2016-02-17 / Columns

A hands-on WINSTY shows that every action counts

TEEN SCENE
By GWEN KRAMER TEFTY Social Action VP


TEFTY had a record number of teens attend WINSTY. Enjoying the event were (front, from left), Eli Weitzman, Aaron Schwager, Hannah Scott, Jessica Firstenberg, Gillian Rozenfeld; with (middle row, from left), Josh Cohen, Bailey Kossow, Gwen Kramer, Jamie Gottlieb, Shaina Kramer, Noah Podolnick, Amber Soffer, Ari Manelis; and (back row, from left), Jenna Camacho, Ezra Nugiel, Jared Camacho, Matt Nussbaum, Ari Podolnick, and Ethan Lane-Miller. Not pictured is Brett Gottlieb. TEFTY had a record number of teens attend WINSTY. Enjoying the event were (front, from left), Eli Weitzman, Aaron Schwager, Hannah Scott, Jessica Firstenberg, Gillian Rozenfeld; with (middle row, from left), Josh Cohen, Bailey Kossow, Gwen Kramer, Jamie Gottlieb, Shaina Kramer, Noah Podolnick, Amber Soffer, Ari Manelis; and (back row, from left), Jenna Camacho, Ezra Nugiel, Jared Camacho, Matt Nussbaum, Ari Podolnick, and Ethan Lane-Miller. Not pictured is Brett Gottlieb. Over Martin Luther King Jr. weekend, Reform Jewish teens from across Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Southern New Jersey gathered at Temple Emanuel in Cherry Hill. Rather than spending their three-day weekend sleeping, teens from NFTY-PAR (the Pennsylvania Area Region of the Reform Jewish youth movement) chose to come to Temple Emanuel for a weekend of Jewish learning and hands-on social action projects. Hosting NFTY-PAR’s WINSTY (Winter Institute) and the 155 participants was a joint effort between all aspects of the Temple Emanuel community and NFTY-PAR.

Welcoming NFTY-PAR to Cherry Hill to host an event would have seemed impossible just a couple of years ago. I am TEFTY’s (Temple Emanuel Federation of Temple Youth) Social Action vice president and two years ago I had no idea what TEFTY was, let alone NFTY-PAR! Since my friends and I joined TEFTY a year and a half ago, Temple Emanuel has seen TEFTY grow astronomically! This made it possible for us to host such a large event. To host WINSTY, all congregations and youth groups must submit a bid explaining why their youth group and synagogue are the best for the job. Temple Emanuel was competing against other larger and more experienced youth groups to host, and winning the bid shows our growth and strength.

This year we decided to try something new with WINSTY. During Saturday, we held learning sessions where teens got to choose between attending sessions on topics about mental health and wellness, inequalities in society, and religion. This is different from last year’s WINSTY where both Saturday and Sunday were spent doing social action projects in the community. The speakers I had the opportunity to see all talked about religion. While sitting in Temple Emanuel’s chapel I learned about Christianity, Islam, and even Judaism. Rabbi Yisroel Tzvi Serebrowski from Torah Links spoke with Temple Emanuel’s Rabbi Larry Sernovitz and drew parallels between Orthodox and Reform Judaism, while also pointing out the differences between the two branches.

Rabbi Adena Blum from Cong. Beth Chaim in Princeton Junction led a session on Islam. Rabbi Blum studied Islam in college and answered our questions for an hour. Participants at this session began with different levels of understanding, but all were eager to learn. The knowledge we all gained after this session is powerful and can be used to quell hatred directed towards Muslims in America.

The following day we were able to engage in hands-on social action projects. The group I was in traveled to the Cedar Run Wildlife Refuge, where people spent their time rehabilitating wild animals so that they can return safely to their natural habitats. A small group of us went inside and painted a room, which we discovered would be where baby birds lived until they learned how to fly. By the end of the day, our group had laid a base coat of paint around the wall. Even though the walls weren’t completely finished, the workers there who are so busy with taking care of the animals appreciated the work. It was gratifying to be able to help this organization that puts so much time into preserving the wildlife in the area. Other teens participated in projects with the Pre- School at Temple Emanuel, Katz JCC, the Jewish Community Relations Council, and many other organizations.

The weekend of community service taught me more about my own faith and different faiths. It is an important Jewish value to preserve peace and the easiest way to do that is by understanding people before jumping to conclusions or making judgments. The hands-on experience re-instilled in me that every action counts, no matter how small. Similar to the value that saving one life saves the world, helping one organization helps the world at large. .

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