By Anna Keilly, NFTY-PAR Social Action Vice President
Early this past December, NFTY-PAR held an event called Junior Youth Kallah. It was open to 6th-8th graders and was held at Camp Harlam. I was able to work with seven other teens to make this event possible and the experience was truly amazing. Junior Youth Kallah is where my own journey in NFTY started, something which made every minute of JYK 2016 unforgettable.
Six years ago, my synagogue advertised a weekend away at Camp Harlam. I had never spent more than one night at a friend’s house, and was a bit apprehensive about spending an entire weekend away at a camp I had never been to. Nevertheless, an older friend convinced me to go. She had been spending many weekends enjoying NFTY-PAR events and the event advertised at temple would be similar to many of those events, just geared towards middle schoolers. Six years later, I have never missed a regional event, and I am serving as the Social Action Vice President on the board of NFTY-PAR.
Going back to a JYK event six years after my own experience was very interesting. Seeing how middle schoolers act and hearing about their thoughts throughout the weekend reminded me of my first JYK. Being able to have such personal insight reminded me of how much I have grown in the last several years and how much NFTY has been a part of that process of evolution.
At the event, I was able to facilitate an hour of social action projects. I introduced something called “Plarn,” which is short for plastic yarn. In this activity, plastic bags are cut, knotted, and woven together to create durable mats that are donated to homeless shelters to cover the ground. Though everyone worked together to create the Plarn, we ran out of time to start weaving the chains to each other. Since the weaving the next NFTY regional event is focused on social action, the Plarn activity will continue into its next phase the high schoolers. I will be taking the started Plarn from JYK and bringing it to WINSTY, the event for high school members of NFTY-PAR.
I think the Plarn activity is a great representation of what JYK does for the middle schoolers. Throughout the weekend, we introduce the participants to NFTY. This begins their post-B’nei Mitzvah involvement in Jewish life and through their synagogue’s actives, Camp Harlam, and further JYK events, they become part of the sacred community that is NFTY-PAR. Since the beginning, I loved NFTY-PAR and the community it has created; I felt it my first weekend at JYK and this feeling has only grown throughout my years in NFTY-PAR. Seeing the excitement in the middle schoolers’ eyes at JYK reminded me why I love the community NFTY-PAR creates. Having experienced JYK both as a participant and as a leader, I have seen the importance and impact of being part of an intentionally Jewish community.
Anna Keilly is excited about bringing new ideas around social action, justice, and advocacy to the region this year. She enjoys playing soccer, hanging out with her dog and making arts and crafts in her free time. If your TYG would like help creating a social action project or event, Anna would love to help and support you. Please contact her at email@example.com for assistance!