By Jackie Braslawsce, Director of Informal Jewish Education at Temple Sinai, Pittsburgh, PA
The excitement was simmering as the NFTY Pittsburghers and my daughter Noa (8) loaded up the bus last Friday morning to head out for our 6 hour road trip across PA to Spring Kallah 2013 at Camp Harlam. Going to Spring Kallah is always bitter sweet since we know it is our big Senior send off. This Spring Kallah was unique for me because not only was I sending off 2 of my Seniors that I am very close with but it was my 4th Spring Kallah so it was kind of like my own personal Spring Kallah. I have seen these graduating Seniors through their entire high school and NFTY-PAR career and now it is time for them to move on to the next stage in their life! I have seen their leadership skills emerge and grow. I have seen their confidence and self-esteem built up through the years as they begin to discover who they are. I have seen their friendships blossom and ties that bind them together so tightly they are crushed at the end of every Kallah and Spring Kallah is the end of the road for our Seniors. What will they leave behind for the ones that will come after them? What was their personal footprint at NFTY-PAR?
The theme of the NFTY-PAR Spring Kallah was “Never Forget These Moments”. The teens focused on sharing their experiences in NFTY and talking about their NFTY-PAR legacy. The concept of legacy is not the easiest idea to understand when you’re an adult let alone a teen. I knew the questions were rolling around in my daughters head and it was time to talk about what it means to have a legacy and I was up for the challenge! We lucked out because Saturday was a perfect sunny day at Camp Harlam. It smelled like Spring and there was a cool breeze in the air. My daughter and I walked up to our favorite spot in camp (the Chai Memorial Garden next to the chapel) and we sat down on the bench and looked out onto camp. She looked at me with curiosity in her eyes and asked me what my NFTY-PAR legacy was. After some thoughtful moments, I told her my legacy was instilling an undying love for NFTY within her by sharing these experiences with her. Now mind you this legacy I speak of is not really mine to claim. It is the legacy of the enthusiastic and dedicated NFTY-PAR teens to claim for they are the ones that have created a NFTYite for life in my daughter. Noa is their legacy and it will live on through her unaltered love for NFTY. This was Noa’s 6th NFTY-PAR event and every time we get home she counts down the days to the next event and it’s because of these teens and what she feels and sees at NFTY-PAR events. She has watched these young Jewish leaders blossom just like I have. She has witnessed these same friendships flourish into true love for one another first hand. She has been welcomed and embraced into this fold of sisterly and brotherly love with open arms and an open heart. I am so grateful.
I totally get why the teens have NFTY withdrawals and can’t wait for their next event. I see why these kids are so excited to come to NFTY events and Noa is no exception to this. The magical feeling of being connected to each other and creating a kehillah (community) that brings us all together with such intensity can only happen at a NFTY event. The transformation that Jewish teens experience in just 48 short hours is an amazing and beautiful thing to watch. These kids love each other and feel such a commitment to help and care for one another. They have a bond with each other that will live on well into their adult life and will continue to shape their Jewish identity throughout their life. Some will go to college some will take a gap year and some will just take on a job and start life. Showing Noa how beautiful Jewish life can be when you have community to share it with and friends who accept you and love you just the way you are is the strongest legacy I could ask for and the best gift she (and me) could ever receive. To all of my NFTY-PAR Seniors Noa and I will miss you dearly and will look forward to you staffing in 2 years!
Live and Die N-F-T-Y. Signing off with grilled cheeses and PAR grams…