By Scott Rubenstein, NFTY-Southwest (SW) Religious & Cultural Vice President
When I ran for NFTY-Southwest Religious and Cultural Vice President, I knew that I wanted to create new, out-of-the-box prayer experiences, in which NFTY-SWites could connect to G-d and their community in unconventional ways. NFTY is the time and place to try new things, so we should be taking advantage of this opportunity to try things that are a little bit out-of-the-ordinary This could be accomplished by incorporating technology into services.
For our Leadership Training Institute in Albuquerque, New Mexico, over Labor Day weekend, I created a service in which participants could both tweet responses to questions about certain prayers when prompted, and answer open-ended question by texting responses to Poll Everywhere. Both programs were displayed on a projector screen next to the bimah. This was an exciting way for participants to connect to and understand the prayers in a different way.
I was very apprehensive about the service when I learned that the general community of Congregation Albert would be joining us. They are adults, not in NFTY, and are used to more traditional services. I hoped that the technology, while relevant to the service, wouldn’t be offensive to them. Fortunately, it was received very well.
I am a big believer in the power of intention. Making intentional choices makes for more authentic experiences. Everything in the service was there for a reason. Nothing was left to chance. I believe the service was successful not because it was new or different, but because it was intentionally planned and executed, and the congregation had an authentic experience.
Also, making intentional choices allows for a more satisfactory result. I was satisfied with the way the service went because the congregants got out of it what I intended them to get out of it.
I am looking forward to creating more intentional prayer experiences for NFTY-Southwest throughout the year.
Scott Rubenstein is the Religious and Cultural Vice-President of NFTY-SW and comes to us from Temple Chai in Phoenix. He has been a two year Kutz participant.
Response from a congregant:
Shabbat Commentary: Tweet “Hallelujah!” Text “Amen!”
By Ronni Sims
For Shabbat services this morning, our Rabbi and Cantor turned over their roles to two teens who were part of a large group visiting our synagogue, Congregation Albert in Albuquerque, NM, for a multi-day leadership training event.. The visiting teens, along with Congregation Albert youth are members of the National Federation of Temple Youth – Southwest Region (NFTY-SW) One of the teen leaders played the guitar and led songs, while the other exuberantly guided the congregation through the liturgy.
At several points in the service, the NFTY-SW members as well as members of the congregation were invited to text or tweet their responses to questions which appeared on a large screen set up on the floor in front of the bima Their immediate tweets and text messages appeared on the screen beneath the questions. Questions included:
What is the soul? (at the beginning of the service)
What makes you say “Hallelujah!” today? (as we sang Psalm 150: 1-6)
Who or what lights up your life? ( as we recited the Yotzer Or prayer)
What are you praying for? (as we began to pray “Adonai, s’fatai tiftach…”)
Who are you praying for in your healing prayer? (as we sang Mi shebeirach)
In his D’var Torah for the Portions Nitzavim-Vayeilech, the prayer leader spoke of Moses nearing the end of his life and not being allowed to enter Canaan. He pointed out that Moses does not choose his own successor. Rather, Adonai chooses Joshua. The leader asked his fellow NFTY-SW members to briefly discuss among themselves the question, “How do the leaders of NFTY-SW replace themselves?” After a few minutes of lively discussion, several NFTY-SW members and other congregants shared their ideas.
The service came to a dramatic close when a NFTY-SW member read from her mobile device a prayer for her brother, a soldier on reserve duty in the Israeli army. Her brother, the Israeli soldier, had just been called up for active duty.
As examples of future Jewish leaders, the NFTY-SW teens emphatically convey the message that l’dor vador, from generation to generation, Judaism is in good hands. While there will inevitably be changes in the form and technology of worship as Judaism continues to evolve, Torah values and teachings will endure l’olam va-ed.
Tradition and innovation were wondrously intertwined in this ruach filled NFTY-SW Shabbat service. Personally, thanks to the NFTY-SW teens, I felt like I was at Jewish camp again. I felt like I was at CAJE once more. I feel energized. I feel hopeful. I feel young!
Shabbat Shalom. L’shana tova.
Ronni Sims has been a Jewish educator for decades, teaching students from grade 2 to adult, in both day school and congregational school settings. She directed the Kesher Jewish Teacher Resource Center in Albany, NY and participated actively in the former CAJE (Conference on Alternatives in Jewish Education). Currently, she teaches fifth grade Jewish Studies and Siddur Hebrew in the Congregation Albert School of Jewish Studies. Ronni and her husband work as a team to guide B’nai Mitzvah students and their families in the preparation of their D’vrei Torah. This piece was originally posted in her blog, and is reposted with permission.