By Liza Moskowitz, NFTY Alumna
The “Jewish Journey” is a staple in NFTY concepts. Yet, have I really figured out what my journey is? What are the roots of it? Was it an event? Was it actually NFTY itself?
Molly G., former North American Social Action Vice President, talked about the concept of NFTY giants in her final speech at the end of her NFTY Board term. I was slightly confused at first as what she meant by “giant”. She is relatively a short person, so was everyone who was taller than her a NFTY giant because the physical stature was larger? Was it someone who had made a giant impact on NFTY? As she explained the idea of a NFTY giant, I began to realize that it was those people who inspired you in NFTY. It was the people who you aspired to be when you “grew up”. Those are the people who bookmarked my NFTY journey. NFTY led me to individuals who have made a lasting impression on my experiences within our youth movement.
Regionally, I had giants. They ranged from the advisor that I knew I could always count on. The board member who was always there. The participant who constantly had the insightful answer to a question. We get to know those people during the four year run within our own regions. However, NFTY on a North American level has changed my perception of these NFTY giants. I thought that these relationships had to be cultivated for years and to make them meaningful and significant. NFTY Board has given me multiple opportunities to realize that the previous statement is very false. It doesn’t matter how long you have known someone, but it’s how they made you feel. That’s what you remember for the years after your NFTY story has drawn to a close.
I grew up at the URJ Greene Family Camp and was very hesitant about spending a summer at another camp. I didn’t know any of the traditions or customs of the Kutz community. How was I supposed to come into a space and be a leader when I had no previous connections before? I needed to find a mentor and the opportunity arose with the TYG Leadership major. Rachel Mersky Woda is one of my NFTY giants. She gave me the opportunity to make Kutz my own place at my own speed.
NFTY loves the power of empowering others. The lessons that I learned from Rachel Mersky Woda go beyond we serve at the pleasure of the region (or the regions in my case). Merskoda is a person that shares her knowledge not to prove that she has knowledge. She shares her knowledge to continue the perpetual cycle of learning that began with her term as a regional board member, a NFTY North American staff member, and an amazing person overall.
Many of you might now know who Sarah Ruben is, but you, as a NFTYite, are affected by her every day. She implemented the touchstone text portion of the NFTY program format. My summer at Kutz was influential in my relationship with Sarah. Being connected to her through our North American PVP lineage, I loved our conversations discussing our views on NFTY and life. During my travel region to NFTY-NAR, Sarah and I sat in the back corner of the Kutz Beit Am and just talked. She still gets “it”. She understands NFTY and advocates for youth. I strive to be like Sarah Ruben because she sees NFTYites as what we are: smart and compassionate emerging adults. Sarah Ruben made an impact on NFTY and has made an impact on me.
This is the message that I want to leave: find a giant. If you have a giant, let them know that they are yours, and finally, become someone else’s giant. You owe someone in your life for being your stepping stones to help you get to where you are. Be that to someone else.