My Jewish Journey
By Susan Klau
To my family, one of the most important aspects of Reform Judaism is community. My Jewish journey through adolescence was much different than my parents’. My dad, born in New York and raised in Puerto Rico, experienced a limited and informal Jewish education. Puerto Rico’s Temple Youth Groups are associated with NFTY-NAR (the New York Area Region) and my dad did one year of NFTY his sophomore year of high school. As he tells it, his NFTY experience consisted of sitting in a circle with some of his classmates, eating pizza, talking about Jewish ‘hot’ topics, and singing To Everything There Is a Season.
My mother became a Jew by choice after meeting my dad, and one of the things that she loved so much about Judaism was the friendship network that came with the religion. When I was born, my parents knew that they wanted Judaism to be an important part of my identity.
When I joined my NFTY region my freshman year of high school, my parents couldn’t have been happier. Through raising me, my parents became more involved with Judaism themselves, and it was important to them that I continue Jewish learning after I became a bat mitzvah.
I am now a freshman in college. As I reflected on how important NFTY was to my family and me, I asked my mom what she saw in NFTY. She said,
“It gave you a healthy community, and I saw that when someone was sick or lonely, other NFTY people would outreach to them; when you traveled somewhere you would see someone from NFTY and you had instant connections. One of my friends told me this and I completely agree – NFTY and camp was one of the best parenting decisions I ever made.”
It’s important to note that though neither of my parents were too active in Jewish life growing up, their Jewish journeys have shifted and changed. They became active in Jewish life vicariously through me – since I couldn’t have gone to two NFTY conventions and a URJ Biennial without their support. I was thrilled when they came to see me run a NFTY program I had written and worked on for several weeks. Not only did they attend to see it come to life, but they sat on the floor with my NFTY peers and participated in a discussion about the Jewish values in decision making. No matter what year you were born, you can always engage in conversation.
A big saying in our family is l’dor vador (from generation to generation). My parents encouraged me to engage in a NFTY family that I now cherish, and know I’ll continue to deem important long into my adult years. And because of NFTY and because of who I am, I know that there will be many chains of my family involved for years to come – l’dor vador – from my parent’s child to my children.
Susan Klau is a NFTY and URJ Camp alumnus. She is currently studying at American University in Washington, D.C. where she is involved in Jewish activities on campus.