Greetings from Los Angeles and NFTY Convention 2013!
I have discovered the fountain of youth… attend NFTY Convention! Our kids are AMAZING! They come in all shapes and sizes, wear crazy clothes, and cling to each other like window stickers. They love being Jewish! They celebrate Shabbat with joy and exuberance. They pray and worship with reverence and intent. They sing and dance to Jewish music as if they are at a rock concert. They listen with respect; they confer with sincerity. They get it—all of ‘it’ and always with a Jewish heart and soul.
And, WRJ, they get us! On Saturday evening, I asked the more than 860 kids how many were helped by local sisterhoods to get to L.A., and hundreds of hands shot up. They know they received B’nei Mitzah and Confirmation gifts from their sisterhoods. They know sisterhood scholarships help get them to a URJ camp! And they learned WRJ is the largest donor they have (next to the Jim Joseph Foundation) today. They were VERY aware WRJ was responsible for founding NFTY.
They were interested to learn about life in 1913—washing hair with egg yolks, having less than 8,000 cars on the road, inventing zippers, and so forth. I shared a snapshot of 100 years of WRJ accomplishments: building buildings, supporting Israel, donating the most scholarship funds to HUC-JIR, and publishing The Torah: A Women’s Commentary. And, most importantly, I shared that it was the women who insisted on the creation of NFTY: the North American Federation of Temple Youth. That WRJ pressed our movement’s male leaders until NFTY became a reality and asked them if they knew that WRJ was your only financial resource almost 20 years? And I said, “We are SO proud of you NFTY. You you have ALWAYS been and will continue to be a priority for WRJ.”
On Saturday night, as the representative of WRJ, I had the honor to introduce the WRJ Centennial NFTY Essay Competition winner, Elizabeth Levi of Charleston, SC, who is a member of CHARELY at Kahl Kadosh Beth Elohim, which is in NFTY-SAR. Elizabeth, who is her Temple Youth Group’s President, is a senior and hopes to focus on journalism and international relations in Washington, D.C.
Upon hearing the surprise announcement, NFTY broke into huge applause. Elizabeth read parts of her essay, “A Man’s World Ain’t Nothin’ Without A Woman or a Girl.” Her essay was fully published this past Tuesday in Ten Minutes of Torah. The award included funds to cover NFTY Convention fees and $1,000, which she said she stowed away with her college money.
Her congratulatory WRJ Goldengram, signed by President Lynn Magid Lazar and Executive Director Rabbi Marla J. Feldman reads:
Women of Reform Judaism salutes your winning the Centennial NFTY Essay Competition with your entry entitled “A Man’s World Ain’t Nothin’ Without a Woman or a Girl.” This unique competition was intentionally created to share the 100th birthday celebration of WRJ with NFTYites.
Nine diverse adult readers selected your essay from among 33 qualified entries. Your strong Jewish identity, forged by many women in your congregation, gives testimony of the value of mentors, especially for young people within our Reform congregations.
May you go from strength to strength as you become a leader of the Jewish people, a Miriam of tomorrow.
Shortly after her presentation, I introduced the evening’s major program. Think Lady Gaga, Katie Perry, Maroon 5… then think Dan Nichols, major Jewish rock star! NFTYites said thank you WRJ over and over for sponsoring their Dan Nichols Concert. That ballroom was the place to be for dancing, singing, and just jumping up and down! If you need some aerobic exercise, hang out with NFTY!
For more details, take time to visit NFTY Convention’s website or NFTY’s Facebook page. The pictures will make you smile from ear-to-ear. You’ll be reminded why we do what we are doing–securing the future of Reform Judasim.