So imagine waking up the day before a Kallah feeling horribly sick. Imagine spending 24 hours having your parents tell you that you should start getting accustomed to the idea that you’ll just have to skip Hagigah. Imagine waking up Friday afternoon three and a half hours before the bus leaves feeling amazing and begging to go to see your friends and imagine your parents giving in and saying that you can drive down to the event first thing Saturday morning.
I learned during Hagigah that life hits you hard and the things in life that seem certain (like NFTY) aren’t always set in stone. Friday evening I was on my sofa miserable, not because I was sick, the stomach bug had left long ago, but because I was missing the wonderful services run by SALTY and seeing my friends.
Saturday rolled around and I could not be out the door sooner. During the two hour car drive (shout out to my dad for not only driving two hours to get me to Hagigah, but two more hours to get himself home), I was a complete spazz. And I was definitely a complete spazz during the rest of Hagigah.
I loved every second of the time I was at the event, down to sharing a house with dogs (creatures that I don’t exactly love but I found out are insanely cute). I also had the insane pleasure of getting sand in my boots, some of which is still in there, as well as getting to admire sea life with amazing people. I got to sing with some super good looking people in front of the NFTY-GER community and for the first time in my NFTY history my camera ran out of battery power. I also got to connect with people who I had known for what feels like forever and meet friends, whom after less than a day were my sisters.
Overall Hagigah this year taught me not to take NFTY events for granted. That something along the way could go wrong. It also showed me how much this community means to me. I was in tears over missing an event that lasted a little more than two days. NFTY is one of the only places where I can truly be me and I thank each and every one of you for reminding me of that constantly. It’s also the only place where I truly feel that people care 100% about everything they do and everyone they meet. NFTY is the place where I can turn my shine up 100% and I love this community more than words can describe.
Reflecting back on this weekend one day later. The spread of smiles that I can still picture. The love that I continue to feel as I carry my beads around during school. The weird looks I get when I try and explain what I did this weekend. The homework that remains unfinished because I just wanted to sleep. The Facebook posts and the Tweets all remind me of how wonderful the weekend was, the friendships created, renewed and continued. The memories of Havdallah on the beach and exploring an aquarium. My last Hagigah was amazing. Thank you all!
NFTY-GER, there are no words to describe this weekend other than perfect. Throughout the event, when I thought something was going great, it got better. The event ran so smoothly that I had to remind myself that this was not just any type of casual get together, but it was Hagigah, the event I have worked so hard on for the past six months.
Although I will remember this event for a very long time, there are three distinct images that will remain in my head forever.
There was one word to describe Friday night: chaotic because one bus carrying fifty participants was two hours late. Though, it may have been chaotic, I found the service peaceful. Beth Miriam congregants and GERites were able to pray together as one community. We all forgot about the craziness that was occurring fifteen minutes ago, and reflected on the past week. We were able to focus on our very own inner light and ignore the always-changing lights around us. Being able to have all of SALTY and Temple Beth Miriam see the spirit and compassion GER brings to services was very special to me. Right before I got up to give my D’Var, I was a little nervous. I kept saying to myself, “What if they don’t get it?”, “What if nobody cares about the great success story of SALTY”; but NFTY-GER, you did care. Reading that sermon made me so much more confident for the rest of the weekend. Having 140 teenagers and 100 congregants look up to you like that is a real confidence booster and I rode this confidence for the rest of the weekend. Overall, I was so happy to see SALTY lead over 250 people in worship.
The program written by Haley Peckman and me went perfectly. Although we had to cut things out of the program, because of the limited time we had, watching everyone focusing on meditation during the program really means the world to both of us. I still cannot believe the impact of our program. Dee was talking to a few participants during the social event and they said their favorite part of the event was our program. When people say that a program is their favorite part of an event, I can’t do anything except smile. In addition, that means that a program touched the participants. All of the compliments we received are really meaningful and we both thank you for being great, engaged participants in our program.
Once again, I am here talking to all of you about Havdallah. This Havdallah was magical. This is what I wanted to do since last year’s Hagigah: have NFTY-GER spiraling onto the beach to celebrate the end of the week and event. The sand under my feet made me feel at home as I was introducing 140 GERites to where I live: the beach. When Lo Yisa Goy just suddenly stopped, Adam Rothstein turned up his shine during the stillness to create a movement: a movement to sing without the song leaders. Stepping up like that and turning up your shine is what this world needs and what Hagigah was all about. I also heard that if you looked up into the night sky, you would have seen a circle going around the moon. The scene represented two kinds of spirals; moon, representing the braided Havdallah candle, which brightens up the dark night sky, and the circle, representing the Havdallah spiral gathering around the candle as one. One Kehilah Kedosha, a holy community gathering around the one thing that brightens up the night. Just magically.
There are so many people to thank for making this event a huge hit. I would like to start off with you, the participants. Your engagement during every single activity during the weekend thrilled me. Seeing one smile would have made this event a success, but seeing so many smiles was just beautiful. Next I would like to thank the Hagigah Chairs, Regional Board and SALTY Board. Without your leadership, guidance, and support, I would not be writing about such a successful event right now. You all have helped me so much in writing my speech and program and all your hard work should be recognized because this wasn’t an individual effort, but a huge team effort. Finally I would like to thank Dee Ross. Your leadership, dedication and enthusiasm for SALTY is the reason why we are celebrating the best NFTY-GER event of the year. There are so many other people that deserve recognition, but if I list all of them, it will take up a whole page. Some of them include Mr. and Mrs. Peckman, Dr. and Mrs. Pess, Dr. and Mrs. Berg , Mr. and Mrs. Spector, Paula Rowland, Brian and Gina Gillet, Beth Laliberte, Rabbi and Mrs. Stanway, Frank, and many many more people. Thank you NFTY-GER, you never cease to amaze me.
Friday night Sermon:
Shabbat Shalom everyone, and thank you for coming to SALTY’s Creative Service. Tonight is different from all other nights, because this Shabbat we gather not only as a congregation; but also as a regional youth group. Tonight, we kick start NFTY GER Hagigah: a weekend where all participating will be challenged to Turn Up Your Shine! I hope that each of you here tonight, GERite or not, take time this weekend to really focus on being present so that you may transcend what makes you passionate onto the community surrounding you. Of course I hope that each of you carry past experiences and look ahead to the future; but while you are here, put those things aside. Be here.
In this week’s Torah portion, Aaron is given specific instructions on how to succeed in G-d’s eyes. Conversely, no one gives us a plan to follow to a destination of personal achievement and happiness. That is a motivation that must stem from inside the individual. This internal awareness can spark the light of passion that may lead us on a lighted trail to greater fulfillment.
SALTY and GER are both environments that I have had the opportunity to explore my passions and see my inner light join the many flames of my friends and mentors. Quite literally, there is a tradition in NFTY GER that exemplifies this idea. Each year at Spring Kallah (our last event of the NFTY season), candles are passed down from seniors to underclassmen. Each candle has some sort of theme or meaning and has either been passed for many years, or is just beginning with those two people. The senior and the underclassman sit down together and the senior lights the wick. The ceremony ends with both people blowing out the flame. I have always been fascinated with the cyclical nature of the candle giving process. A flame is created and shared, blown out, and yet another person walks away with the candle. At the end of my sophomore year, one of my closest friends took me aside. We took refuge from the rain under a gazebo and she took out a very plain, short yellowing candle. She lit the wick and looked me in the eye as she told me its history. This candle had been circulating in NFTY-GER since before I was born. She explained that the candle was nameless, themeless. And it was her favorite candle. It had been given to her by a graduating Regional Board member who had been her first NFTY friend. He bestowed the nameless candle to her because of his complete belief and pride in her. She told me that it meant the world to her, as tears started streaming down her face. I realized too, how much she meant to me; how much she believed in me; and how all of that was supposed to fit into the small, old, nameless, yellowy candle. I got up from that gazebo a much more confident person. My friend gave me much more than a candle and a couple compliments that day. She encouraged my inner light to get brighter. I think that maybe we are all small and nameless candles at some point in our lives. But the encouragement we can feel from the other flames is what makes each of us individually significant.
“The Duality of Light” was another experience that really stuck with me. By chance, my sister Bryce had come across a link online about an free exhibit at Lincoln Center. It looked interesting, so my mom dropped us off and we walked into Alice Tully Hall. The woman that was running the exhibit asked us to have a seat in the waiting area because, to our surprise, the exhibit was to be experienced one person at a time. As Bryce and I were waiting, an older woman came out of the exhibit and chatted with her friends. She seemed excited, spooked almost. She said that there was another woman inside the exhibit. This only spiked my curiosity, but also made me a little anxious. Bryce and I planned that I would go in first, and tell her if it was worth it (or if it was horrifying). Eventually, it was my turn and I walked over to the woman running the exhibit. A separate hallway had been built in the middle of the hall, and she instructed me to walk into the hallway, turn right, and walk all the way to the end until I reached a strip of light on the floor. It seemed easy enough, but I was concerned as to why I would need such specific directions to walk down a hallway. I began walking down the hallway. She told me I was going to see something that only I could see. It was pitch dark and all I could see was the strip of light she had mentioned. There was a recording playing of shushing and water dripping. I could feel my eyes trying to open wider and wider, and a shift to more cautious walking. When I got to the strip of light at the end of the hallway, I looked up at a screen. A million tiny lights twinkled and then abruptly exploded. A person was walking towards me on the screen, and I soon realized the person was myself. I also realized that the self I saw onscreen was a recording of the past few minutes I had spent walking to the strip of light. Just as suddenly as my image had appeared, I blew up into a million bits of light. I was gone and a blueprint of stars replaced me. I was awestruck. I stood in front of the screen, thinking about how small I am. How short our image is here before we are again replaced by the galaxy. After a couple minutes of taking this in, I walked back out of the dark hallway. The woman asked me what I had seen, and I told her. She said it was very good and that I should not tell anyone. However, I am telling you because 1) the exhibit is over and 2) I think it is too relevant to exclude. The Duality of Light Exhibit was created to challenge our perception of space through light, and it has been an experience that really grounded me and made me think about who I am and what I can do in my life. I hope that each of you are able to vicariously experience the exhibit, since you will probably not be able to actually experience it.
I hope all of you take time this weekend to get inspired, motivated, and passionate. I hope each of you come into the present moment and find yourself a stronger light at the end of Hagigah.
Thank You and Shabbat Shalom.
– Haley Peckman
I have always been entranced by the flame of a Havdallah candle. Staring into the fire, I find myself filled with feelings of bliss, serenity, and comfort. This past weekend at NFTY-GER’s Turn Up Your Shine Hagigah Kallah, I experienced a Havdallah service, like none I had participated in before. As the region began to walk onto a vacant New Jersey shore beach, spiraling around the majestic Havdallah flame, song leaders led us in the singing of Lo Yisa Goy. Then the guitars faded and there was a moment of silence as the line continued to move. From the silence then came the sound of someone resuming the song, creating a rippling effect in the region, everyone becoming song leaders, not letting the music die. I found this to be the most beautiful moment of the weekend, not because of the waves crashing on the shore or the stars shining in the sky, but because of how GER was able to turn up my shine. All of my worries in the world vanquished at that very moment; the only thing on my mind being the twisted candle.
We were sitting in a spiral for Havdallah and I was listening to our voices joint together and the crash of the waves on the beach, and I teared up a bit, it definitely brought back memories of previous NFTY events and Urban Mitzvah Corps 2011, just generally the passing of time, but the feeling was like no other, it was simply beautiful. Hagigah was probably one of my favorite NFTY-GER events so far, for so many reasons. The weekend cannot be described in words, but truly showed how people can come together to make something special. The easiest way to describe it is by using the Torah portion, Tetzaveh, like all the parts of Aaron’s robe come together and have a special role, at Hagigah everyone came together and had a special role, in order to create something beautiful. Then this beauty was exemplified with the community singing and the crashing waves as we welcomed the new week.