For over eighty years, NFTY – The Reform Jewish Youth Movement, has offered thousands of young people the opportunity to explore and live Reform Judaism through teen-powered weekends and engaging social justice ventures.
NFTY is a movement that builds strong, welcoming, inspired communities through teen-powered engagement. Together, we pursue tikkun olam, personal growth, youth empowerment, and deep connections, all rooted in Reform Judaism.
Stemming from a historic tradition of both Jewish and non-Jewish European youth movements, NFTY is the Reform Jewish youth movement that fosters leadership at the North American, regional and congregational level. Today, hundreds of Reform congregations throughout North America sponsor Temple Youth Groups, bringing the NFTY experience to thousands of teens. Through opportunities offered by congregations in the 19 NFTY regions, and on the North American level, NFTYites strive to forge an identity in consonance with the goals and values of Reform Judaism.
NFTY is advised in partnership between teen leaders and adult Jewish youth professionals. NFTY also functions as a youth organization, a program of the Union for Reform Judaism, a ‘snif‘ (branch) of Netzer Olami, the international Reform Zionist youth organization, as well as a partner in the URJ Campaign for Youth Engagement.
Whether functioning as an organization, program, or youth movement, NFTY is a Reform Jewish community for all high school students who are interested in connecting to their Judaism. Teens forge and build friendships, lifelong Reform Jewish identities, and leadership skills through community building, worship, social action, and experiential youth-led Jewish educational programming. Many NFTYites serve as NFTY leaders on the local, TYG, regional, and even North American levels. Many NFTY Leaders continue on to become both lay and professional leaders of the Reform Jewish Movement.
nfty’s 13 principles
Teens and adults need the same skills to grow our youth groups and communities into fun, inclusive, radical movements that set the direction of Reform Judaism and have the power to change the world. These sessions are available to anyone: high schoolers, synagogue professionals, alumni – you name it. You’ll see that some sessions are designed for just one of those groups, and others are open to everyone, with a breakout where we’ll think about how to apply them to our different communities based on our roles. Check out the Upcoming Trainings section to see what’s coming up soon.
TORAH – תורה
A commitment to God and Torah as a means of inter- and intra-personal fulfillment
THE STATE OF ISRAEL – MEDINAT YISRAEL –
The centrality of the State of Israel to the strength and survival of the Jewish People
HISTORY – MIDOR L’DOR - מדור לדור
The recognition that in order to fully appreciate our present and ensure our future we must strive to understand our past
KOL YEHUDIM - כל יהודים
The acceptance and encouragement of alternate modes of Jewish experience
JUSTICE – TZEDEK - צדק
The obligation to work for justice for all
COMMUNITY – KEHILAH - קהילה
The need for community to provide an outlet for the individual needs of all Jews
PARTNERSHIP – SHUTAFUT - שותפות
The need and desire to work together to foster each individual’s connection and commitment to ensuring the vibrancy of our movement
THE JEWISH PEOPLE –
AM YISRAEL - עם ישראל
The unity of the Jewish People
HEBREW – IVRIT – תעברי
The importance of the Hebrew language as a vital component to the strength of the Jewish People
CHOICE THROUGH KNOWLEDGE –
NILMAD V’NA’ASEH –
The necessity of lifelong Jewish learning and teaching as a foundation for our observance through a life of continual discovery of Jewish tradition, law and ethics
SELF – TIKKUN MIDDOT - תיקון מידות
The understanding that we are to be a light unto the nations by fostering an environment where every individual can meet and exceed their potential as Jews and citizens of the world
REPAIRING THE WORLD - TIKKUN OLAM - תיקון עולם
The obligation to repair the world
FUN AND SPIRIT –
KEF v’RUACH - כיף ורוח
The importance of fun and spirit as foundations of our movement
NFTY was founded in 1939 as the youth arm of the Union for Reform Judaism (formally known as the Union of American Hebrew Congregations). It was created at the urging of the National Federation of Temple Sisterhoods in order to provide an outlet for young people to engage in the life of their synagogues. NFTY’s early membership was comprised of college-age youth, rather than high school, and its national officers were in their twenties. At that time, there were three NFTY regions—Pennsylvania, Chicago, and New York.
Growth in the number of Temple Youth Groups (TYGs) and NFTY regions continued steadily without significant change until 1948. At that time, NFTY held its last National Convention (until the 1980’s), adopting a new constitution that created major structural changes in the young organization: NFTY Conventions were dropped in favor of summertime Leadership Institutes, the membership of NFTY was dropped from college to high school age, and the regions were given a relatively larger share in determining program and policy.
In 1951, NFTY entered the camping movement by, for the first time ever, holding its Leadership Institute at the Union’s newly purchased camp in Oconomowoc, WI. The camp, which would later come to be known as the Olin-Sang-Ruby Union Institute Camp, was the first of a now thriving group of URJ camps. Since their creation, they have influenced the lives of thousands of NFTYites who have come to the camps for summers of work, study, and fun.
1952 was NFTY’s bar mitzvah year. As a programming gimmick, the idea of emphasizing “mitzvah” programs and projects that “serve others rather than ourselves” was introduced. This idea has influenced NFTY ever since.
1954 was a year of significant expansion. In addition to two National Institutes, the number of regional summer camp sessions exceeded one dozen. The first NFTY Advisor’s Institute was sponsored, and an experimental first NFTY trip to Israel and Europe was launched. The number of regions passed the 15 mark, and the total number of regional conclaves exceeded 100. The NFTY Office published two newsletters and dozens of programmatic resources.
1960 was NFTY’s 21st birthday, and so it took the theme “Coming of Age,” and marked its coming of age by announcing: “ Naaseh V’Nishma — We Will Do and We Will Hearken.” The Naaseh V’Nishma program was NFTY’s first attempt to guide local TYG programming by providing guidelines for balanced excellence.
In 1961, NFTY inaugurated the Eisendrath International Exchange (EIE) Program, in which three boys from NFTY went for a semester of study to the Leo Baeck High School in Haifa, Israel, and three Uruguayan girls came to NFTY homes in the United States. Today, this program now called Heller High, is an exceptional High School Semester in Israel program, which usually sends over 100 NFTYites per year to Israel.
From 1962-1965, NFTY focused on innovation in international programming. The NFTY Summer Antiquities Tour brought NFTYites to see the sights and meet the Jewish youth of Europe and Israel. The NFTY Bible Institute provided a thorough touring experience in Israel. Mitzvah Corps programs sprung up in Puerto Rico, Israel, and Mexico, as well as in New York and Chicago. Today, almost every NFTY Region has local a social action program.
In 1965, NFTY acquired a new summer address: its own national camp—the URJ Kutz Camp in Warwick, NY. Beginning that summer, Kutz became the site for NFTY’s Leadership Institutes, Board Meetings, and other national programs.
In the late 1960’s, NFTY’s emphasis on mitzvah led it to the forefront of social action programming. NFTY stressed in all its programming that young people could really make a difference in the world. In addition, the use of guitar in NFTY worship and NFTY songs became an important trademark for NFTY and eventually the Reform Movement as a whole. The number of NFTY Regions in this period totaled 21.
In 1970, NFTY began to offer outreach programming to its alumni on college campuses, with one of its first programs taking place at the Military Academy at West Point. Those programs grew into the URJ’s College Education Department.
Throughout the 1970’s, NFTY’s international program expanded. The NFTY Israel Academy replaced the Bible Institute, and increasing numbers of groups went each summer. While NFTY Mitzvah Corps in Israel grew, NFTY added an Archeological Dig to its summer travel menu. By the end of the decade, hundreds of NFTYites were experiencing Israel each summer.
Starting in 1971 with a one hundred dollar loan for the URJ, NFTY also began to record its music on albums. These albums helped create a sense of movement as the music was now easily distributed throughout North America. Today, NFTY continues this tradition.
The URJ Kutz Camp began a major innovation in 1972. The various programs for fostering leadership skills, Jewish study, and creativity that had each been offered separately were combined into the NFTY National Academy. Noted professionals and scholars were called upon to bring their expertise to NFTY. At the same time, the NFTY National Torah Corps at the Kutz Camp developed a program of serious Jewish study and exploration for leaders seeking to deepen their Jewish knowledge and identity.
In the 1980’s, NFTY’s Naaseh V’Nishma program was replaced by the Chai project, then the Kavod Award, the Tikkun Olam B’Shem Adonai Award Program (TOBA), and then the Tikkun Olam Program. The program offered flexible guidelines for well-rounded TYG programming based on the NFTY Study Theme each year.
In 1983, NFTY reintroduced the NFTY Convention in Washington, DC. NFTY Conventions are now held every other year in a major North American city. The events also created a professional training opportunity to bring together adults who cared about young people under the auspices of the URJ Youth Workers Conference.
In 1993, NFTY and the Association of Reform Zionists in America (ARZA) formalized their relationship, further committing NFTY to Israel and to North American Zionist activity.
In 2005, at the NFTY Convention in Los Angeles California, NFTY finally formalized their relationship with Netzer Olami (Noar Tzioni Reformi), the international Reform Zionist youth movement. In a historic plenary meeting, the youth delegates voted and the resolution passed to become an official snif (branch) of Netzer Olami. NFTY is now proud to boast that they belong to the largest youth movement in the world.
In 2019, the URJ Kutz Camp hosted its final summer leadership institute. While its doors have closed, its influence lives on in Reform Jewish leaders around the world.
Today, NFTY boasts hundreds of TYGs in 19 NFTY Regions throughout the United States and Canada, has both NFTY regional events and NFTYx events run by synagogues and supported by NFTY, and has sent tens of thousands of young people to Israel.
In the more than eighty years of its existence, NFTY has touched the lives of literally thousands of young American Jews through the programs it runs and the relationships it fosters. NFTY has influenced both the Jewish community and the world as it has let its voice be heard on the issues that confront us as Jews and as human beings. NFTY alumni, numbering in the hundreds of thousands, have taken their places in the leadership of the Reform and general Jewish community, both in North America and in Israel. Graduates of NFTY Programs are prominent in the creative, communal, political, and Reform Jewish spheres. These alumni agree that NFTY has helped its participants grow as people, as artists, as leaders, and as Reform Jews. We look back at our history with pride and look to our future with hope.
OUR PEOPLE – PROFESSIONAL STAFF
vice president of urj camps, nfty & Immersives
Ruben Arquilevich leads a team of stellar Camp and Youth professionals through North America and Israel who together mobilize over 20,000 youth, teens, parents, young adults and faculty to create a more just, compassionate, inclusive and sustainable world. From 1994-2018, Ruben served as the Executive Director of URJ Camp Newman, a year-round camp and retreat center serving communities in California, several Western States and Israel. In addition to over three decades of professional experience in Jewish Camping, youth work and leadership, he an MBA in non-profit management and a minor in Jewish studies from the American Jewish University; along with a BA in Psychology from The Colorado College. He is a Wexner Fellow and recipient of the Outstanding Alumni Award from the American Jewish University, the JCRC Outstanding Community Partnership Award and the Jewish Family & Children Services Family Award for outstanding leadership.
Michelle Shapiro Abraham
Executive Director of Strategic Innovation and Program
Michelle Shapiro Abraham (she/her) is an alum of NFTY and UAHC Camp Swig (now URJ Camp Newman) and has worked in the field of Jewish Education for over twenty years. She currently serves as the Executive Director of Strategic Innovation and Program for the URJ and oversees the Reform Movement’s teen strategies, Israel Immersives, and camp-related initiatives and grants. A longtime educator, author, and consultant for both camps and congregations, she holds a master’s degree and an honorary Doctorate in Jewish Education from the Rhea Hirsch School of Education at HUC-JIR. Michelle is a PJ Library and Sydney Taylor Notable Book Award author, and the proud recipient of the 2015 Covenant Award for Excellence in Jewish Education. She recently expanded her work to explore the intersection between community organizing and youth development as a strategy for reimaging Jewish leadership, communal power, and individual thriving. When not working, you can find Michelle hanging out with her family or in her pottery and metal work studio creating and playing.
Logan Zinman Gerber
Director of Youth Organizing – Leadership Development
Logan Zinman Gerber (she/hers), the Director of Youth Organizing – Leadership Development , is a community organizer and Jewish educator whose Judaism is rooted in social justice. Logan worked for seven years as the NFTY Chicago Director, partnering with student leaders to create programs and experiential learning for hundreds of high schoolers. As National Campaign Organizer for the Religious Action Center for the past four years, Logan taught high schoolers, college students, and young adults how to be community organizers and use their skills and stories to mobilize their communities to make change. Logan loves learning almost as much as creating educational experiences for others. She holds a BA in Jewish Studies and Sociology from the University of Wisconsin, masters in Social Administration and Social Work from the University of Chicago. You can find Logan running by the lake in Chicago with her dogs, searching for the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe, and singing a lot of Shabbat songs with her partner, Ben, and her small humans, Judah and Pearl. She is humbled to get to wake up every day and support our youth leaders in the development of their youth movement and pursuit of justice.
Rabbi Isaama Goldstein-Stoll
Director of Youth Organizing-Local Communities and Synagogues
Rabbi Isaama Goldstein-Stoll (she/her) is the new Director of Youth Organizing-Local Communities and Synagogues. A product of the Reform Movement, Rabbi Isaama grew up in NFTY and at URJ Camp Harlam, and is an ordinee of HUC-JIR (Cincinnati). She brings an expertise in building Jewish community, a passion for life-long Jewish learning, and a commitment to affirming and celebrating Jewish diversity. After serving as the Senior Jewish Educator at the Slifka Center for Jewish Life at Yale University, and as a Religious Life Consultant at Be’chol Lashon, Rabbi Isaama is glad to return “home” to the Reform Movement.
Associate Director, Youth Organizing – North American Community
Julie Marsh (she/her) serves as the Associate Director, Youth Organizing – North American Community . She’s an alum of CNYFTY, NFTY, Camp Harlam and Kutz. Julie has worked as a Congregation Youth Professional at Temple Beth Sholom, New City and Temple Israel, West Palm Beach where she was also the Clergy Assistant. On her 10-year anniversary at Temple Israel in 2011, she accepted the position of NFTY-STR Regional Director where she worked with hundreds of teens and many Congregational Professionals creating hands-on programs. Julie also had the privilege to run Camp Jenny alongside her teen partners. In January 2022 Julie returned to the URJ still fully believing in the impact teenagers can have in the Reform Jewish Movement. Julie is a forward thinker, decision maker and teen partner, which always promises success. She fully believes that children are not just our future, they are our present which means they need to be present in the conversation. Julie resides in Lake Worth, Florida with her husband, Lee. Together, they have a daughter, Kiley and two Golden Doodles, Bella and Bear. When not working Julie enjoys spending time at Disney World, or loafing on the couch watching Friends or The Prom. Julie does not take this amazing work with teens for granted, she is always proud watching her teens grow prouder of themselves.
Assistant Director of Youth Organizing – Development and Volunteer Community
Leora Cohen-Rosenberg (she/her), the Assistant Director of Youth Organizing – Development and Volunteer Community, has spent several years as an activist for many issues, particularly LGBTQ and reproductive rights, including serving as a Jeremiah Fellow with Bend the Arc. Leora is a proud graduate of SUNY Empire State, having also attended Pace University, where she served as an intern for their LGBTQA and Social Justice Center. She holds a B.A. in Cultural Studies with a concentration in Women’s and Gender Studies. She will receive her master’s in Nonprofit Administration from Gratz College this fall where she is a Midcareer Fellow.
Teen Justice Fellowship Organizer
Shoshana Maniscalco (she/her) is thrilled to be joining the Youth Organizing Team as the Teen Justice Fellowship Organizer! She previously worked at Jews United for Justice as a community organizer focusing on labor and housing justice at the county and state level in Maryland. Originally from Western Massachusetts, Shoshana attended Ithaca College where she studied sociology and counseling. She also spent 15 summers attending and working at URJ Eisner Camp.
Emma Jaszczak Maszi
Strategic Innovation and Program Associate
Emma Jaszczak Maszi (she/her) serves as the Strategic Innovation and Program Associate for the URJ, assisting with the Reform Movement’s teen strategies, Israel Immersives, and camp-related initiatives and grants. She is an alum of NFTY-STR and the URJ Kutz Camp, as well as a staffing alum of NFTY in Israel, URJ Camp Newman, and URJ 6 Points West. In addition to the URJ, Emma has worked at organizations such as BimBam and Tkiya Music, and is a curriculum consultant in the intersectional field of Jewish civic engagement. A passionate Jewish and arts educator, she holds master’s degrees in Arts Education from The Florida State University and in Jewish Education from the Rhea Hirsch School of Education at HUC-JIR in Los Angeles, as well as a master’s concentration in Israel Education from the iCenter. She lives in Cleveland, OH with her wife, Emily, their two dogs, Aggie and Franklin, and their guineapig, Hank, and in her free time she enjoys spending time with family, watching RuPaul’s Drag Race, and laying in her hammock.
Business & Operations Analyst
Matt Ghan (he/his) is the Business & Operations Analyst for the URJ Camping and Immersives team. Matthew is originally from San Jose, California and graduated Chapman University in 2016 majoring in Communication Studies. He grew up in NFTY CWR and worked for NFTY SoCal, and would not be the person he is today without his 15 summers spent at URJ Camp Newman. He serves as the Executive Vice Chair of the Board of Directors of The Hillel Foundation of Orange County, and studied abroad with The Nachshon Project Fellowship where he gained a deeper appreciation for Israel education. In his free time he loves to cook!
Lauren Stock (she/her) is so excited to be a part-time organizer with the new URJ Youth Organizing Team after almost a year working with the NFTY, RAC, and URJ teams to vision and kickstart this campaign. Her passion for teen leadership development comes from her involvement with Kutz, NFTY, and numerous other RAC and URJ Youth experiences as a teen and throughout college. She is an alum of Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT where she graduated with her B.A. in Theater, Sociology, and Dance. Originally from Dallas, TX, Lauren is making New York City her home starting this fall where she hopes to find ways to merge her identities as a theater director and community organizer. Lauren also works as a Product Specialist, Elfa Designer, and occasional In-Home Organizer at The Container Store where she organizes everything else in her life!
Organizer & Rabbinic Intern
Kelly Whitehead (she/they) is a forth year rabbinical student and Jewish Nonprofit Management MA student at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion and is excited to be a part-time organizer with the Youth Organizing Team. Kelly participated in the Reform Movement’s JewV’Nation Jews of Color Fellowship, where they learned to create and facilitate Anti-Racial Bias training for Jewish Professionals. Prior to Rabbinical School, she worked in a shared youth position between URJ Camp Harlam and Temple Sinai DC. They serve on the board of T’ruah: the Rabbinic Call for Human Rights and was selected as one of The Jewish Week’s 36 under 36 for 2021.
OUR PEOPLE – North American Board
Noa Apple (she/they) is currently living in Phoenix, Arizona. She served as the NFTY-SW Religious & Cultural Vice President for two years and before that as the NFTY-SW Head Songleader. Noa is forever grateful for NFTY, as the movement has helped them grow into themselves and turn their passions into actions. Along with NFTY work, Noa enjoys reading and learning new things (especially about art and philosophy), watching movies, writing poetry, and telling bad jokes. She loves meeting new people and is overjoyed whenever someone reaches out to her!
NFTY Programming Vice President (PVP)
Aiden D’Antonio (He/His) is a senior from Middletown, New Jersey. He has spent the last three years on NFTY-GER Cabinet as a Programming Coordinator, and Head Songleader. He has led many programs throughout his time in NFTY, and has loved seeing smiles on people’s faces at events. He is an Eagle Scout, as well as the Junior Assistant Scoutmaster of his troop. He loves to play guitar, and enjoys the color red, as well as sushi. When not on the soccer field or playing volleyball, he can be found hanging with friends and living it up!
NFTY Social Action Vice President (SAVP)
Daniella (any pronouns) is from California and previously served on the NFTY SOCAL regional board as SAVP. Outside of NFTY, you can find Daniella watching horrors, out with friends, or writing! Feel free to reach out to Daniella with any questions or if you want to talk.
NFTY Religious & Cultural Vice President (RCVP)
Simon Warner (He/Him) is from Missouri Valley, serving as RCVP for the past year and his TYG’s Special Projects Coordinator the year prior! Simon loves going to services, singing and praying as a community, especially during his summers at GUCI in Indiana, where he is going into my 12th summer! When not at the airport or on the road, you can find Simon at his synagogue attending services or local youth group events, going for a calm afternoon walk in the park, or picking up takeout!
NFTY Engagement & Inclusion Vice President (EIVP)
A platform to express creativity and intellect is all that Cameron Samuels (they/them) needs to advocate for social justice and inclusion. As an alum of several RAC fellowships and programs, Cameron firmly believes in the power that comes from an organized community. During the 87th Texas Legislature, Cameron served on the RAC-TX Core Team as they coordinated collaborative efforts to combat voter suppression and censorship of education curriculum. Studying Politics and Computer Science at Brandeis University, Cameron had to sadly leave their dog and two cats back home in Houston – one misses them very much, and the other two haven’t actually noticed yet.
NFTY Communications Vice President (CVP)
Arianna (she/her) is from Arizona and has been an active member of NFTY Southwest since 7th grade. She has served as the Southwest Membership Vice President in the past. When she is not engaged in NFTY, you can find her making mosaics from 600 Rubik’s cubes, singing in the Phoenix Children’s Chorus, and 3D printing.
NFTY Development Vice President (DVP)
Netzer stands for Noar Tzioni Reformi (meaning ‘Reform Zionist Youth’) and is the International Reform Zionist youth movement, home to thousands of young people in a range of countries spread over four continents. Netzer Olami (meaning ‘Worldwide Netzer’) is based in Jerusalem and serves as the headquarters for all of Netzer’s sniffim (branches) around the world.
NFTY is Netzer’s snif in North America. We share common values, and both work to advance Progressive Judaism in our respective areas. Every year, our leadership joins together at Netzer Veida, a leadership summit in Israel. Netzer even runs a gap year program open to NFTYites called Shnat Netzer!
Both NFTY and Netzer believe in youth empowerment and in young people running things for themselves. A central feature of Netzer snifim is that young people organize and run the activities, as well as taking responsibility for the major decisions affecting the movement.
While Netzer’s most recently updated platform contains 14 operatives, the ideology is set forth in three main pillars that help guide chapter programs, including NFTY events.
- Progressive Zionism
We are a Reform Zionist Youth movement, who encourage our members to develop a personal relationship with Israel.
- Tikkun Olam (Repairing the World)
We strive to be active in our commitment to Tikkun Olam (Repair of the World) on all levels, from self (Tikkun Atzmi) to social action on a range of communal and global issues.
- Youth Empowerment
Youth Empowerment is fundamental to the running of our Youth Movement. Camps and programs are organized and run by youth members, for youth members.