By Becca Anolick, NFTY-GER
That was the theme of NFTY-GER’s Spring Kallah 2012, which took place this past weekend. It was a weekend filled with love, laughter, and of course tears.
It started Friday afternoon. 4:10pm, I left my house to get to my temple on time. It was incredibly chilly out but we all huddled together like penguins. We laughed and hugged and tried to avoid talking about how in 48 hours the seniors would have completed their last NFTY event.
The bus came surprisingly on time, and soon all 12 people at my bus stop had loaded our luggage and got settled with our friends. Before long we were off to URJ Kutz Camp. Upon our arrival, we had time to go to our bunks and unpack/freshen up for dinner and the evening. When dinner rolled around, one of the buses was still missing, but we started dinner anyway to keep on schedule…even though running behind schedule eventually was inevitable.
The dining hall was loud. It always is. We’re catching up with friends that we haven’t seen in what seems like forever, trying to relay everything possible about our lives. The missing bus showed up eventually, and after a noisy dinner filled with hugs we moved on to a crazy song session, wonderful Friday night service, a fantabulous mixer and the first Tochnit (program). After Tochnit 1, we had snack and then I stayed behind for an old board/new board meeting. Staying out of the bunks past curfew was weird, but I’m sure I’ll get used to it. I then returned to my bunk, chilled with my friends, and ate some chocolate, then curled up in bed and fell asleep while listening to music.
Saturday morning I woke to the sounds of the girls in the room next door talking, and got out of bed to complain. I ended up sitting and talking in their room for a while…it’s impossible to stay mad at a NFTY-ite for more than a few minutes. Then I freshened up, headed to breakfast, grabbed a bite to eat, and then went to services. The services were beautiful (as they always are) and I got to go up with New Board for an aliyah.
Following services we moved on to Torah Study, which went swimmingly. I led my group with a senior named Ashley Ellis, who I’ve known of my entire NFTY “Career”. She and I had grown closer over the course of this year, and I loved group leading with her. I felt like the conversation flowed naturally and it was a great idea on Jon’s behalf to split it up into separate gender groups. Then there was lunch, in which I think I had… 10 bites of food in total. I kept getting dragged away by people for candles, which was nice, especially since there were some I wasn’t expecting at all. Like the one given to me by Jon Ross. It’s incredible and beautiful and I think it may be my favorite candle that I ever got. Getting it from someone as amazing as him made me feel so happy and I feel like this weekend we got closer then we ever were before. And I got a candle from Chris Mason- the curly hair candle. I’ve known Chris since I was in 8th grade and I don’t think we ever had a full conversation until this Kallah. It made me feel happy to know that he had noticed me during my time in NFTY (and HaZamir).
After lunch and song session we did ASEFAH, in which I cried during the board reports (legitimate sobbing, especially during my predecessor, Jared Plaxe’s, report) and my TYG added something to an amendment. Then there was free time that wasn’t actually free for me- I had a ton of things to do. Leading the free time activity, attending a program meeting, making a bunk run, receiving many candles, and awkwardly loosing my phone made this time period stressful…but I loved it. And the phone turned up in my phone pocket later that night- of course.
Following my not-so-free free time, we had the last Tochnit of the weekend. I read it with the (now former) SAVP Ish. Ish has hair envied by all and is a pretty cool person, but I had never really talked to him until that activity. Leading the program (which was split up by grade) with him was an amazing experience and it made me feel that I am truly ready a leader next year. I was leading my peers, my friends, my family- and they were listening to me (and Ish). The program went smoothly, and soon we were all going to eat dinner.
After dinner, we lined up for Havdallah and spiraled our way in. Sitting in the spiral, hearing the old board reflect on their time in NFTY and realizing what I had been trying to ignore all weekend, that all of my senior friends were at their final NFTY event, made me break down in tears. At one point I was crying so hard that my friend Adam took his hand out of mine and put his arm around me and I sobbed into his shoulder. After Havdallah ended everyone was shuffling around crying and hugging each other and every time I stopped crying for a minute I’d start crying again.
Once all of the crying and tears died down, we moved into board installations. Firstly, may I say that I’m incredibly happy that our regional advisor, Pam, changed the way we do installations (I had a nightmare of my curly mane being burnt off). Secondly, I love everyone on both Old board and New Board. Third, Jared Plaxe. He’s been inspiring me since before I knew him; since last year when he was a chair member. And then when he got elected, I just loved how confident he was (and still is). I’m so glad we became friends and that I get to follow his steps and be the next Central Recruitment Vice President. I also love that he passed down his beloved yellow fanny-pack to me. (Long story short, he and another board member named Shaina bought matching fanny-packs the beginning of the year and EVERYONE in our region was jealous of them because they play your iPod.) So during installation he gave me the Central Recruitment candle and the map, and then he reached around his waist and unhooked the fanny-pack, and you could hear a collective gasp go up from the region. Every time I’ve thought of it and how big of an impact Jared’s had on my life the past two years since I learned who he was I start crying (my eyes are watering now)
So after installation we had a little dance party because everyone was still kind of teary eyed and we needed some free time. After the hour-long dance party we moved into Senior Circle. I was sitting with my friend Shai, who I’ve known since he started NFTY last year, and a new girl, Lyndsay, who I became friends with almost instantly. I watched as the seniors walked around the circle, taking two minutes to sum about between one and four years of their lives. One of the things that stuck out from what was said is “NFTY didn’t change where I was going to go to school, or what my major would be. It did change how I perceive a smile and what a friend is to me.” NFTY has changed everyone in different ways, and this event, every event, and the participants who attend that, are proof.
This morning, I scarfed down two muffins and then spent breakfast running around, doing Girl Board stuff and helping run the store since they needed help and writing GERams and shout-outs and delivering GERams. Before I knew it breakfast had ended and it was time to go to the Beit Am to read shout-outs and do friendship circle. I sat with New Board, lying on Jenna Wyatt, and then lying on Justin Horgan. I watched the seniors cry and I threw a pack of tissues at Sydney Beson because I couldn’t stand to see more crying (good thing is that it made her laugh). I watched as traditions were passed from one generation to the next, L’dor V’dor. I watched as Lev Freedman and Jonah Stern became the new shoe stackers, as Ben Sagerman took his place as President and I watched as Justin and Alyssa McGraw took their place as the ‘planes’. And then it was time for the cheer. At first New Board was standing there awkwardly, but then a few of us ventured into the middle. Jon was skipping past me and grabbed my arm and we skipped together for a while as the cheer started, but then I left him and found my own place and my own rhythm in the circle.
And then that was it. The Kallah was over. We got our things and the people who’s buses were there loaded them onto their buses and we all hugged goodbye and we cried and said we loved each other and it was a mosh pit of luggage and bodies and tears. The two buses that were there pulled out and the event was over.
NFTY is my heart. It’s my soul. It’s in my breath and my skin. This weekend showed me that I’m ready to be a leader for my region. It showed me how many good friends I have. When I look back on this weekend it won’t be measured by how many candles I got or how many tissues I used or how many tears I shed or how many GERams I got. It will be measured by the friendships I made. It will be measured by the friendships that I will keep for a lifetime and it will be measured by the hugs and smiles that were exchanged. This event gave me the push I needed to show me that I truly am a leader, just like Jon and me skipping in friendship circle during the cheer. I needed that little extra boost of confidence to get going, but I was able to find my own ground after a while, and he was able to let go and let me, and underclassmen, step up to be a leader. But even though the seniors may have had to stop to let us underclassmen find our place, they will never be forgotten and they will always be connected to NFTY. Through their candles, their shoes, the way they have impacted us and shaped our lives.
Never Forget These Years NFTY, because I know I won’t.