Celebrating NFTY’s Diamond Jubilee



Taking the words of the prophet Joel as the refrain of her 1981 classic song “And The Youth Shall See Visions,” Debbie Friedman captured the role of young people in our Movement:

And the old shall dream dreams, and the youth shall see visions, And our hopes shall rise up to the sky.

For 75 years, the Reform Youth Movement has inspired our young to boldly revitalize Jewish life with their creativity and commitment. Too often adults expect youth to be just like them, but the job of youth is not to be the caretaker of the status quo. We do not need them to download our agendas into their spiritual hard drives, but rather to help us see the Jewish future through their visions.

This past February I was privileged to join 35 of our stellar NFTY (North American Federation of Temple Youth) leaders at the BBYO (formerly B’nai B’rith Youth Organization) convention in Dallas. Many people wondered what were we doing there — “Isn’t BBYO the rival of NFTY?” But our remarkable youth leaders did the math: Together, NFTY and BBYO reach only 3.5% of North American Jewish teens. To engage more of their peers, they decided to move beyond rivalry to partnership.

Next February, both the NFTY and BBYO conventions will be held on the same weekend in Atlanta. The youth leaders are planning a number of joint programs, demonstrating that we are stronger when we work together.

Our Movement is also expanding its connection with young people through summer camps, Israel programs, and Mitzvah Corps. This summer, more than 12,000 young people — a record number — will experience immersive Jewish programming, including the new Six Points SciTech Camp; Harlam Day Camp; and Mitzvah Corps programs in Israel, Washington, DC, and Portland, Oregon.

In celebration of NFTY’s anniversary, we are calling upon all alumni, fans, and friends to join us in launching the NFTY alumni network. Visit NFTY75.org to make sure you are included in the celebration — I’ll personally be reading your stories and seeing your photos.

And if youth programming has not been part of your past, please make it part of your future. In doing so, you will help us involve and engage more Jewish youth. Our Movement is strong because youth of yesterday and today have seen visions. And with God’s and your help, may an ever-growing number of young people imagine and pave the way for 75 strong years to come.

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Rabbi Rick Jacobs

About Rabbi Rick Jacobs

Rabbi Rick Jacobs is the president of the URJ. See his full bio and other writings on the URJ website.

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