Six years ago on President’s Day weekend, I drove the three hours to Dallas, Texas for NFTY Convention 2011. I spent the whole weekend with our mascot Toro strapped to my chest and felt inspired as the TOR regional board led havdalah in front of hundreds of Reform Jewish teens.
Four years ago, I flew to Los Angeles as I prepared to lead NFTY Convention 2013 as the NFTY President. I had been preparing for this weekend for many months and it did not disappoint. I shared words of Torah with Rabbi Rick Jacobs (now my boss at URJ), danced like a maniac during the Dan Nichols concert, freaked out at the awesomeness of Universal Studios, and enjoyed every moment of the event. It remains one of the most treasured experiences of my entire life.
Two years ago, I flew to Atlanta for NFTY Convention 2015, this time as a college staff member working with the Youth Summit, the professional development conference for youth professionals aligned with NFTY Convention. I taught about adaptive leadership, assisted with programs, and once again, watched another generation of NFTYites be elected to the NFTY Board. While it was strange to be back at this event without the responsibilities as NFTY President, the event was as engaging and inspiring as ever.
I was thinking about all of these experiences as I prepared for NFTY Convention 2017, my first Convention as a full-time URJ staff member. I was nervous for all of my new roles, but excited to hopefully make an impact on all of the participants in Chicago.
My weekend was a perfect blend of my work at the URJ during the year. I got to work with 40 phenomenal college students to prepare and guide them to make their own impact on the event. I spent an entire afternoon with a group of 100 teens grappling with the effects of racism and training them to fight for racial justice in their communities. I reconnected with dozens of old friends and NFTY alumni throughout the weekend, bringing back powerful memories of their time in NFTY. I performed Shabbat Sha’Raps Live, rapping about Parashat Yitro in front of everyone at Convention. Hearkening back to our joint d’var Torah four years ago, Rabbi Rick Jacobs and I spoke to youth professionals about the importance of partnership and mentoring teens. I proudly stood on stage with past, current, and future NFTY Board Members, binding us all into an unbreakable cohort.
Beyond all of my teaching, speaking, and staffing responsibilities, I just felt like I was in my place, the right place, the entire weekend. I laughed with old friends and new, danced in the hallways, celebrated this community, stayed up way past my bedtime, and learned about myself, this community, and the world. This event and this weekend will have a special place in my heart for the rest of my life.
Thanks to everyone who made NFTY Convention 2017 so incredibly memorable. Who’s ready for 2019?!