COVID-19 has turned our entire world upside down. Recently, the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) announced our decision to cancel in-person programs this summer. This has introduced new financial realities and challenges for the entire URJ, including NFTY.
NFTY has a proud 80 years history of providing teens a safe home-away-from-home, and a community that inspires them to become their best selves and empowers them to change the world. NFTY’s mission has remained constant, while the structure, programs, and priorities have evolved with the times.
This is another one of those moments where the NFTY experience must evolve to fit where we are as a community and as a Movement. COVID-19 has had a significant financial impact on the URJ, resulting in a reduction in personnel across the entire organization. Sadly, this affects NFTY as well, as we are required to reduce and reorganize the number of NFTY regional professionals in the field and reimagine how our professionals serve our teens.
This is heartbreaking. Like you, we love and cherish each of these professionals. They care for, mentor, and lead our communities. We have unending gratitude for each of them and all that they bring to NFTY. Please understand: if we felt there was another way, we would have taken it.
The professionals whose positions are being eliminated were told today, but their final date of employment will not be until June 30th. In addition, some of our NFTY staff will be staying on and joining our camp teams.
Our commitment to NFTY and to youth is unwavering. Our vision and mission has not, and will not, change. These were incredibly difficult decisions, but they were made with the future and sustainability of NFTY at their core. In this moment of change, we need your partnership to reimagine NFTY, and ensure that the NFTY of the future continues to serve you and your community for years to come.
As a synagogue professional we know you, like us, are deeply committed to NFTY, our collective youth engagement work, and to our future. We have, and continue to be, partners in this work. While the economic realities of COVID-19 have necessitated us making hard decisions about staff, it is up to all of us to decide what to do with the new reality. Though this moment is challenging, our commitment to this joint work has not wavered.
Please join us for a webinar to learn more about the changes within NFTY, the impact on individual regions, and how we can partner to support our teens. In addition to these webinars for synagogue staff, we will be hosting webinars over the upcoming days for regional boards, NFTYites, parents, alumni, and other stakeholders. These webinars will begin the process of co-creating the future of NFTY.
Any teen who has attended a NFTY event in the last year will be receiving an email similar to this one, inviting them to be a part of this process. If you believe there are others who should be included, please direct them to NFTY.org/Future.
Later this week, you will have the opportunity to talk with your regional director, give them your love and support, and to discuss your region specifically. They are hearing this news today, too, and we hope you will consider giving them a moment to pause if they need it. For now, we hope you’ll join us to begin the co-creation process. We also hope that you’ll join one of our virtual NFTY events this weekend, which will still be held as scheduled – it is more important than ever that our NFTY community comes together to support one another.
At our NFTY events and Reform Movement gatherings across North America, we sing the biblical words put to song by Debbie Friedman:
L’chi lach to a land that I will show you,
Lech L’cha to a place you do not know.
L’chi Lach – on your journey I will bless you.
And you shall be a blessing L’chi lach.
This is our moment. This is our moment to go forward to a place we do not know. This is our moment to adapt and to evolve. This is our moment to embrace the unknown. This is our moment to be a blessing and to forge a new future for NFTY.
We hope you will join us in the important work ahead.
Michelle Shapiro Abraham
URJ Director of Learning & Innovation
URJ Vice President of Camps, NFTY & Immersives