By: Sophie Foxman, 2013 Pottery Specialist
When people ask me what I want to be when I grow up, I tell them I am going to save the world. Their responses vary, but I am confident I will do just that because I have a pretty good foundation, thanks to both NFTY- NEL (North American Federation of Temple Youth, Northeast Lakes) and URJ Camp George.
This year I am serving as the NFTY-NEL Social Action Vice President. Apart from being a leader and role model within the organization, it is my job to inspire those around me and share my passion to change the world. Just recently, at Fall Kallah in Buffalo, NY, I helped lead the region in raising over $700 to be donated to an organization called charity: water. Every year, NFTY selects a social action theme, and this year’s theme is “NFTY Addresses Conflict Resolution.” Living in an area surrounded by Great Lakes, it is sometimes easy to forget that there are 800 million people worldwide who do not have access to clean water. It may not be a physical conflict like a war, but lack of clean water and basic sanitation causes much more damage than we can even imagine. When you share something this information with 151 likeminded teenagers, there is no way we are going to sit and do nothing. Inspiring others inspires me, and most recently I have learned that passion and drive are contagious.
For many reasons, none of this would be possible without camp. In my older Barak summer, my longtime friend Debra Watkins encouraged me to join NFTY. I had no idea what it was, but that school year I decided to go to my first event. I was overwhelmed by the 100+ people all excited to see each other, and thrilled to have found such an amazing, inclusive community. Ironically (and wonderfully!), Debra is now on the regional board with me, continuing to inspire new members to join as the Membership Vice President.
Originally, I went to NFTY events because I thought it would be fun to see camp friends during the year, but being a part of this program quickly became more than that to me. There is just something about being a part of such a strong community that made me become so passionate about NFTY and what this great youth organization can do. The same values that I have been taught throughout my years at camp ring true throughout the year in a very real way. Tikkun Olam (repairing the world), an important value that I learned about at camp, can be seen at NFTY; it is raising money, teaching and learning about current issues, volunteering in our communities and more. Whenever the region gets together, if only for a weekend, it feels like such a Kehilah Kedosha (holy community), which is a feeling that I have grown up loving at camp.
Just like camp, NFTY- NEL continues to grow and change as I do. This past summer at camp, I was a staff member for the first time. After six years of being a camper and then a C.I.T., it was a big adjustment but I knew I had a strong community and support system to help me through it. The C.I.T. program taught me leadership skills and gave me the confidence in myself to even run for the Social Action Vice President position in the first place. My years at camp have proven themselves, through the transformation from being a shy, timid 11 year old to the person I am proud to be today. As a staff member I tried to instill good values into my campers, which have been shaped by my own years at camp and as a member of NFTY.
Although I plan on returning to camp for many years to come, my days as a member and board member in NFTY are numbered. I will be graduating high school this year, as well as graduating from NFTY- NEL. I am not going far though; there is no way that I can leave an organization that has taught me so much behind. Although I am sad to be leaving, I am excited to see what the future will bring.
Of course, in the mean time, it has been great to see this year’s group of grade nines enter NFTY. Now, I have seen campers that I was a C.I.T. for in 2012 enter high school and join NFTY, and I am so thrilled and confident to see them grow and have the opportunities (all year, at camp and in NFTY) that I did, that really changed my life for the better. I am so proud to say that I am the person I am today because of the amazing summers I’ve spent at George and the wonderful opportunities that NFTY has given me. Can’t wait to be back at George and for the next NFTY event!