By Lindsey Plotkin, NFTY-TOR
When I first heard about NFTY Veida last year at NFTY Convention, I didn’t really know what it was, but I loved the idea of going to another North American event. Living in Texas my entire life, the idea of going to Wisconsin in the middle of February scared me, but I was excited for the opportunity and a chance to see snow.
As someone who is not on regional board and did not go to Kutz, at first, I felt out of place. It seemed like everyone had a network or a group of friends they were excited to see. Everyone was so welcoming and helpful throughout the weekend and I was able to form relationships with people who were in a similar situation as me. I didn’t lead any programs, so I got to experience all of the programs I was interested in. During the programs, I was able to form relationships with people from other regions, and talk about the differences between our camps. I met other people who were in the same situation as me, and even the people who came with friends from Kutz and other North American programs were so welcoming. We were able to find ways to get to know each other, while still enjoying and participating in the programs.
Friday night Shabbat Services have always been one of my favorite parts of NFTY and getting to share the special experience with my region, and all of North America made it so much more special to me. Getting to share those moments with my region and people from all over North America made the event so much more special to me. Shabbat song session was so much fun, as always because I got to sing songs that I already know and love; plus, I learned some new ones.
For me, one of the main reasons I go to NFTY events is the feeling of being home, and I really felt at home during Saturday’s Shabbat Morning services in the Bayit. Bayit means home in Hebrew, and when we were all gathered there, it was beautiful, and I felt that I was home with the people around me. Living in Texas, there aren’t very many other Jewish people around me, or at my school, so I come to NFTY to find my Jewish identity and sense of belonging. During this service, I felt more connected to NFTY than I had ever felt before. Something about everyone coming together and being one for that short amount of time gave me a true sense of belonging.
At Veida, I learned what teen leadership looks like. I saw teens leading programs and receiving respect from their peers in a way I had never experienced. When I led programs for the first time at NFTY-TOR’s TzedaKallah, I was scared, and had a hard time leading the group. During this event, I saw how others were able to successfully lead a group of people, and it showed me how impactful teen leadership can be. When I saw my friends leading programs, I saw them engaging other teens, and learning as the program progressed from everyone participating. This event was so important to me as a teen leader because it showed me that there are so many different ways to lead, and that leadership is so important to building a community and relationships with others.
Not only did I get to meet so many incredible people at my first Veida, I also got to experience snow for the first time with my friends from TOR! Just a week after it fake snowed in Austin, leaving some ice and gross snow residue on all the cars, I got to see real snow, and I loved it. On Sunday, during free time, we found a group sledding down the hill by the lake, and we were amazed that OSRUI had sleds ready for us. Seeing the joy on my friends’ faces while we were sledding made the fact that we were cold and wet not matter. People from other regions were so helpful making sure we used the sleds correctly and didn’t hurt ourselves, and I felt like I had known these people that I had just met for years. I never expected that I would be able to make connections with so many people over so many little things, like snow, sledding, or just the fact that we are Jewish teens learning how to express ourselves.
My experience at NFTY Veida 2020 was an incredible one, and I am so glad that I learned so many things about leadership and that I was able to make connections with people from all over North America. Some of the best connections I made with people happened in the cabin, just having conversations with others in my bunk, which is why I’m so excited for NFTY Convention 2021 to be at Greene Family Camp (GFC). Growing up having spent my summers at GFC, I am so excited to share my love of Greene with the rest of North America, and while there probably won’t be snow on the ground, nobody knows what the Texas weather will bring that weekend!