Returning Home to a Place I’ve Never Been: A Visit to NFTY-SoCal

Leah Hennes, Alyssa Magier, and Taylor at the NFTY-SoCal Fall Kallah

“Home, let me come home.  Home is where ever I’m with you.”

These lyrics were sung by two NFTY-SoCalites at the end of SoCal’s Leadership Training Institute, but similar words ran through my mind as soon as I stepped foot in Temple Ahavat Shalom in Northridge, CA.

This being my first event away from my home region, I wasn’t sure what to expect. From the first moments of the event, however, my anxieties were calmed as I was greeted by friendly faces, familiar and new, letting me know that though the place might not be familiar, I had arrived back in my home, in NFTY.

It was a pleasure to watch NFTY-SoCal’s regional board lead their first event together and to see their new advisor, Sara Jean-Lipmen, thrive in her role as Youth Programs Manager for the region.

I was given the incredible opportunity to lead the “non-traditional” track during network meetings. ‘Non-traditional’ refers to TYG board positions that do not necessarily fit into the other seven networks (president, programming, religious and cultural, social action, membership, communications, and finance) led by each regional board member. In our meeting we talked about communications, tips for public speaking, and what leadership characteristics they can bring to their TYG boards. They enjoyed my accent (“y’all”), and I thoroughly enjoyed meeting and working with these excited and eager youth group leaders!

Another thrilling moment of the weekend was passing a resolution to abolish the no-vote, presented by Zack Robinson, Kutz Camp alum and 2010-2011 NFTY-SoCal Programming Vice President. Additionally, NFTY-SoCal’s Social Action Vice President, Maya Polon, led an enlightening program about food insecurity, specifically in Southern California, and brought in a representative from SOVA, a nonsectarian program of Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles, to talk with the participants about this important issue.

On Saturday night, NFTY-SoCal ventured to Topanga Mall where, after a very satisfying meal, we all sang the Birkat Hamazon in Red Robin and began the “Minute to Win It” scavenger hunt throughout the entire mall, dressed as pirates, old people, ninjas and more. Everyone had an awesome time running around, having fun and completing tasks as a team. Exhausted, we headed back to Temple Ahavat Shalom for closing circle, where, even though I had only known some of these NFTYites for a little more than 24 hours, I was instantly in the arms of the two people beside me at the first strum of the guitar, swaying and singing with them like we had known each other for years. This will be one of my many “snapshots” – a significant moment in my NFTY experience and, ironically, the theme of this event. That moment, including others throughout the weekend, reminded me of the connections, friendships, and sense of “home” we can create through this incredible organization.

NFTY is one of my homes and always will be. I loved having the opportunity to visit one of our amazing nineteen regions, and I look forward to my next visit to NFTY-MAR! Thanks for hosting me, NFTY-SoCal!

Taylor Lyles is the NFTY North American Membership and Communications Vice President and a freshman at the University of Miami. You can find her on Twitter at @NFTYMCVP and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/NFTYMCVP.

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