State of the Region Address 2016
Written by: Matt Nussbaum, NFTY-PAR President
In this world there are natives and there are explorers. Wherever you go, whatever you do, there will always be someone who was there before you and someone who will follow you.
Natives. The experienced veterans. They know the lay of the land, the tricks, the nooks and crannies, and the deep secrets. The natives understand how things work, because they are the ones that make it work.
Explorers. The eager newbies. They are curious, naive, pure. Explorers travel to a land with varying levels of knowledge, however they all have the same goal — to explore.
All natives were explorers at one point in time and all explorers with time will become natives. Natives support the explorers with information and guidance, while explorers inspire natives with their passion and eagerness. Tomorrow our most experienced natives are leaving. In just a few short hours they will reflect on their journeys. This is the nature of NFTY. People come into our community and just as quickly they leave. However what happens in between, what happens during the transformation from explorer to native, that is the magic of NFTY.
Over the last two years I have been privileged to have served this community. I have seen the impact we have on each other. I have seen the magic. Why do we do what we do? Why are we all here? This community is so unique. The conversations we have, the relationships we have, the fun we have, we too often take for granted. I know I did. We come together for a weekend and just like that four years have gone by and its time to leave. During that time that goes by in the blink of an eye we all change. Every single person sitting in this room today has been changed by this community. For those of you with more time left here, don’t ever forget that.
Now, as a native here in PAR over the last two years I have felt the obligation to make this place better. I personally believe that the job of natives is not only to directly connect and guide the explorers, but also to indirectly impact them by improving the land they are exploring.
Those of you that know me personally know my conflicted feelings about prayer and religion. Throughout my explorer years in NFTY I connected directly with every facet of our organization except for prayer. I simply couldn’t connect during services. So when I transitioned into a native what did I do? Well, with the help of the six people I have had the honor of calling my fellow board members we began to solve this issue. We changed our vocabulary from services to spiritual experiences. We began implementing choice services. We made it clear that anyone who does not feel comfortable standing or bowing should not feel forced to do so. We provided the people like me a way in to connect with our religion, the thing that unites us all.
That is what being a native is about. It’s about improving the land. It’s about guidance.
Being on regional board provides you with a unique ability to witness an event from above. I have been able to step back and really watch how things unfold. I have seen everlasting friendships be created at our events. I remember so clearly the first time I met every single one of my closest NFTY friends. Over the past two years I have watched those same moments happen for the next generation of natives. Even though we are all one community, we are still in different places in our NFTY careers. I think a past PAR Regional President, who is actually sitting in this room and is one of my biggest inspirations, said it best.
“Freshman: You are sponges. You learned this year about what NFTY-PAR is, and from here you can take that and make NFTY-PAR what it can be.
Sophomores: You have begun this process. But you can see the type of change possible from being apart of NFTY-PAR for two years now. You see how excellence can be achieved and you can make more of it happen.
Juniors: Next year you get to be the big kids in town. You have loads of experience and you get to make NFTY-PAR the place for as many people as you can.
Seniors: NFTY-PAR has given you everything it can. It’s time for you, it’s time for us, to take this experience and change the world because of it.”
The cycle of natives and explorers never ends. Next month an entirely new generation of explorers will join this community. I implore you all to strive to make it as large as possible. Trust me, it helps. Us seniors, who have been natives for two years and are so accustomed to it, will soon become explorers all over again. We will all ship off to our new homes where we don’t know anything. What we do know, however, is how we dealt with that issue four years ago, when we didn’t know anything about this community. The skills and experiences we have learned here as both natives and explorers will allow us to succeed in our future.
This year was a remarkable one. Along with our changes to terminology regarding prayer, we saw the community come together as one in my hometown for one of the largest WINSTYs in NFTY-PAR history. We performed the largest single-year revamp of the constitution PAR has ever seen. We passed a more community-building type of voting. We gave those TYGs that need help the most a louder voice. We saw the emergence of new powerhouse TYGs. Most importantly, we were hypnotized together.
The achievements of this past year are no small feat. The PAR board dedicated so much time, effort, and love this year and I promise you all we did the best job we could do. Each of you have left such a profound impact on our community, and I hope you guys truly understand the legacy we will leave behind.
The best part about this community is that the work is never done. There are always improvements to be made, new teens to engage, and new programs to write. There are still struggles that you will have to overcome. But I know that you will overcome.
Natives and explorers. We take care of each other. We learn from each other. We grow from each other. Know that the cycle never ends, so do your best to make your cycle the best it can be.
This has been a year of growth. A year of change. NFTY-PAR is entering a prosperous time. There is an aura surrounding this community. A new passion and excitement that I haven’t felt here in years. It started as a spark. I have spent two years fostering the spark. I now leave it up to you to make it a flame. Thank you.