By Evan Traylor and Jacob Georginow, NFTY’s President and Religious and Cultural Vice President
From January 6-12, representatives from 11 countries descended upon Jerusalem to engage in thoughtful sharing, learning, and collaboration as a part of the Netzer Olami Veida. Although we all came from different Jewish backgrounds and lifestyles, we all united as leaders in Netzer Olami to share and appreciate these differences and discover common ground as the Progressive Jewish youth of the world.
Prayer is definitely one component in Reform Judaism that has the power to unite people all across the globe. Throughout the week, representatives from most of the sniffim led our group of about 20 in ma’amad, meaning prayer experience. In most sniffim, ma’amad does not necessarily mean a formal prayer service, but rather it is an opportunity to engage the community in an activity or group experience surrounded by Jewish text and prayer. While it was interesting hearing other melodies that other sniffim use in their prayer services, it was incredible to see that Progressive Jews from England, South Africa, Barcelona, and more knew the melodies of Dan Nichols, Debbie Friedman, and Josh Nelson. Ma’amad became a daily reminder of the power of prayer and how it can serve to unite Jews from all over the world.
We all had the opportunity several times throughout the 10 days to propose, discuss, and formulate initiatives for Netzer Olami through Asefot, or board meeting. Collaborating with representatives from each sniffim, we worked towards enhancing Netzer Olami as a youth movement through Tikkun Olam, organization of principles and ideology, and connecting sniffim to one another through camp and Israel programs. It was incredible to be able to represent all NFTYites across North America in all of these proposals and contribute their voices to the future of Reform Judaism in the world.
Throughout the Veida, many different Jewish professionals, Rabbis, songleaders, educators, as well as the sniffim representatives led peulot, meaning activity or programmatic experience. Ben, a Harvard University professor, led a session on enhancing your argument and constructive ways to talk about the Israel/Palestinian conflict as part of the organization Kol-Voice, an organization committed to strengthening the identity and improving the standard of activism across the Jewish world. We led a session for all of the snifim representatives about the facts and myths of mental health and on the many ways that NFTY commits itself to Tikkun Olam through our NFTY Action Theme this year. We also took a trip to the culturally diverse city of Ramla to visit both a mosque and a church and learn about some of the Arab culture in the area.
After all of these incredible experiences at the Netzer Olami Veida, we have safely returned to the United States with a broadened connection to Netzer Olami and our Progressive Jewish communities and friends from around the world. Know that the next time we all sing “Noar Tzioni, Tzioni Reformi” at the end of the NFTY Cheer, there are 11,000 other Progressive Jewish teens singing with you!
Netzer Olami is the worldwide youth movement of the World Union for Progressive Judaism. Today there are 16,000 members active in different sniffim (chapters) that are located around the world. You can look back at the day-by-day action of the veida by viewing our social media timeline.