I Believe in the Future of NFTY
By: Julie Marsh, URJ Associate Director of Youth Organizing – North American Community
I will forever and always fully believe in the future of NFTY. I believe our teens should have a voice in their Youth Movement. I believe that as an adult in the Reform Movement, it is my obligation to teach teens how to find the power in their voice, and use their power and their voice.
Over the last year I have spent time reaching out to many of you and listening. Listening to you share concerns, thoughts, suggestions and ask questions. During these conversations, the space is there for me to share my story with you, to help build a relationship with you and to gain you as a partner for our teens. I have been able to share that even though we are taking an uphill step, our teens are leading programs, our teens are building new relationships and also mending old ones. I have shared that many of our teens have found their power and use it to help their peers and congregations in their region understand what NFTY looks like in 2023. While that may be different then when “I was in NFTY,” that is okay because these are the teens who are in NFTY now.
Why this blog post? It is simple, during conversations the last few weeks, I have heard from people either these exact questions or something very similar.
“Julie, why should we believe in NFTY with everything that has gone on?”
“Julie, is NFTY dead – if it is – how are we investing in our teens?”
“Julie, you need to do way more than just call me to mend my opinion of NFTY.”
I believe that our URJ Community needs to hear answers directly from our NFTYites and some of our amazing adult NFTY partners. So, I reached out to current NFTY teens and alumni and asked them to complete the following prompt: “I believe in the future of NFTY because…” These are the responses I received.
“NFTY is alive because there are still voices pushing it forward, there are still people making it happen, and there are still Jewish teens connecting with each other.” –Ben Levkovitz, NFTY-STR
“I believe NFTY is alive because I continue to see people all around me who are coming into NFTY for the first time and making it their place. I see people who are putting their time and energy into making the movement something great. Most of all, I see people who will keep coming back again, keep being there for each other, because they care. They never stopped caring.” -Frogby Sachs, NFTY-TOR
“I believe NFTY is alive because of the passion and commitment we saw at The Collab from teens who are all over North America!” -Lainey Weissman, NFTY-SAR
“I believe in the future of NFTY because our teen leaders, inspired by our Jewish tradition, have always found a way forward, building a more loving, just, and compassionate world.” -Evan Traylor, NFTY Alum
“I believe in NFTY because I see teens working tirelessly to create events for their peers in meaningful ways. They work gracefully through the struggles that come their way. Yet they aren’t stopped because of them, better yet they improve the life that flows through NFTY. The work we do creates a stronger community full of vitality and joy. At its center are other teens like me working harder than ever to continue Reform Jewish youth programming nationwide.” -Ariel Eisen, NFTY-SW
“I believe in the future of NFTY because of the strong Jewish community it fosters that allows for life long friends to be made.” -Geordie Waldman, NFTY-MV
“I believe in the future of NFTY thanks to everything it has done for me. The programs have taught me how to grow, be a better person, and a better leader, and the community has guided me through my struggles and been there for my successes. NFTY isn’t just an organization, it’s a community and a family, and even though it changes every year, and it evolves, it is all of our homes.” -Barak Landis, NFTY-NAR
“I believe in the future of NFTY because of the teens who show up and who give their time and energy to making NFTY better.” -Shayna Levy, NFTY-TOR
“I believe in the future of NFTY because building future Jewish leaders when they are in high school through peer-led opportunities strengthens the entire Reform movement and Jewish community.” -Rabbi Melissa Zalkin Stollman, NFTY Alum
“I believe in the future of NFTY because it provides our community an outlet in which we can be flawlessly ourselves, no matter who is watching.” -Sienna Shapiro, NFTY-OV
Today, NFTY is part of the movement that teens, synagogues, and the URJ are working together to build. In addition to local and regional NFTY experiences, the Reform Jewish Youth Movement also includes North American Fellowships and other leadership opportunities for teens being created in real time. Together these programs create a varied and powerful way for teens to lead their peers for building an inclusive Jewish community, social justice, and Reform Zionism.
What does NFTY look like as it grows in power?
- Regions have two different kinds of Regional NFTY events: the traditional kallah hosted by regional camps, and NFTYx events hosted by local synagogues and supported by the NFTY team
- To date, 13 regions have held a collective total of 30 NFTYx events.
- 17 of our 19 regions already have a trusted adult in the Regional Mentor role.
- We have a date for The Collab – A URJ Teen Leadership Collaborative event. It will be held November 10-13, 2023 at URJ OSRUI!
Success looks different to everyone. Does NFTY look the same as it did when I was in high school? No, it does not, nor should it look the same. NFTY is evolving. The teens get to decide what NFTY looks like, the teens get a seat at the table, and the teens are leading the conversation about their Reform Jewish Youth Movement. Let me share what is the same in NFTY from when I was in high school: the heart, the energy, the belief, the community that is being created, the hugs, the smiles, the laughter and the memories taken. The NFTY energy is still contagious and our teens still have the NFTY spirit. There is no doubt that it looks different in different regions, and to be honest, much of the success has depended on us adults; where we have jumped in to support and mentor, NFTY is flourishing, where we have held back, NFTY is struggling. Our teens need us – and this is the moment to lean in.
Want to get involved, have questions, or share an idea? Please reach out to any of the Youth Organizing Team and become part of the team helping to build NFTY and the Reform Jewish Youth Movement. Want to help ensure that NFTY has the financial means to accomplish all of the incredible things our teens are working toward? This is your opportunity to help get us there, your gift will not just be considered a donation, it will be considered you supporting and believing in our NFTY teens while they build their movement in the future. And to receive the latest updates on what is happening in NFTY, make sure you are subscribed to our emails.
I believe in NFTY. Do you?