When I would attend NFTY events as a high school student I had the feeling that when I was at a NFTY event I was able to be my best self. The weekend of 3/24 through 3/26 showed the same was true for the youth of TBE attending our youth programs.
Here in Charlotte, 30 Kindergarten through sixth graders had a blast participating in fun KATANTY events that emphasized the fun of teamwork and the relaxation of Shabbat. Meanwhile another 30 sixth through twelfth graders joined me for a trip to Atlanta for NFTY-SAR’s (North American Federation of Temple Youth Southern Area Region) Hatikvah Kallah.
During our Atlanta excursion our youth had three different roles: The middle school aged attendees were participating in programs and services focused on the fun and joy of being Jewish through the lens of emotions; this journey was told through the lens of the film “Inside Out.” Our high school teens were split into two groups, the smaller group being the songleaders, who worked on practicing and perfecting their musical skills when not helping to lead Shabbat and Havdalah services for the convention. The larger group of high school students led the “Inside Out” themed programs and spent time getting to know the middle school students. This format helped to not only make sure that the middle school participants felt welcomed and comfortable in the NFTY experience while away from home, but also helped to foster mentor relationships where our older youth can take our younger youth under their wings.
Our youth clearly excelled in this environment:
Our middle school kids tried new things, were patient and accommodating when things didn’t always turn out according to plan, and followed every instruction and rule they were given. I am not sure how much time you spend around 11-13 year olds, but patience, being accommodating, and rule following are not often the first words usually used to describe them. They were mature, poised and respectful and I was extremely impressed and proud of all of them.
Our older teens thrived as leaders and helpers, showing not only that they could lead programs but that they knew how to help make sure everyone had the best possible time throughout the weekend. They always volunteered to help adult leadership with tasks, they helped schlep food and supplies, and most impressively they helped the younger participants develop the tools to problem solve their own way through the weekend.
This weekend I got to see the best that our TBE youth had to offer, and I want to make sure I have invited you to join me in celebrating Shabbat with them this Friday night, 6:00 pm, at our Teen-Led Community Shabbat Service. Our youth continue to impress me, and I want to give you all an opportunity to be impressed by them as well.