Joanna Orland is the co-chair of the NFTY-NAR Fundraising and Strategic Planning Committee. She is the co-President of EERNY2 at East End Temple in New York City and has attended the L’taken seminar at the Religious Action Center three times. She is a high school senior.
Alexis Jackson is the co-chair of the NFTY-NAR Fundraising and Strategic Planning Committee. She is the founder and President of ONESY at Temple Am Echad on the South Shore of Long Island. She is a high school senior.
There’s a hidden gem in the NYC metro area. Some 400 teens are a part of it; they call it home. No, it’s not a secret society…It’s something that members talk about in every conversation they can. It’s something that people try so hard to get others to listen about, understand, and hopefully join. This little hidden gem is NFTY-NAR.
NFTY-NAR consists of three sub-regions: Long Island, New York City and Westchester/Fairfield. As a youth movement, we currently reach less the 1% of the 60,000 eligible Reform Jewish teens. This is because NFTY-NAR is only able to foster a strong community for those Jewish teens that can accommodate what NFTY-NAR currently offers. That is, weekend long events filled with significant Jewish content in distant locations at often-times high prices. These four factors — time, content, location, and finances — are the four principal barriers to entry for our community.
There are so many people and groups that we could be reaching to grow the NFTY-NAR family, but we haven’t been tapping in to them; we’ve let them come to us. Instead, we must meet them where they are. The NFTY-NAR Regional Board of 2014-2015 saw this problem and knew they could start to fix it. To do this, we created the 2020 Vision for Jewish Youth Engagement in the NY Area, which plans to engage at least five times as many Reform Jewish teens in the New York Area Region.
The ‘2020 Vision’ serves to meet people where they are. It strives to redefine what it means to go to a NFTY event by minimizing the barriers to entry and engagement. This vision seeks to elevate involvement in Jewish youth activities by creating a variety of smaller experiential activities unique to NAR’s sub-regions and specific interests for small and large groups, alike.
An example of an event might be getting Starbucks with some NFTY friends, or using a NFTY partnership with a local SAT tutoring center or driver’s education course (to receive both discounts on their services and on other NFTY-NAR events). As the name suggests, we want to accomplish big things by 2020, with the end goal being a 2000 person convention-style event in New York City. That’s 4% of the eligible Reform Jewish teens in our region. Sounds awesome, doesn’t it?!
To accomplish this goal of bridging the gap between temple youth groups and NFTY-NAR, we can’t rely on the current regional board structure, whose responsibilities leave little time for events on the sub-regional level. For this reason, a resolution was adopted to change the structure of Regional Board to make it more efficient in accomplishing the 2020 vision. The amendment creates two boards instead of one: the Executive Board and the Board of Directors. The Executive Board’s primary focus will be on the big picture of NAR, working on regional initiatives and events. The Board of Directors will focus only on sub-regional events and temple youth group engagement to create smaller communities for membership purposes. While each board would have different responsibilities, the combined work of the two boards will create a more unified and diverse NAR.
With this change going into effect in 2016, the 2020 vision is closer on the horizon, and our formerly hidden gem will be in the hands of so many more Jewish teens.