by Jacob Blackstone, NFTY-SW Editor
I went to my first NFTY-SW event in 2015, Fall Kallah, as a timid sophomore with few friends. At the time, I had no idea what NFTY-SW really was. I just knew that they had an event at Camp Stein and that I’d be able to see people I knew from camp. So I asked my parents to sign me up, and a few weeks later I was on the way.
Now, high-energy and large social situations gave me anxiety then and still do, being an introvert at heart. The moment I stepped off the bus, I was gripped with uncertainty rather than the joy I felt arriving at camp. Between the cheers and unfamiliar faces, I feared that this was not the place for me. I had fun, but was overwhelmed, and scared to return for another event. It was a year before I tried NFTY-SW again and fell in love, which I wish I hadn’t wasted.
Now why am I relaying this less-than-positive experience at the very beginning of my final article? Well, for one, this “first-timer” phenomenon, which many newcomers experience, is not uncommon among NFTY-ites. This is not necessarily a bad thing, though. Without knowing, I learned the first lesson of many from NFTY-SW: to challenge myself and not discount my own worth.
NFTY-SW itself was not the problem, but my own fears of being judged by others and putting myself out there. When Fall Kallah 2016 rolled around, I challenged myself to try NFTY-SW again and get out of my comfort zone that I desired to escape for so long but had difficulty in doing so. This motivation must’ve flipped a switch for me, because on the bus home, I knew NFTY-SW was the place for me and that I couldn’t wait for the next event.
To all the Freshmen or newcomers reading this: Even if your first event feels confusing or intimidating, come back for the next event. Don’t end up missing so many bonds and memories like I did. Give it some time and trust the process. Talk to everyone, including Seniors; they’re more than willing to help you get acquainted because they know that you are the future leaders of NFTY and beyond. Go in with an open mind, and take it slow. You will not regret it. I know I don’t for even a second.
NFTY-SW has given me so much more than I could ever ask for: It has strengthened existing bonds with friends and created new ones that I know will last a long time. It has helped me connect and flesh out more of my Jewish identity. It has made me more confident in my own opinions and aware of the world around me. It has given me a safe environment with people to confide in during rough times. It has given me valuable leadership experience to take to university and beyond. I am forever grateful for how NFTY-SW has shaped my path in life, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world, nor would I have rather been part of any other youth group.
This most recent Spring Kallah (2018) – my last event – gave me and the other Seniors a chance to reflect and appreciate all that NFTY-SW has to offer, and pass on our good vibes to the underclassmen. While we enjoyed all the big Jewish fun of any event – Shabbat, social action programs, friends, and more – it was bittersweet knowing that it was time to pass the torch. Passing out gifts during Senior Circle and sharing my memories was both a fun and a sad moment, but I know that I am leaving NFTY-SW in good hands.
It has been an absolute pleasure being your regional editor this past year. Writing about this organization that I’m so passionate about has made me appreciate my time here even more. Many thanks to Lynne, the advisors, the board, and everyone else for making this region what it is. And as always, NFTY-Southwest is the best!