By: Noah Ziegler-Hazen
As I clicked the last “Agree” and my application went through to attended NFTY Convention I was already jittery with excitement, and it was only September! I’ve been a part of NFTY-NEL since I was in grade 8, and since that moment I could not wait to attend North American events. Sadly this was my first and last one, but it failed to disappoint! So when February 2017 came around you can only imagine my excitement!
I boarded the plane with my three very close friends at my side and we were on our way to Chicago! Once we found our way to the various NFTY staff and participants stationed around the airport, I felt instantly at home. I was sounded by dozens of other NFTYites who I did not know, but I never felt like an outsider. Everyone was eager to get to know me and hear about my NFTY region.
I was lucky enough to attend Asefah, which is NFTY’s North American board meeting where we pass legislation that effects all 19 regions of NFTY and when we elect our next North American Board. This took place on Thursday and it was just the 19 different regional boards. This was great for me since it was only around 150 participants so it was less over whelming at first.
Finally, after much anticipation we made our way to the Hotel Friday morning where the real excitement was. The whole floor was plastered with NFTY ads and people wearing NFTY apparel, I felt right at home. We then embarked on our first “Plenary” and I had goose bumps all over. I have been to my fear share of NFTY-NEL events but I have never seen something so professional from a youth group. I could not stop smiling the entire rest of the day.
The next day at services I was so proud to attend one of my best friends, Sam Eisner’s service for the entirety of NFTY! We sung, danced, prayed but most importantly had an amazing time doing all this with hundreds of other Jews that share this passion with me. We then attended workshops honing in on social justice issues that stood out to us, I choose Racial Injustice. We were informed that there is racial injustice within our own jewish community since there are so many different kinds of people within the Judaism so we should work together instead of working against each other to stop racial injustices.
We then moved into our next Plenary which was filled with so many amazing speakers! Pastor Chris Harris from Bright Star Church in Chicago came to speak with us about working with the Black communities in our areas to become a unified community. Then Tiffany Shlain, the creator of the Webby Awards, came to talk about her films and how she got where she is, which encouraged us to never give up!
The Final day we went out into Chicago to do what we could to help their community. I went to a documentary screening about Julius Rosenwald. He was one of the co-founders of sears and gave much of his wealth to help build schools for Black communities in need and of course he was jewish. His grandson was there to tell us his thoughts on his grandfather and all of his accomplishments.
The final hours of the convention were the best. We had Don Nichols come to give a concert and The Second City prepared a hilarious comedy show curated just for us! From there we were introduced to our newly elected North American Board!
I can honestly say that those four days were some of the most memorable throughout my entire NFTY experience. Despite waking us at 3:30am to catch a 9:00am flight of course. I would not have passed this opportunity up for the world, and could not be more appreciative to everyone from the broader Jewish community who helped me get to Chicago.