJ Kutz Camp, taking on a significant leadership role on my TYG Board, and more.
Some of the moments I remember the most were part of the Biennial Teen Experience. They nurtured a caring community that lead to several friendships just like any other NFTY Event. I remember all of the teens learning a new song from Dan Nichols and then performing on stage with him on Saturday night. This was a special moment for me, and one I will never forget. As part of the Teen Experoence, we were given mentors to help us get the most out of our experience. Little did I know my mentor would become my camp director, and that Biennial was just the beginning of our relationship that would grow immensely over the next two years.
My connection to the Reform Movement has grown exponentially since Biennial. For me, Biennial opened the gates to leadership, friendship, and a feeling of connection to the Reform Movement. In a way, that is what Biennial is about. It’s your all-in-one URJ package. I think everyone involved in URJ Youth programs should be at Biennial, to catch up with friends, meet new ones and to learn about what you can do next with those relationships. And honestly, even if you are not super involved, Biennial is still the place for you. You will learn so much and want to do so much with that knowledge. That is the beauty of it all, Biennial is for anyone. There were people I met once at Biennial, and have seen countless times since, who I might not have met otherwise; however, Biennial lead our Jewish journeys down similar paths.
Heading into Biennial for the second time, I’m excited to see how our movement has changed and how we can make it even better for the future. I hope that every teen at Biennial leaves Chicago feeling a stronger connection to the URJ as a whole, and knowing that they have a voice in our identity for the future.
I can’t wait to see so many familiar faces in Chicago, and I’m excited about the countless new friendships that await me in the Windy City!
– Josh May
BIO: Josh May is a senior at Needham High School in Needham, MA. He is involved in his NFTY region NFTY-Northeast and loves to attend events. He is a member of Temple Beth Elohim in Wellesley, MA where he is on his TYG Board. He Studied abroad in Israel his sophomore year with URJ Heller High and attended URJ Kutz Camp the past two summers participating in the NFTY Incubator . He was a part of Mitzvah Corps Civil Rights Journey 2017 and has been to the RAC for L’taken. Josh loves to travel, and is always on the go!