By Jordan Rodnizki, NFTY Programming Vice President
Fall represents a time of transition. For some, this means the annual stresses of shopping for back-to-school necessities and reverting back to a normal sleep schedule. For others, this means moving to a new city or town and starting a new phase of life.
Recently, I moved into my dorm at the University of Pennsylvania, where I embarked on a 4-day pre-orientation program known as PennArts. The immense talent level to be found in all of the participants floored me; here was a collection of the next great artists, technicians, actors, writers, instrumentalists, and visionaries. It shouldn’t be a surprise to know that I was instantly reminded of many NFTYites. Last year, I saw so many brilliant examples of personal expression as part of the 2011-2012/5771-5772 Study Theme, “Im Ein Ani Li Mi Li: If I Am Not for Myself Who Will Be For Me? NFTY Studies the Power of Personal Expression”. The Reform Jewish youth of North America find Judaism not only in their synagogues, youth groups, and communities, but also in their canvases, their stages, and in their guitar strings.
Part of my position as Programming Vice President is to share the immense wealth of resources behind this year’s Study Theme, “Hashomer Achi Anochi: Am I My Brother’s Keeper? NFTY Studies our Responsibilities Toward Others” – a fabulous touchstone for so many talented NFTYites to expound upon in programming and beyond. But are we to simply move on from past themes in pursuit of the knowledge surrounding this year’s theme? Does our quest for increased personal expression end in favor of analyzing our responsibilities toward others?
Throughout the course of these past four days, I realized that the pianos, the scripts, the unbelievable paintings and self-portraits that were surrounding me… are disappearing from public high schools across the nation. Test scores and paychecks are what our education system values in this country. The arts are archaic and unnecessary and have no value to society. These are the opinions of the Politicos who seek to cut funding for arts education in public schools; they favor more “academic” subjects. But what they don’t realize is that, for so many people, the arts enhance our understanding of the world around us.
NFTY embraces this concept. TYG and Regional Events are arenas full of ways for participants to get involved in programming, social action, songleading, and much more. We value kehilah, community, and singing together as one whole. When someone posts a video from a NFTY-SW talent show, hordes of NFTY-withdrawaled people comment at how beautiful a piece of music or art was. We always talk about wanting to bring the NFTY experiences of love, friendship, and respect to our home communities. Why not fight for arts education in our public schools? Isn’t THIS our responsibility toward others, Jewish or otherwise?
When we embark on the journey of this year’s Study Theme, we are not to forget the steps we took to address the power of personal expression over the course of one incredible NFTY year. Find ways in your lives to combine the past and the present, all while working to build a better tomorrow… for you, your fellow NFTYites, and the worlds in which you live. Have a lovely transition.
Jordan Rodnizki is currently attending the University of Pennsylvania. He is a Freshman, studying both Theater and English. Jordan hails from Clearwater, Florida, and is an alum of NFTY STR. Follow Jordan on Twitter and Facebook!