By Celia Tedde, NFTY-SoCal Member
Imagine: a young freshman flies across the country to attend her third NFTY event. She doesn’t know any of the teens she is about to meet, and her roommates are complete strangers. Four days later, she leaves with amazing new friends, an unforgettable experience, and a new sense of pride in being a NFTYite and a Reform Jew.
In case you haven’t figured it out yet, that NFTYite was me just two years ago. Because of my experience at Biennial 2011, I am now happy to say that I am a die-hard NFTYite and a proud Reform Jew.
When I left for Biennial 2011, I expected to meet some new people, see some cool speakers, and have some fun. What I really got was truly indescribable. I had never imagined I would get so close with my roommates, be so inspired by the programs and speakers, or feel so connected to my Judaism and the Reform Jewish Movement.
What really struck me the most at Biennial was the URJ’s worldview. When most people think of religion, they think of anti-science, homophobia, sexism and the list goes on and on. When I walked down the long hall on the first day, I saw booths sporting equality flags, pro-choice banners and even a new URJ camp dedicated to science. As the weekend went on, I realized that they not only supported these important causes; they were at the forefront of these movements and many others. I also learned of the URJ and the Religious Action Center’s (RAC) involvement in the civil rights movement, the LGBTQIA movement and the pro-choice and women’s health movement. The URJ and the RAC also took a stance against the Vietnam War, and had a major impact in the fight against genocide, malaria and homelessness – to name a few. I was so proud seeing the difference that these organizations made and are continuing to make in the world. I was so excited to see how Judaism could relate directly to action, and I knew from that moment on that I would always be a Reform Jew.
Biennial was such a unique experience, because not only do you collaborate with NFTY teens; you also get to meet and work with the adults in the Jewish community. While most adults complain about “noisy, lazy teenagers,” the adults at Biennial were so welcoming and excited to work with us. They wanted to help us achieve great things in our communities. Attending Biennial gave me new skills on how to work with the adults in my community, and showed me that adults care a lot about what we had to say.
Other amazing aspects of my experience at Biennial were the speakers and programs that we were able to be a part of. We got to learn about social action issues and how to get involved, getting youth and teens involved in synagogue life, handling religious topics and how to work with teens and adults. The speakers that we saw were inspirational, and even included President Barack Obama.
Going to Biennial was truly an amazing experience. Seeing how influential the Reform Jewish community is made me a committed NFTYite and Reform Jew.
Want to experience Biennial for yourself? Register now and join NFTY at Biennial, December 12-15, 2013 in San Diego, CA. Registration closes soon, so learn more and register today!