By Amanda Wachstein, Regional Advisor – NFTY-Pennsylvania Area Region
Technically the third event of our calendar year, PARites begin the countdown toward Fall Kallah as soon as they board the buses returning home after Summer Leadership Kallah in August. “See you in 55 days!!,” can be heard on every bus. Excitement builds as soon as event material is distributed, and registration opens. Participants clamor to read the confirmation letter which includes the event theme (“PAR-POP” this year). The NFTY-PAR Board keeps the programming, services and ideas for Fall Kallah fresh, innovative and captivating for both seasoned PARites and new members.
Every program or service created by the PAR Board reaches for something new; have a program without group leaders and see who initiates leadership, ask participants to create artwork about prayers and incorporate that art into Shabbat morning t’filah or offer a completely new option for the female participants during a program. During Torah Study, we offered females the option of participating in an incredibly creative Torah Study or join with me for an opportunity to learn, grow and unite as girls/women together.
When the NFTY-PAR Board and I originally spoke about the Rosh Hodesh, we liked the idea of the girls in our region having an opportunity to bond and grow together. We also anticipated that 35-40 girls would participate in each program and the remaining girls would stay for Torah Study. Were we wrong! Out of 98 female attendees, almost 80 girls joined the Rosh Hodesh program. It was remarkable that so many PARites jumped at the chance to try something new together. With the large number of participants, I realized that I would not be able to lead the activity alone. Several PAR TYG Advisors had led the Rosh Hodesh programs previously and instantly volunteered to help lead smaller discussion groups. That amazing sense of shared community is one of the many reasons why I love NFTY-PAR.
The program began by discussing why we celebrate and share in Rosh Hodesh today, and why it is relevant to females in today’s society. We then separated into 4 groups and shared, Who Am I? We discussed teshuvah, and how it is important to turn our lives around and make a commitment towards higher goals for ourselves. We shared and answered fun, thoughtful questions about ourselves. Each group then made their own sacred cloth which included everyone’s name, the event and anything else they wanted to write/draw whether it was a Jewish symbol, a text or a picture. These cloths will continue to be used at every Rosh Hodesh gathering, and the girls will add to them throughout the year. The program concluded by discussing a quote by Theodor Herzel, “If you will it, it is no dream.” We discussed dreams and goals, and the participants reflected on their personal goals for the year.
Providing this outlet and time for the girls in NFTY-PAR to gather and work together was unique and special. This activity will enable girls to connect and build new relationships with each other, in ways they might not have in our regular event programming. I was elated by their responses and enthusiasm for the program. They brought interesting perspectives to the questions and were very honest.
As the NFTY-PAR Advisor, I rarely have the opportunity to grouplead and work with the participants on the program level. This renewed my passion for youth and my excitement about bringing new programming to our region and sharing it with our extraordinary females.