by Aileen McDonald
“Do you hear that? Do you hear that???”
This question may be the the opening line to the NFTY cheer, but it is also something that relates to the entirety of NFTY Veida 2020: the endless number of connections formed between NFTYites that could truly be heard and experienced so intensely throughout the event.
There is something so special about the connections that are formed during each and every NFTY event, but this was especially evident throughout Veida.
One particular moment of connection was during the final evening of the event, when the entire room broke out collectively into the strongest expression of the NFTY cheer I have ever experienced. The energy of each STOMP, CLAP radiated through the room and could be felt by everyone. Jumping collectively while surrounded by regional leaders from across North America all expressing their passion for NFTY in the same energy-filled moment felt surreal and empowering.
As soon as the main NFTY cheer came to an end, the contagious energy continued as each region moved to an area together to simultaneously do their own regional cheers. As I was looking at the pure joy on the faces of the teens from my region and the entire room, I could really feel the deep connection that each teen feels to their regions and the entire NFTY movement.
On Friday evening, the community gathered for a beautiful Kabbalat Shabbat service that included written parts from regional leaders about their perspectives on god, leadership, and community. Everything said was remarkably insightful and everyone in the room could feel a connection to the stories and statements.
Following services, there were choice mixer blocks, where each teen could choose a mixer they would like to join – each mixer had been led in one of the regions sometime in the past year. In one of the mixers I went to, we broke into small groups and discussed our past NFTY experiences to find commonalities between the people in the group. This was an interesting task – we had done it earlier this year in my region, NFTY Northeast, but there was a different dynamic at Veida because we all come from different regions with different traditions. I left the mixer with a better understanding of how much we truly have in common.
On Saturday, the Shabbat morning service began in the Bayit building, which was the first building built on the camp. Throughout the service, the history of OSRUI, the Reform Jewish camp in Wisconsin where Veida took place, was shared and it was truly amazing to hear about the impact that OSRUI has had on bringing the Reform Jewish community together since the 1950s.
Part way through the service, we moved to the Kaye Center, the newest building on the camp. Each of the aliyot (people called up to chant the Torah blessings) perfectly reflected the story of past to present, and the connections that all of us in the room share: first having the NFTY alumni come up, then the URJ camp alumni, and finally the people who were attending their first North American NFTY event.
Not only did I feel strong connection to NFTY, but also to the Reform Jewish movement as a whole. Through powerful conversations about Israel, I learned important information about the World Zionist Congress Elections and the processes in Israel. The conversations I was able to have during Veida helped to open my eyes to the importance of having a Reform Jewish voice within the world’s Jewish communities.
During a program about life after NFTY, I was able to connect with several of the RAs about being a Reform Jew in a college community and striving to make the most of Jewish life after NFTY as well. Being able to hear their stories and get advice from past NFTYites felt like a great opportunity connecting to our futures and life after being a participant in NFTY.
There was even an essential connection to the future of NFTY: Electing the 5781 North American Board and thinking about the future of our region in terms of what we believe our region needs and how we can obtain that goal between the next 6 months to 3 years, and beyond.
At the end of Veida, the regional presidents stood around the room, and one at a time expressed what their region is planning for how they can help their individual region to be the best that it can be. It was great to hear such a wide variety of directions for how each region plans to focus their energy. It was beautiful to hear everyone’s goals and the mindset that we all share: Gonna live and die N-F-T-Y!
Aileen McDonald is a senior in high school from NFTY Northeast and currently serves as the Recording Secretary. Outside of NFTY, she loves participating in her school’s debate team, student government, and Girl Scouts.