Throughout its history, Women of Reform Judaism has supported the next generation of the Reform Movement. In celebration of WRJ’s Centennial and the significant role that WRJ has played in the life of NFTY, the current National Board members and a staff member of the North American Federation of Temple Youth share their reflections on this vital relationship.
Evan Traylor, NFTY President: Women of Reform Judaism (WRJ) was instrumental in the founding of the North American Federation of Temple Youth (NFTY) in 1939, and since that date has continued to provide enormous financial and moral support to the organization. WRJ has made it possible for generations of Reform Jewish teens across North America to engage in and create meaningful Jewish experiences with their unwavering support. On any given weekend throughout the year, hundreds – often thousands – of Reform Jewish teens gather with their local Temple Youth Group or NFTY region to engage in Jewish activities and events. They have the opportunity to understand their Jewish identity, create powerful relationships, and contribute to the present and future of Reform Judaism. Through enormous partnerships between temple youth groups and URJ congregations, these teens will learn from and develop relationships with vital role models.
Jordan Rodnizki, NFTY Programming Vice President: For the past three summers, I have had the pleasure of attending the URJ Kutz Camp. In my two years as a participant, I witnessed engaging programming, grappled with tenets of my Jewish identity, and formed relationships that will last a lifetime. In 2012, I had the opportunity to help provide this meaningful experience for a new batch of camp participants as a staff member. The program would not be possible without the help of Women of Reform Judaism and its YES (Youth, Education, and Special Projects) Fund Grants, which help to support teens needing financial assistance to attend. Over the past thirty years, WRJ has made it possible for nearly 5,000 teens to attend my beloved Kutz camp. I am forever indebted to the remarkable generosity of my sisters, mothers, grandmothers, and ancestors – for without them, I wouldn’t be the involved Jewish adult I am today.
Joy Nemerson, NFTY Social Action Vice President: I am privileged to not only have gone to one URJ camp, but two. I have called both Crane Lake Camp and Camp Eisner my homes for many summers. There are numerous people who are involved with supporting these wonderful establishments, and WRJ is one of the most ardent of supporters. Without their fervor for bringing the meaningful environment of Jewish camp to as many children as possible, the URJ camp community would be definitively less vibrant. Even through my high school years in NFTY, WRJ has provided many teens with opportunities similar to a camping experience by making scholarships available to events like Convention and Biennial. We are so lucky to have the WRJ as collaborators with NFTY.
Jacob Georginow, NFTY Religious and Cultural Vice President: At the recent NFTY Convention in Los Angeles, CA, I was highly impacted and inspired by the exciting and dynamic musical performances. Through WRJ’s gracious donations and contributions, NFTY Convention was able to pull out all the stops and create incredible musical experiences that united over 1,200 NFTYites and youth professionals in song and dance. Music plays a key role in almost every aspect of NFTY and to encourage young people to explore their musical identities as Jews is a true Mitzvah. Thank you to the WRJ for sponsoring their concert series at our major gatherings. You can watch footage of the recent concert here!
Marlee Ribnick, NFTY Membership and Communications Vice President: WRJ programs have made a significant impact on my experience at my home congregation – Temple Israel of Minneapolis, MN. The women who were part of the Sisterhood at my synagogue always supported my TYG and our efforts in creating social, purposeful Jewish programming. In just the past year, the Women of Reform Judaism have given over $85,000 to NFTY and the Campaign for Youth Engagement in order to continue expanding and creating the opportunity for young Jewish individuals to explore and thrive. I’m deeply thankful to WRJ for laying the groundwork for such collaborative and supportive programs for Jews of all ages to be involved in.
Rebecca Wolchok, NFTY and Kutz Program Associate: When I think of Women of Reform Judaism, fond memories of my childhood at my hometown Synagogue of Beth Emeth in Albany, NY come rushing back. The Sisterhood was regularly responsible for the most cheerful, enjoyable activities of the year. Everything from Hamantashen baking to organized day trips to see off-Broadway shows – the Sisterhood was the driving force of all the fun. While I realize now that they create a diverse array of programming that far exceeds my memories as a child, in my youth I associated their presence with warmth, fun, and very often times, delicious food.
Throughout my teenage years, WRJ began to take on a different meaning in my life. Suddenly I was enjoying the full scope of their work, which included volunteer opportunities and sponsored cultural events. I spent all four years of high school as an active member of my Temple Youth Group, the support of the Sisterhood never wavered. They provided scholarships to aid many in attending our regional events, and enthusiastically volunteered as chaperones for our overnights. The presence of WRJ was felt in so many positive ways throughout my years in NFTY.
Now that I am a young adult working in the Reform Jewish world, I see the Sisterhood in a new (but equally endearing) light. I am overjoyed to be privy to the impact WRJ continues to have on the youth of the Reform Movement. On behalf of myself as well as the thousands of teens whom WRJ continues to enthusaistically support, thank you. Thank you for working tirelessly in your quest to engage and enhance Reform Judaism for people of all ages. It is difficult to convey just how lucky we are as a movement to have a backbone as strong and resilient as you are – and we are excited to share a small glimpse into the many impacts you have made on NFTY and its leadership
On behalf of the NFTY Leadership, our more than 7,000 current members, and our countless thousands of alumni over the past 75 years, we wish Women of Reform Judaism a Happy 100th Birthday! Here’s to the next 100…