A New Era of NFTY
By Andrew Keene
An unidentified scholar teaches us, “Blessed is the generation in which the old listen to the young, and doubly blessed is the generation in which the young listen to the old.” For 75 years, NFTY, the North American Federation of Temple Youth, continues to serve as the link between the past, present, and future of Reform Judaism.
NFTY traces its roots to 1939, when it was established by the National Federation of Temple Sisterhoods (now Women of Reform Judaism) as a collegiate organization for Reform Jewish teens. Since 1939, NFTY, a movement anchored in synagogue-based youth groups, has evolved to meet the needs of Reform Jewish young adults across North America.
The history of NFTY is incredibly rich. No single narrative, article, journal, or book can fully portray the role NFTY has played – for the hundreds of thousands of teens it has impacted, and the role the movement has played on the world stage.
While the 75th birthday of NFTY occupies only one day this month, my peers and our adult leadership feel it is important to savor this milestone. Rather than a day-long party, NFTY’s 75th birthday will be an exciting 15-month celebration of our history and our bright future. The celebration began at the URJ Biennial in San Diego last month and will culminate at NFTY Convention (our biennial gathering of nearly 1,000 NFTYites) in February 2015.
This landmark in Reform Jewish history will serve as a catalyst for us to reconnect with alumni, reflect meaningfully on our rich past, and intentionally reposition ourselves to serve the next generation of NFTYites.
One way we are chronicling this 75th year is via Ten Minutes of Torah. Each Tuesday, this publication will highlight a different aspect of NFTY, our past and our future. These narratives and reflections will be published in a four-week cycle.
The first week in the cycle – a NFTY alumnus discussing a historical element – will be a decade-by-decade snapshot of NFTY, beginning in the 1940’s. Each historical essay will be echoed the following week by the voice of a current NFTYite who will share a unique facet of the current NFTY experience and their role in its success.
The third week in the cycle will feature NFTY’s music, capturing musical highlights from each decade of our 75 years. Music has had indelible impact on the NFTY experience, adding an additional spiritual and artistic element to our NFTY culture.
Each four-week cycle will conclude with a spotlight on an ongoing NFTY program, initiative or sponsorship. These entries will be authored by URJ staff, program alumni, and lay leaders.
I am most excited for the opportunity to share NFTY with you this year through Ten Minutes of Torah. Blessed are communities who learn from each other – and it is truly a blessing that this joyous time for NFTY is an intergenerational celebration – of the past, present, and our incredibly bright and exciting future.
Visit nfty75.org to learn more about NFTY’s 75th anniversary celebration.
Andrew Keene is the NFTY President for the 2013-2014 year. A native of NFTY-Northern (Milwaukee, WI), Andrew served as Religious and Cultural Vice President and President of NFTY-Northern Regional Board. This year Andrew will be delaying entering college and focusing his time on NFTY and teen engagement work on the local and North American level.