Just finished hearing an amazing keynote from Dr. Wendy Mogul at the Education Summit. She brilliantly compared teenagers to etrogs: mis-shapen, fragile, and very expensive. And she spoke about the importance of the importance of synagogue youth workers. It was so refreshing to hear someone else talk about what some of us have been talking about for years. It’s wonderful that these ideas and ideals, of the importance of youth professionals, is being understood by a growing number of people and that more emphasis is being placed on this aspect of synagogue life.
And now I’m sitting behind the NFTY delegation, as the kick off of the Campaign for Youth Engagement begins. The inspiration I felt from hearing Dr. Mogul’s words is intensified by seeing them. Seeing how happy they are to be here—and to see each other—and to be part of the Biennial experience as they include it in their own, personal Jewish experience.
Sitting behind these teens, I can’t help but be reminded of how the NFTY ideal of generational leadership is more and more evident with each person that I run into here. Not only have I run into people from nearly every aspect of my life, I’ve run into people in many roles in my life. I’m joined here at Biennial by (in addition to my own mother), colleages and friends, childhood rabbis and teachers, two of my NFTY regional advisors, my predecessor as youth group president, former supervisors, old camp counselors, former campers, people who have been my mentors and people whom I have mentored, congregants and former congregants (from age 9 on up). Within this group are many who are in more than one of those categories. There are not only those that were meaningful adults in the Jewish experience of my childhood, but also those for whom I played a meaningful role in their Jewish childhood, who I now consider treasured colleagues.
Thinking about those people—considering the moments when teachers become students and students become teachers—when both teacher and student become chaver—guides me to understand the concept of l’dor va-dor in a whole new way.