By Michaela (Mikey) Pliskin, MaLTY member
I am a freshman in High School in Pennsylvania and I’m on my TYG General Board, MaLTY. None of the freshmen who attended Spring Kallah on April 11th-13th had any idea what to expect. At this event, the seniors will be leaving PAR, and in the eyes of NFTY, freshmen become sophomores. After Spring it became apparent to me that the event was built on Jewish values. Spring is all about reflecting on what NFTY means to you and emphasizing generational leadership. It’s also about stressing the importance of keeping NFTY, and especially PAR, strong and growing after we say goodbye to our seniors. To keep PAR thriving, the upperclassmen must willingly pass down the gavel and hope that they have taught the lowerclassmen enough to succeed on their own. Spring Kallah really opened my eyes, as a freshman, to my capabilities, and gave me a glimpse into my future.
The value yirah is being aware of something bigger than ourselves. This applies to PAR in so many different ways, but became clear to me during Senior Circle. Senior Circle is a time when each PAR senior gets to walk around and tell all of our region what NFTY has meant to them over the years, and who they have to thank. Many of the seniors thanked specific people and shared some of their experiences in PAR, but what I noticed is they all would share how much NFTY has changed their lives. How they all feel NFTY is a safe environment where they can be themselves. How they are grateful they were part of something bigger than themselves. Senior Circle really had a major impact on me. I could tell that all the seniors felt extremely passionate about PAR, and yet, for many reasons, felt that their time in PAR ended too fast. Senior Circle showed me that the time I have in PAR is limited, meaning I must take advantage of all the time I have left. As a freshman, I was given the opportunity to see how much of an impact this group of people made on me, and that is something I am truly thankful for. I am excited to appreciate and be a part of something bigger than myself.
Bruchim Hagerim is the teaching of welcoming strangers. While it is supposed to directly correlate with the story of Abraham, I interpret this as a value that is upheld in PAR with much care. In PAR you can see the act of welcoming new members everywhere you turn. Whether it is during mixers, inviting someone to sit with you at lunch, or simply just saying hi, everyone feels welcome and right at home when it comes to PAR. But there is a deeper meaning of Bruchim Hagerim that was evident during Spring Kallah. A “stranger” was not necessarily a new member at Spring. A stranger, I consider in this sense, is also someone who is entering a new position. Whether it was a board member installation, vice veep elections, or even just hearing about all the general board committees, many people will soon take new roles in PAR and every single one was welcomed in their positions. There is a sadness that comes with old members leaving their positions after, what I experienced was, a fantastic year. But there is a certain kind of excitement and thrill I feel as a freshman going into my sophomore year of NFTY with all of the new “strangers”.
The most important lesson I took away from Spring was the value of L’dor Vador, from generation to generation. Throughout my life, many different people have expressed the importance of L’dor Vador but I never truly was able to see it for myself until this weekend. At the end of Spring Kallah, as all of the seniors were saying their goodbyes, many of them approached me and expressed their encouragement and well wishes to me as they leave PAR behind. As I take the next step in MaLTY and in PAR, I realized that I am carrying on their legacies, their beliefs. Almost every senior gave the standard statements of “You guys can do whatever you put your mind to and you guys will do great things.” While these statements are encouraging and always nice to hear, sometimes they don’t really make an impact. However, as Mike Brest, a departing senior, walked up to me with tears streaming down his face, he held me by the shoulders and told me, “You have three more years to accomplish whatever goals you have and I want to hear everything you do. But I’m not going to be surprised by any of it. You can do anything you truly put your mind to and I’m so proud of you.” He went on to call me the little sister that he’s always wanted. We spent much of this year together, and he has taught me one lesson after another and I will always remember what he taught me. It was in that moment, I finally understood L’dor Vador. Mike spent this past year telling me stories and pointing out problems he saw in MaLTY, PAR, and the world. Now I realize it wasn’t because he was just being negative, it was because he was trying to show me that I now have the chance to correct those problems. I feel confident in the great things I can accomplish. I will take the things I have been taught by these seniors and soar to new heights. I have grown as a person and I now have the tools to do great things. That is the true meaning of L’dor Vador, Bruchim Hagerim, and Yirah.