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February 19, 2013 / Rabbi Laura

NFTY Convention 2013: A Parent’s Perspective

Granted, I’ve seen what’s behind the curtain of NFTY Convention. This was the first convention in 13 years that I was not apart of planning and staffing. NFTY Convention is a magical experience. Thousands of hours go in to creating the weekend. NFTY staff practically give up their lives for close to a year to make the magic happen for our kids.

This weekend I had the opportunity, the blessing, of experiencing Convention much like 800+ other parents around North America – via text messages from my son, emails from the NFTY staff, trolling through pictures posted on Flickr and Instagram, reading tweets, and watching the live video feeds. (You can’t accuse NFTY of being behind the times in terms of technology!)

While you might think I had a severe case of FOMO (fear of missing out), I actually didn’t. I enjoyed being home, relaxing with family, sleeping in, having hot water in my shower each morning.

photoInstead, I basked in the glow of Max’s amazing experience. He returned home today exhausted yet energized. He returned home with so much more than he left with on Friday morning.

He made new friends and reconnected with old ones, including his best friend from preschool whom he now only gets to see very infrequently because they live 2000 miles away from each other.

He was inspired by teens who are making a difference in the world, especially Talia Leman, founder of Random Kid. Max bought her book and began reading it on the train ride home.

He connected with other NFTYites interested in song leading; they discussed challenges and techniques for successful leadership in the worship experience. He experienced model song leaders and musicians like Dan Nichols and Josh Nelson.

Teachers tapped into his desire for serious Jewish learning. “I wish there had been more midrash study in that session.” How many times do we hear our kids say that?!

His tweets included “couldn’t ask for a more fun night”, “sweet words of Torah #nftyconvention,” and “#nftyconvention is the only place accordion is acceptable.” And my favorite, “EIE students in Israel on Kibbutz Tzubah. Hopefully I’ll be there soon.”

My response: it’s working!

NFTY works.
NFTY inspires our kids to think about who they are and who they want to be.
NFTY allows our kids to be themselves, without fear of teasing or being ostracized
NFTY gives our kids role models and peers whom they can trust, emulate, learn with and from, and simply have fun.
NFTY makes Judaism relevant and real and alive.

Thank you Melissa, Subie, Beth, Scott, and everyone else who made this NFTY Convention such a memorable experience for Max. As his mother, I am grateful.

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