Who are the Grown Ups at a NFTY Kallah?
Rachel Fischer, TBE Youth Advisor
When Sareta went oﬀ to her ﬁrst Kallah, I had no idea who was at a typical NFTY weekend gathering. Sure, I had the assurance that Kallah was a wonderful thing. But I only had a vague idea that teens from Reform temples all across Southern California attended. How many adults were present and who were they? What did they do? I had no clue.
This year as TBE’s youth advisor, I attended the Social Justice Kallah (SJK) because Kara Liu, the advisor at Temple Israel in Long Beach, encouraged me to attend the concurrent professional development training. What? Wait? Kallah was not just about a bunch of teenagers?
When I arrived at SJK, I saw Samarah Leader and Lily Gottlieb, our regional NFTY leadership who make everything happen. Soon afterwards, I met about twenty-ﬁve youth professionals gathered in a yurt for a morning training session, plus more adults were roaming around camp to observe and coordinate teen activities. Who were all these people? Some were other Youth Group advisors. Some were Jewish college students hired as cabin leaders. The session facilitator had come from Camp Kutz in New York, the URJ’s center for teen leadership development. With her was Zacharry Herman, the National NFTY President. As we delved into discussion of what teens want most in a youth group, I was overwhelmed not only by the caliber of who was there but by their passion. Everyone was dedicated to growing youth groups that make a diﬀerence, youth groups where teens feel safe, valued, and connected to Judaism. Wow.
After lunch, a second professional training session focused on teens and Jewish social activism.
Alexa Broida of Mitzvah Corps lead us in a Torah study. Remember that story about how Moses struck down an Egyptian task master who abused a Jewish slave? In a yurt full of youth professionals, the story struck a nerve. How many teens in our youth groups are like Moses, becoming aware of injustices in the world for the ﬁrst time and feeling an overwhelming need to do something? What a powerful moment.
I was energized by my time at SJK. The networking and intellectual stimulation recharged my passion for SPeTY and the awesome task of creating a meaningful Jewish experience for our teens at TBE.
It’s easy to talk about Kallah as being a place where our teens meet other Jewish teens, but it’s more. At Kallah, you will also ﬁnd youth group leaders and religious professionals from across Southern California: rabbinic students, educators-in-training, with leaders from URJ Heller High or the Jewish Federation’s LA Teen Initiative. They can meet current college students or recent graduates who are passionate about Israel or are dealing with Antisemitism on university campuses. And yes, sometimes, they may also spend a little time with their own youth advisor, too.