By Maya Levy, NFTY President
As a NFTYite I always had a lot of questions about Netzer Olami: what it is, where NFTY fits into it, what their programming is like, etc. This month I traveled to Jerusalem with Brandon Morantz (NFTY Religious Cultural Vice President) for their event, Netzer Veida Olamit, where I was finally able to learn the answers to a lot of these questions.
Over the course of this six-day conference at Beit Shmuel, the Jerusalem home for the Progressive Jewish movement, we concluded that NFTY is quite different from Netzer: Each Netzer branch holds strongly to a set ideology, or hagshama. Their programs mostly take place during summer and winter camps, whereas NFTY runs programs all throughout the school year. Instead of starting in middle school or high school like NFTY678 or NFTY, they start to engage participants in elementary school. Lastly, they talk about Zionism and Israel a lot. (If you want to take a deeper dive into Netzer, I recommend exploring this page.)
- Although we are different in many ways, Brandon and I saw that there was so much to learn from our Netzer siblings. A few things Brandon and I reflected heavily on during our time at Veida:
NFTY’s leadership culture and trajectory. Netzer has a very clear leadership training experience and pipeline from participants into leaders. The trajectory for NFTY leaders is less clear, but it may be useful to think about our leadership a bit more.
- NFTY’s relationship with Israel. I went to Jewish day school for 8 years, and I’m still not sure I’ve ever talked about Israel and Zionism more than I did at Netzer Veida. Netzer embraces talking about Israel and Zionism and has created a culture of healthy conversation about Israel. NFTY needs to provide a space where our participants can form an educated opinion and talk about Israel constructively (see NFTY Study Theme). One of Brandon’s favorite teachings about Israel from the event was to “view Israel like your parents.” You love and care deeply for your parents, and, as you get older and get to know them better, it is natural to critique them because you expect more from them.
- The music was beautiful. Wouldn’t it be cool to have a service where we use international melodies? Listen here and here.
Following this life-changing experience in Jerusalem, Brandon and I headed to Kibbutz Tzuba, the home of URJ Heller High and had our minds blown yet again. We sat through a day of Hebrew, Jewish history, and secular classes, all of which were engaging and top of the line. Not only are the academics impressive, but they have the opportunity to live on a beautiful Kibbutz and learn about Israel by exploring the land. The energy and excitement amongst the students on Kibbutz Tzuba was intoxicating, and it was such a special opportunity to experience the program, engage with the participants, and get inspired for Veida!