No stress, No Stress, No Stress…You Deserve Nothing but the Best
By Hanna Anderson, NFTY-PAR Religious & Cultural Vice President
It shouldn’t be too surprising that my favorite part of a NFTY-PAR event is the services. I’m a Religious and Cultural VP – what do you expect? However, at PAR’s most recent event, Fall Kallah, it is safe to say that more than just the RCVPs enjoyed Shabbat services. The T’fillot at this event captured the magic of NFTY both Friday night and Saturday morning, and every participant walked away with something gained.
As PARites headed to services, the air was mixed with excitement and exhaustion. It had certainly been a long day: traveling to Camp Harlam (some traveled about 6 hours!), settling into bunks, socializing with new and old friends, and scrambling to dinner. The night was not over, but it was clear the group could have used a bit of a “breather,” despite their enthusiasm for being at the event. The Shabbat service that night, written and organized by Samantha Prager, PAR’s Social Action VP, and myself, satisfied their need for just that.
Keeping NFTY’s Action Theme of R’fuat HaNefesh, Caring for the Soul, in the back of our minds, Sam and I wanted to give PARites the opportunity to relax. We wanted to highlight all the stress in everyone’s lives, from schoolwork to drama to activities to family, and show them the resources they had to tackle these hectic, inevitable occurrences. Participants in the service spoke about what they do each day to handle the stress in their lives. Some turned to music, others to friends. NFTY-PARite, Carly Sless spoke about her love of swimming and how being in the water was a safe haven during crazy times. “Everyone has a hobby that calms him or her down,” she said. “For me, that hobby is swimming – for you it may be something else. Whatever it is, always make sure that you find time to enjoy your hobby, and in turn, decrease your stress.”
The dim lighting, burning incense and mellow melodies chosen by song leaders added to the stress-free vibe. My favorite moment of the service came during the silent prayer, where PARites were reminded how silence and personal reflection is something we do not always appreciate. This time for ourselves can clear our minds and calm us down in stressful times, and as PARites stood hand in hand, this extended period of quiet lasted for about 4 minutes – far longer than the average silent prayer. For me, I was reminded of something vital in that moment. Each day I am stressed, crazed, and worried about what is coming next. Life throws new things at me, and to everyone, even more than Tom Brady throws a football. However, when I am feeling this way, my family at NFTY-PAR is always there, caring about me just as I care about them. With our friends from NFTY by our sides, nothing ever has to be faced alone. As participants swayed to the closing song, their smiles assured me that they now knew this too.
Flash forward to Saturday morning, where PAR is gathered to learn, through T’fillah, how prayer can be a source of healing. Written by PAR’s Programming VP, Skippy Neff, and Membership VP, Louis Markowitz, this service brought PARites to another positive mental state. I’ll touch on silent prayer again, for each one was incredibly unique this weekend! Before we settled into the quiet, Louis led the group in meditative breathing exercises. He explained how the exercises could comfort us individually. Many other explanations showed participants how different prayers could repair their broken spirits, and the service itself seemed to make each partaker more engaged and appreciative of prayer and its power.
Lastly, PAR was grateful to welcome Rabbi Stacy Rigler, who led the congregation in a powerful prayer for Israel. Countless PARites had expressed their concern for what was happening in Israel, and praying for its wellbeing as one holy community eased the pain and fear for many. The service ended with everyone on their feet, singing and dancing to “The Hope,” a song by Rick Recht that brings us all a bit closer to Israel. It was the perfect way to end our morning celebration of Shabbat.
I would like to quickly thank all of NFTY-PAR. You approach each service with open arms and you take away all that you can from them. The beautiful prayer experience is made possible by your connection to what Judaism has to offer, and it is because of you, that services are my favorite part of each event.