Chazak Chazak V’nitchazeik

By Andrew Keene and Debbie Rabinovich

Our tradition teaches us to separate Shabbat from the rest of the week and make it holy. We mark this separation and transition into the regular week withHavdalah. On some weeks, we take the opportunity to savor the transition time and prolong the Havdalah experience. In NFTY, the Reform Jewish Youth Movement, this Shabbat is one that we will savor for a few extra moments as we install the newly elected NFTY North American Board. The installation will occur at the Union for Reform Judaism Kutz Camp, the home of NFTY and Inspired Engagement.

The NFTY Board installation ceremony is the actualization of the concept of hanhagah l’dorot, Generational Leadership. Past and present NFTY leaders partake in witnessing and installing the newly charged North American leadership in a tradition that transcends generations of NFTY leadership.

The transition of NFTY leadership on all levels represents change and growth in our movement. There has never been a more thrilling time to be a NFTYite. Leaders currently stepping into their positions are charged with a tall order of engaging peers in new and innovative ways.

As we reflect on our recent history, it is easy to see the rapid growth in youth engagement and extrapolate the work to be done by our present and future leaders.

The NFTY Presidency of Evan Traylor was built on the inception of the Campaign for Youth Engagement, when the Reform Jewish community became aware of the staggering statistics surrounding post-b’nai mitzvah engagement in Jewish life. The URJ Biennial in 2011 was the beginning of deep thinking, research, evaluation, and development of a strategy that on the macro-level will change how teens engage in Jewish life forever. This call to action catalyzed a consultancy that furthered our understanding of millennials, trends in engagement, and best practices for engaging teens in a network of meaningful and intentionally Jewish experiences.

This year, the Campaign for Youth Engagement grew in depth and breadth. Inspired Engagement is predicated on the idea that people engage most meaningfully in what they love, what they are passionate about, and what is inspiring. It is rooted in relationships, peer-to-peer engagement, starting with “why,” and the commitment to making the world a better place. This year, NFTY will launch NFTY6, a coordinated effort to engage pre-teens before the age of b’nai mitzvah while empowering older teenagers to serve as their peer-mentors. Inspired Engagement calls for a new method of offering openness to all Jewish teenagers, synagogue members or not. The pilot of these concepts and practices is geared towards opening our tent wider and breaking down silos so that every teen has a welcoming home in NFTY. Early successes are already clear.

Debbie Rabinovich, the incoming NFTY President, will be charged with championing the implementation of Inspired Engagement. The CYE and Inspired Engagement are no longer ideas that live on paper or computer screens. The soon-to-be-installed NFTY Board will be piloting a plane powered by Inspired Engagement. As we continue to build a movement that focuses on building relationships and strengthening the bonds that create NFTY, Debbie and her board will be instrumental in the shift in paradigm needed to invigorate NFTYites across North America. Their influence and leadership will be crucial in sharing the strategies and practices of Inspired Engagement with NFTY leaders on every level of NFTY leadership.

As the Torah is passed through the generations of North American leaders present at NFTY Board installations, not only is it the passing of sacred Jewish text and knowledge, it represents the work of 74 previous NFTY North American Boards. The collective knowledge of NFTY’s history is immense and it is the charge of this body of leadership to interpret and extract wisdom from it to propel the movement forward. NFTY Board installations conclude with the lighting of candles held by the incoming NFTY Board and the extinguishing of candles held by the outgoing NFTY Board. Just as we extinguish the Havdalah candle to end Shabbat, we too extinguish the candles of past NFTY leadership, knowing full well that our new leaders will use their freshly lit torches to guide them through a rich year of NFTY!

This week, we not only separate Shabbat from the rest of the week, we relish in the few extra moments of Havdalah as we transition from strength to strength.

Chazak Chazak V’nitchazeik– Be strong, be strong, and together let us strengthen one another, our NFTY leaders, and the Reform Movement!

Andrew Keene is the NFTY President for the 2013-2014 year. A native of NFTY-Northern , Andrew served as RCVP and President of SHFTY (Milwaukee, Wisconsin), as well as the Northern Regional Board. He is two-time alum of the HUC Study Weekend, URJ Biennial, and last year attended the Regional Board Leadership Track at the URJ Kutz Camp. This year, Andrew will be focusing his time on NFTY and Teen Engagement work on the local and North American level through a trial gap-year program for North American Board Leadership .

Debbie Rabinovich joined her Temple Youth Group, LIBERTY, in 8th grade. Since then she has served on the LIBERTY Board, the RAC’s Commission for Social Action, the URJ Resolutions committee and was a NFTY delegate to the URJ Biennial. Debbie also served NFTY-SAR (Southern Area Region) last year as the Social Action Vice President and Camp Jenny co-director. Debbie is an alumna of URJ Kutz Camp.

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