From Our Director of Lifelong Learning
By the time I graduated the 8th grade, my religious school class of three had dwindled down to just me. My sister had long been the solo kid in her grade and had been forced to join in the grades above and below until she joined me in High School and declared she was, “over it.” My parents scrambled to find a way for us to be involved with other Jewish teens, and it was decided for us that we would start our own synagogue chapter of NFTY (National Federation of Temple Youth) so that we could attend regional youth group events.
That first year we decided with little argument that I would be President, Religious and Cultural VP, and Programming VP. My sister took over the roles of Treasurer, Communications VP and Social Action VP. We joked about the size of the name tags we needed and signed up for our first Kallah.
At that first event, we were assigned housing with a group of other girls from Houston and San Antonio. The other girls knew each other from many summers at our local URJ camp, but quickly welcomed us into their circle. As we gossiped in our sleeping bags at night, traded stories and fashion tips, as we sang along to our favorite songs in our hosts’ minivan each morning, we quickly formed a friendship.
By the end of the weekend I was resolute that nothing would keep me from attending camp the following summer with my new friends. I saved babysitting money and allowance and applied for scholarships. I made it to camp that summer and many afterwards. Those girls became my camp friends, my college friends, my best friends. The educational, social experiences and leadership experiences I had in NFTY and at camp made me the Jew that I am today and certainly led me toward the rabbinate.
This Spring, The Milwaukee Reform Jewish community has the great honor of hosting a NFTY-Northern Spring Kallah the weekend of April 20-23rd. It has been a few years since we last hosted an event and our teens are so excited to welcome 100 Jewish teens from across the region to our city.
Hosting a NFTY event is a great chance to show off our warm and vibrant community. It is also a great opportunity to engage our own teens in leadership positions. Our teens will have the opportunity to lead and plan programs, lead services, assist with logistics, but we do need your help making this Kallah happen.
We will need “host families” to provide sleeping arrangements and breakfast for out of town participants. If you have teens participating, that would be ideal, but we have had many families throughout the region host teens even without having teens of their own.
Host families will be expected to provide a safe sleeping space (floor is fine, teens will bring sleeping bags/pillows) on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night, as well as breakfast and snacks and transportation to and from local synagogues each morning and evening. Drivers for participants must be adults, over twenty-one years old.
While the events provided by the Kallah offer amazing opportunities for teens, the informal time they spend in your home allows students from other cities to attend and creates opportunity for meaningful relationships to form. NFTY can truly impact the lives of teens and this is your chance to contribute!
To volunteer to host teens in your home this spring, please contact me directly.
Rabbi Toba Strauss Schaller