By: Shira Khotim, NFTY-SW Editor
When I think of NFTY, I think of a tight-knit community of leaders who are willing to do anything to make an impact on the world around them. Honestly, I did not have a complete understanding of this idea until I attended Leadership Training Institute (LTI) in El Paso, Texas. This weekend shifted my view of how leadership applies to me, and how I think leaders in NFTY-SW can rise-up at any time or moment. Everyone has the potential to become a leader. In Southwest, we step up as leaders in every situation and never fail to create a happy, healthy Kehillah Kedoshah. Throughout the weekend, I saw leadership take many different forms.
It was inspiring watching Eli Nelson, one of our new head song leaders blossom as a leader while leading us in services and friendship circles. Song leaders have a lot of responsibility and pressure weighing on their shoulders. Eli did an incredible job bringing our region together through his voice, guitar, and song. When asked about leadership, Eli is passionate, “I see myself as a leader in that I bring people together…At LTI, the final pieces clicked into place. With the help of Spike, Max, Zach, and many other people, I became confident enough to lead.” Eli’s co-song leader, Zach Schawelson, was really impacted by our guest musician, Jacob Spike Kraus. Zach explains, “Eli and I led session to prepare the other song leaders for help lead us in song throughout the weekend. Spike impacted me as a leader because whenever Eli and I were confused or needed help or anything, we knew that he was always there to answer any of our questions and lead us in the right direction.” Zach, Eli, and our Religious and Cultrual Vice President, Max Cohen are an incredible team of leaders who left a huge impact on our region in El Paso.
Leadership spreads its wings across the entirety of our region. It goes from Regional Board to general board to Temple Youth Group (TYG) board members and then to all NFTY members. I was amazed with how much Allyson Varcoe, the Membership VP from Congregation Beth Israel stepped up in El Paso. Varcoe, as everyone calls her, started off by attending 3 events her freshman year. Varcoe fell in love with NFTY and now she is focusing on expanding the youth group at her temple. Varcoe explains, “Leadership to me is being able to stand up in a crowd and be a role model. In order to be a leader you have to be confident and approachable.” She continues , “at LTI I learned how to get more people involved in youth group even if they have given me regular excuses and that not every way of reaching out to people works for everyone.” LTI provided Allyson with a fresh perspective to take back to her TYG.
Zoe Elison, president of another youth group , WESTY, has significantly evolved as a leader over the past year. Although WESTY is pretty small and does not have many members, Zoe is determined to increase the number of teens involved in her community. Zoe explains “I see myself as a strong yet understanding leader. I believe it is my duty to inspire others to take action and to make sure everyone has fun. LTI helped me realize the kind of leader I am and developed my leadership skills. I learned how to take advantage of my strengths and to be my mindful of my weaknesses.” Around a year ago, Zoe was not even a member of NFTY. Now she is taking an active leadership role in running her youth group.
LTI allowed me, along with the rest of the region to see that anyone can be a leader. No matter how shy, insecure, or inexperienced you are, you still have the potential to be a leader. Being a leader can be challenging at times, however, I have learned that it is one of the most rewarding experiences. Do not be afraid to stand up and take initiative.