by Zoe Finn
I’d like to thank the Temple for sponsoring my attendance at this year’s NFTY Convention in Dallas, Texas. My participation enabled me to enrich and further appreciate my knowledge of reformed Judaism and its core ideal of Tikkun Olam.
When I first arrived in the hotel, I was shocked by the amount of kids as I really had no idea that this would be so BIG! I began getting a little anxious because of the unfamiliar surroundings and not knowing anyone. I found myself thinking back to when I was much younger and had difficulty adjusting to new surroundings because of a lack of confidence. That is unlike me now because over the past 10 years and because of my involvement with CHATY and Hebrew High School I have developed a new found independence and self confidence. Soon enough, however, as I was signing in I met dozens of people and my fears quickly went away. The welcoming atmosphere and immediate sense of camaraderie made me feel right at home. It was evident that all eight hundred plus of us were there for several common purposes – to explore our heritage, to learn new things and to share our love of Judaism.
We arrived on Friday so we were all excited to share Shabbat together. I have never felt such a connection to so many people in my 16 years. I also have never seen as much baked chicken in my life!! The energy around the room was contagious. We sang and danced so loud, all eight hundred of us together as one that I could feel the floor shaking. The community that we had created right there in that room reminded me of being back at Temple Chaverim.
Throughout the next few days I participated in many different thought provoking seminars and programs. One of the seminars I choose was about death and dying. I knew so little about the Jewish was of thinking about death. There I learned that death was not just about mourning but a celebration of life. We learned about the customs and rituals associated with death and dying. It makes a lot more sense to me now and while I’m certainly not looking forward to the first time I have to call upon this new found knowledge I am comforted by the fact that I have a better understanding of the process and reasons behind them.
Another seminar I attended was named Invisible Children. Invisible Children is an organization that strives to help kids living in Uganda who are literally being stolen from their families in the middle of the night to become part of Robert Kony’s army. The “bad man” is the dictator who has his army kidnap children, some as young as 5 years old, to indoctrinate them into his very evil ways and to enslave them. They are being brought up thinking it is ok to kill someone, and having no perception of morality. I was so touched by this presentation that was given by a young man named Tony, who miraculously escaped from this, that I began to think of ways that I could help. I am considering starting an Invisible Children club in my school to raise awareness and money to fight against this horrible situation. I know there are many terrible situations in the world that cry out for our help, some right here in our own backyard, and I encourage everyone to get involved. Helping others is a core value that I try to live by and this convention emphasized it. We can and should not stand idly by and let things like this happen.
The convention went very quickly and on our last night I started getting sad that there was only one day left and I did not want this experience to end. I started thinking that I was not going to be able to recreate the great feelings that I was having. Then I thought about what I learned in the Death and Dying seminar: the end should not be sad; it should be a celebration of experiences. From the seminars to the tour of the Dallas Cowboys new stadium to the dinner at the world famous Gilley’s to my new friendships with people from as far away as California, Canada, Texas and as close as Westchester I cherish the experience and the memories.
Participating in the NFTY Convention really inspired me and made me proud to be Jewish. Unfortunately, these only happen only once every two years, so this was the only one I was fortunate enough to attend. Please keep in mind that there are younger active CHATY members in our community who may benefit from these types of experiences. If you have the chance to aid them financially as you did for me, definitely take the opportunity to do so. Temple Chaverim, through its generosity and trust, has enabled me to grow as a young Jewish adult. I am proud and humbled by the Temple’s confidence in me and hope to continue to demonstrate that I am worthy of such honors.