By Jackie Kalter, NFTY-NAR Member and Honorary NFTY-SW Member
Being able to walk in a community and feel so at home really says something. On Thursday, October 25th, after three planes, some birds in the way, hour-long delays and a detour in Chicago, I was able to experience this first hand.
I stepped off a plane, into my surprised best friends arms, into a new group of people, and was immediately engulfed by the welcoming community of NFTY-Southwest.
Being able to participate in another region’s event, aside from the ones I attend in NFTY-NAR, was really special and a very different, yet similar experience all in one. Being that I attended the URJ Kutz Camp this past summer, I met so many outstanding individuals and decided to surprise some of them at their Fall Kallah! I was able to create parallels between the services, programming and overall community compared to Kutz, and to my own region.
Services especially made me feel like I was back in Warwick: back home. Through the prayers and songs we sang, sitting with old friends, and the use of meditation during the service, I imagined myself sitting in the Teatron with my #Kutz12 family, as well as my NAR family during Kallot. What amazed me, though, was that despite the similarities, I still felt like it was a completely different experience because of the new family I was with, in a new home. It’s really nice to see that no matter where you go, there’s always a little bit of comfort and yet new beginnings.
Of course there are programs that make each event unique in itself, and the ones this weekend did just that. Similarly to NAR events, there were a variety of activities planned and lead by the regional board and various group leaders. What stuck out as something Southwest does and NAR doesn’t is a more relaxed class time. In NAR, we sometimes end up having heartfelt conversations, which turn into emotional hours with others in our grade. Southwest on the other hand, has the seniors create Wooden Ships. It’s a tradition that their region has done for years, where each senior is given a block of wood to decorate with items and ideas from their NFTY experience. Coming as an outsider, I had nothing to really add to mine. I named it the S.S. I Don’t Even Go Here, which got a laugh out of the region when I shared it with them. Despite being from another region that is miles away, I was able to show that my differences make me have the ability to open up to new ideas. When everyone laughed at the name of my ship, I took it as all of them accepting me for my own acceptance of joining a new group. Traditions like this one are really what make a region different than any of the other eighteen, and being able to experience one of Southwest’s many traditions was really great!
Continuing on through my wonderful adventure in El Paso, friendship circle was a huge shock to me, to be completely honest. Madness. Yes, I did just call what is usually a sentimental activity one of the craziest things I have ever experienced. More often than not, NAR’s friendship circle gets everyone crying by the end, and Kutz’s Siyum is heartfelt and emotional. By no means was Southwest’s friendship circle like either of those! There was jumping and screaming, seniors going crazy and everyone having a good time. I was beyond confused at first, but come Sunday morning everyone was showing me what to do and I got the hang of things. It was actually a lot of fun, and totally unlike what I’m used to.
Teaching the Wobble (a Kutz and now NFTY tradition), creating new meaningful friendships, and learning about the NFTY Study and Actions themes made my stay a time well spent. How is it that NFTY events always fly by? If I could, I would go to the rest of Southwest’s events this year, and explore various other regions’ traditions too.
Thank you so much to their advisor, Lynne, for making my attendance at all possible. And a special thank you to each participant, board member, and friend for making me feel so accepted and able enjoy every second I was there. From the beginning, I knew Southwest was an open community based on the friends I made from there at Kutz. But little did I know that the rest of the one hundred and fifty or so participants would be just the same.