By Claire Dodinval, ESTY
When planning started for JYG Kallah, I was pumped to be able to contribute my ideas to THE event that introduces 7th and 8th graders to NFTY, the same event that got me excited to be a NFTYite back when I was in 8th grade. The theme for this year’s kallah: “Your NFTY Journey Starts Here.” As a NFTY Leader for the event, I expected to spend a lot of time prior to the event planning and programming with other NFTY Leaders, the co-chairs, Regional board members, and advisors to make the event as exciting as possible. But, honestly, nothing could have prepared me for how much each one of us got into the “sharing our passion for NFTY” aspect. We high-school NFTYites led unique programs, belted out songs, rallied our color war teams to victory (go green!), and even got into character as Mr. Mint, Plumpy, and Queen Frostine of Candyland. I think it’s safe to say for every NFTYite there when I say how awesome it was to get to know everyone while joking around at the water park, meeting new friends, and staying up late bonding with our respective cabins.
While those things were all fun, I’d argue that the best part of JYG weekend was seeing the connections that all of the 7th and 8th graders built. It’s hard to believe that, as I’m already a junior, I really only have one year of NFTY left. Watching participants get involved in discussions, get the spirit of competition for color wars, sit on the lap of the person they had met two days previously, and scream out the NFTY cheer at the top of their lungs enforced my feelings that NFTY CANOe’s future is bright. Not only are they the future of NFTY, but these 7th and 8th graders are the present of NFTY. The JYG Kallah was an experience that brought them into the same group that helped me, like my fellow high school NFTYites, build confidence in my Jewish identity and allowed me to make amazing friendships with other Jewish teens. Their “NFTY Journey” really did start at this event. Nothing was more exciting, more rewarding, or more promising than seeing them come home and tell their friends all about their weekend, post on Facebook, “best weekend ever! I can’t wait for the next event!” and then rush to be the first to register for their regions’ spring events and kick off their time as NFTYites.