Youth Are the Future: A NFTY Perspective
Molly Goldberg is the Social Action Vice President of the Missouri Valley Region of the North American Federation of Temple Youth.
You're sitting in your temple's social hall contemplating the meaning of the week's Torah portion or synagogue office proof reading the newsletter or sanctuary harmonizing in Adon Alom. You take a minute to think: who will be contemplating the Torah here, five years from now? Who will proof read the newsletter in ten? Who will lead my congregation twenty years from now? Fifty?
Your answer: the youth. Those wild kids who eat too much pizza and hand out goldfish at the Purim carnival are the future of American Reform Jewry. URJ President Rabbi Eric Yoffie stated the work that adults have to do: We must offer our teenagers inspiration and direction, learning and worship, teachers and role models who will amplify for them the heartbeat of our precious heritage so that it can be heard above the noisy rhythms of modern life.
Those noisy rhythms life for a teenager (such as rap, cell phone calls, constant
instruction) can be overwhelming. Therefore, it is crucial that you, adult leadership,
meet the youth on our level. Similarly, we, as the youth, have a responsibility to you.
In NFTY, we base our projects on the 5 A's of social action: Awareness, Assessment,
Action, Alliance, and Advocacy. The Alliance encourages youth to better social action by sharing our commitment with like-minded people. While partnerships between youth groups and our parent organizations may be difficult logistically, the reward is an amplified voice to positively impact change. We ought to foster these alliances. Many URJ congregations have social action committees, which are separate entities from the social justice work of the teenage NFTYites. If and when the two efforts consolidate, we, as a movement, will be closer to repairing the world and instilling global justice. Both the adult and youth leadership in our congregations must take part to make this partnership happen.
The RAC's Lirdof Tzedek: A Guide to Synagogue Social Action, published in 2001, suggests, "If your youth group is not involved in your greater synagogue social action program, we urge you to contact your Social Action Vice President (SAVP) and to begin to coordinate activities together. Your youth group will bring a wealth of both programmatic and human social action resources. Working together will not only produce more successful and larger social action projects, but also foster intergenerational relationships with your synagogue."