“Every successful social movement in history was led by idealistic young people.”
— Marshall Ganz, Harvard Kennedy School for Public Service
We believe that the heart and soul of the Reform Jewish Movement are the passionate teens who are not only our future leaders, but also our current leaders. Our movement needs these leaders to engage their peers, communities, and social networks into dynamic Jewish experiences, and help transform the broader world into a place of wholeness, justice, equity and joy for all people.
When we empower Jewish teens to organize, they can lead the Reform Jewish Movement today and for generations to come as they become clergy, professional, or volunteer leaders.
Where We Are Now
- The URJ continues to have powerful opportunities for teens in our camping system, justice work, Israel Immersives, and a growing number of fellowships. While these experiences engage thousands of teens each year, our movement has felt the decrease in NFTY’s vibrancy.
- While the impact of NFTY on highly engaged teens has remained consistent, we have seen a decreasing number of Reform congregations send teens to NFTY and therefore have seen the overall participation shrink.
- NFTY began to lose its power as a “movement” that impacted the Reform Jewish ecosystem and shifted to being a “program” where teens either did or didn’t participate. This shift has had a significant financial and communal impact.
- Over the last year, we created a volunteer structure of “Board Coaches” who are giving their time to support teens now by working with regional teen boards. This has brought new energy and possibilities into NFTY that did not previously exist.
- NFTYx , a model that gives power to congregations to host their own regional NFTY events, is taking root in many of our communities. There is still work to be done, but we are seeing the potential of this approach.
- While our teens have not been able to gather for an overnight in-person event for over two years, their energy continues. They have created numerous online experiences, local programs, and engaged thousands of their peers. NFTY is preparing for in-person spring retreats happening across North America and the excitement is palpable.
- At the North American and regional level, our teens are preparing to identify their next generation of leaders at both the North American and regional levels. In some communities, teens are opting for traditional board models, while in other regions, they are exploring new models of leadership teams and more fluid opportunities.
The moment to reinvigorate NFTY to be the movement it was meant to be is now. We have a powerful year-round Reform teen community that, working with trusted adults, galvanizes their peers, acts on issues they are passionate about, and gains the skills to create a more whole, just, and joyful world through vibrant, relevant Jewish life.
What We are Doing to Create this Future State
- We have brought on a NFTY alum who has held over 100 one-on-one conversations with recent alumni, current NFTY leaders, and potential participants and is organizing them into campaigns to act and make changes.
- We have brought on an expert consultant in community organizing to help us bring about the change we seek.
- We have begun workshops for our current teen leaders to learn how to actualize their own power, analyze opportunities, and create the NFTY they want.
- We have begun workshops for our internal NFTY staff and current NFTY volunteers on how to support teens on their journey.
- We are continuing to support congregations who are planning NFTYx events, strengthening our resolve that NFTY is at its best when teens and communities are at its center.
- We are exploring as a full URJ team – synagogue, NFTY, camps, Israel Immersives, Religious Action Center – how to coordinate our teen engagement and empower a new generation.
Things to Watch:
- New staffing model – The Area Manager model worked to get us through the worst of the pandemic. However, it isn’t the model that will strengthen us and move us into the future. We look forward to sharing the new staffing model being created in partnership with our teen leaders on our upcoming information calls. This model will bring staff to every region.
- Spring Kallot – We held our first in-person Spring Kallah since 2020 at Camp Kalsman in the beginning of March. Over 100 teens gathered, learned, and celebrated together. Check out the North American NFTY calendar for upcoming events
- Welcome Julie! – Mazel tov to Julie Marsh, who has been brought on as the NFTY North American Manager. Julie has years of experience at URJ camps, congregations, and as the NFTY-STR Regional Director. In her new role, Julie is working closely with our North American board and helping to support NFTY regions, staff, and teens.
- NFTY NAB – Mazel tov to our NFTY North American Board!
- NFTYx If you ran a NFTYx event in 2021-22, keep an eye out for an invitation over the coming weeks. We want to meet with you, learn from your experience, and continue to evolve our approach.