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An Incredible Weekend in Boulder for 120 Jewish Teens!

This past November Har HaShem and Boulder Temple Youth (Har HaShem’s 9th-12th grade youth group) hosted a NFTY Regional Chavurah. We asked BTY Communications and Visual Vice President Maya Matatall to write about the experience.

BTY Board Member Maya Matatall

The weekend of November 11, Boulder Temple Youth (BTY) hosted the North AmericanFederation of Temple Youth (NFYT) Western sub-regional Fall Chavurah for Missouri Valley. This event invites Jewish teens from half of the Missouri Valley Region, which is made up of teens from Colorado, Missouri, Iowa, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas and Illinois to spend the weekend engaging in learning, tikkun olam (repairing the world), and socializing, lots of socializing!

Working with BTY Advisor, Simi Adler, Rabbi Joshua Rose and the regional board, the BTY board spent months planning all aspects of the weekend. From welcoming activities to religious learning, tfillah (prayer), dance planning and special activities, the chavurah was designed to meet other Jewish teens while learning about community issues while having fun. It is about the friends you make and the experience you have!

Boulder hasn’t hosted a NFTY chavurah since 2007 so we wanted to make sure that everyone remembered this event. 120 teens from the region (including 20 from the Boulder area) converged on Congregation Har HaShem for an action packed weekend titled, “All for One, and One for All.”

For some people it was their first NFTY event and for others it was one of their last.  Natalie Seitzman, the Missouri Valley President who came all the way from Peoria, Illinois to attend the event, had this to say:

My first and only Western Fall was an eye opening experience. I was amazed with how comfortable everyone was with each other and how calm but excited even the brand new participants were.”

One of our Regional Songleaders, Healy Slackman of St. Louis, looks forward to the community built during these chaverot.

It was amazing to have another weekend together as a community,” says Slackman. “I love how so many teens from so many places all come together a couple times a year and can build such a dynamic community. Even though everyone comes from different cities and have different traditions, the common factor of NFTY really connects us all, and because of NFTY we share so many things that we wouldn’t otherwise share- like songs, customs, and just the overall amazing feeling you get at an event.”

Regional Songleader Healy Slackman leading Shabbat Services

People who aren’t involved in NFTY other than events were just as excited as the people who work with NFTY everyday. Hannah Budwig, of Omaha, said, “My favorite part was spending time with my best friends who I hadn’t seen since May. NFTY in general is my favorite thing in the world. All my friends have noticed the immense amount of Jewish t-shirts I wear, all from NFTY. Each Chavurah teaches me something new that impacts how I think and Fall taught me what kind of thinker I am.”

NFTY-MV Youth Programs Manager Beth Lipschutz was extremely grateful for the support and help from the Har HaShem and Boulder Community.

NFTY-MV felt incredibly welcome into the Har HaShem and Boulder community the moment we walked into the synagogue and throughout the weekend. We appreciate all of the hard work done by the teens, staff, clergy and many volunteers to make this weekend a success. Thanks for providing a safe space for MV participants to learn, grow and come together as Jewish teens.”

Throughout the weekend, we participated in programs that helped us figure out how our unique personalities came together as a community as well as how our personalities can make an impact on issues that affect the teen community.

A teen from Omaha, Nebraska participating in the Redefining Beautiful Project

We discussed issues such as bullying, discrimination, body image and more. We even got the opportunity to participate in the Redefining Beautiful Project, a hands on project which aims to remove negative body image, celebrate confidence and inner beauty among teens. For more information check out The Redefining Beautiful Project on Facebook.

In addition to addressing community issues, we were also able to address issues facing the Jewish Community. We were fortunate to have four NFTY National Staff visit us during the weekend including NFTY Interim Director Subie Banaszynski and NFTY Associate Director Melissa Frey. On Friday night, Subie Banaszynski talked to us about the Union for Reform Judaism’s (URJ) Campaign for Youth Engagement and gave us the opportunity to voice our opinions on challenges facing Jewish Teens today (for more information on the URJ and the Campaign for Youth Engagement, please visit their website).

Interim NFTY Director Subie Banaszynski

There were also plenty of social activities as well. Other things we did were mixers to get to know each other and a giant social where local DJ Tom West raised the roof.

Each year we have three regional events. Winter Chavurah, a four-day event held in St. Louis, Missouri, is coming up January 13-16, 2011 and is open to all teens in the Missouri Valley region (the deadline to register is December 29th and air fare is rising so don’t delay if you are interested!). Visit the NFTY website and email Simi Adler at youth@harhashem.org to register for this awesome event!

In addition to our Regional Events we also have a wide array of local events as well. Our next local event is our BTY Hannukah Party on December 21st from 5:00 pm – 9:00 pm at Har HaShem.

For info on upcoming events please check the BTY Facebook page, or email Simi Adler at youth@harhashem.org.

Be sure to ‘like’ Har HaShem’s Facebook page for more photos from the weekend.

About Simi Adler

Simi Adler
Simi Adler is the current Youth Advisor for Congregation Har HaShem and a long time Boulder resident. Simi is no stranger to the Boulder Jewish Community having grown up here and attended the University of Colorado. During his middle school and high school years, Simi was very active in local Jewish Youth Groups (BBYO) and Summer Camps (Shwayder Camp). He is very excited to serve the community as the Youth Advisor for Har HaShem's Junior Youth Group (6th-8th grade) and Boulder Temple Youth (9th-12th grade)!

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