My First NFTY Weekend
By Bita Mobbs, mom of two NFTYites
My teenage boys are opposites. My oldest is an extrovert and craves social interaction and loves feeling like a part of something bigger than himself. My youngest is an introvert. He loves his friends but his ideal day is a day spent in his bathrobe in front of his computer or reading a book and not having any social obligations. So it was somewhat of a surprise to me that he has absolutely loved NFTY. For Brent’s first Fall Kallah and Ian’s third, we were fortunate enough to be able to host 9 boys (six juniors and three freshmen) and I loved every bit of it! Their mess was absolutely worth the chatter and the camaraderie, their late night laughter and their happiness. And all the subsequent events they’ve been to, I’ve kept my eyes glued to Facebook in hopes of seeing their smiling faces and I’ve not been disappointed.
This summer we found out that our TYG advisor was pregnant and would be too pregnant to travel to Fall Kallah. At seeing my excitement at the prospect of chaperoning, my kids acquiesced and let me and my friend, Heather Chapman, volunteer!
We met our 23 kids at the airport on Thursday night and just getting through that made me glad to have a co-chaperone. When we got to Phoenix, there was a bus waiting for us to take us to Temple Chai, our host congregation. Once we got there, I understood what BOTH my kids love about NFTY. They cater to every kind of kid. From the linking of arms during friendship circle to making another’s home your own for a little while, and the welcoming and nurturing advisors, host families and congregants alike, who wouldn’t love it? For my extrovert, there was plenty of social interaction and leadership opportunities. And for my introvert, there were so many kids willing to make the first move towards friendship and brotherhood. The programs were geared to make every kid feel like a part of something bigger than themselves no matter what their personal beliefs were. The Kabbalat Shabbat service was song-filled and joyous. The NFTYites led an interactive Saturday morning service designed to engage even the most tech-addicted teen. Havdallah under the stars was a magical event where 180 kids slowly came together in a circle, linking hands to the music of friendship. And the talent show was hysterical and awe-inspiring.
There were 180 kids all willing to love and be loved in a safe and non-judgmental environment. There were nearly 15 advisors there to guide, nurture, feed, take care of medical situations, emotional situations and make sure all needs were met. It’s one thing to be a teenager and pull 15 hour days, but it’s completely different when you’re pushing middle age! I have a new respect for our TYG advisor and I hope she lets me at least help her co-chaperone one more event before my kids graduate from high school. It was a truly magical weekend, and like all the kids that attended, by Monday morning, I was having NFTY-withdrawal.
NFTY-SW Fall Kallah – A Teen Perspective
By Ian Mobbs, NFTY-SW Communications Vice-President
As a teen who’s been in NFTY for four years, on a TYG board for two, and on the regional board for one, Fall Kallah 2013 has without a doubt been my favorite event (and not because I helped plan it!). I found out a week or so before the event that we were expecting nearly 80 people at the event who had never been to one before, which in and of itself is amazing. NFTY is growing, and generations to come will be able to have the same experience I’ve had during my high school career.
From Shabbat, to the programs, to even the food, the entire weekend was amazing. The weekend begun as any other did for an out-of-towner like myself – stepping off of the airplane and into the arms of my many friends in NFTY. From there, the event only improved. Miranda’s (our Programming Vice President) program united all of us as a Jewish people, and Jackson’s (our Social Action Vice President) program used that unity to bring us to a fight against Malaria, where we raised nearly $1400 for the organization Nothing But Nets. Scott’s tech-integrated Shabbat service brought everyone together in allowing the congregation to know what we, as teenagers, are praying for with prompts such as “Who are you praying to heal?”, “I am a Jew because…” and “What makes a place a beautiful place to worship?”. On Saturday night, the talent show brought people from tears to bedazzlement between Sam Fagel’s performance of his own song “Take Me” and Shir Attias’s dance, everyone was amazed.
One aspect of this event that made it different from any other I’ve attended is that my mom was staffing the event. My TYG advisor Stacy Berry is in her third trimester of pregnancy, and my mom seeing an opportunity, asked if she and her friend Heather could chaperone us in her place. After being given the go-ahead, she could not contain her excitement. Fortunately, she enjoyed the experience just as much as I did. I was never worried about her being there, but she exceeded my expectations with her participation in the event. By helping lead a scavenger hunt on Saturday night, involving herself in every friendship circle we had, and making sure every one of the participants from our youth group was enjoying the event as much as everyone else, she went above and beyond her duties.
Fall Kallah 2013 has been by far my favorite event over the past four years. Every single detail was perfect, from the people to the programming. I could not wish for a better NFTY experience.