NFTY stands for the North American Federation of Temple Youth, which is a youth group for Jewish teens, under the Union for Reform Judaism. We are part of the Missouri Valley Region. Junior Youth Group (JYG), is our section of NFTY for 7th and 8th graders. The notes in this post are written by current members of NFTY, 9th through 12th grade, all of whom attended JYG. These are their thoughts on JYG and the impact that it had on them, as well as the extreme benefits that are a result of attending a Junior Youth Group event. Enjoy!
Last February, I attended my first JYG event. As an 8th grader, I knew that I wanted to be involved with some type of Jewish youth group, but I didn’t know whether to do NFTY or BBYO. JYG made me realize that NFTY was the right choice for me.
When I went, I had a few friends from my TYG with me. By the time I left, I had so many new friends who I couldn’t wait to spend the next four years with. Not only did I make friends who were my age, but I also met high schoolers who were a part of NFTY. Getting to know them before my freshman year made the transition from JYG to high school NFTY conventions easier and more comfortable. Additionally, the people that were high schoolers at my JYG are now both my friends and role models.
Besides making friends, JYG made me want to dive deeper into my religion and learn more about Judaism. The services were interesting, and listening to a room full of your peers all singing prayers together is one of the most amazing things in the world to me. Other than the services, all of the programs that were led during the event were super fun and interesting. During every program, you got to work with a new group of people, and meet new people which was really cool. Overall, JYG helped me make new friends from all over the midwest, want to learn more about Judaism, and made me realize how great NFTY is.
-Alexis Baumgarten, Freshman, St. Louis, MO
JYG as a middle schooler meant the absolute world to me. At first, I was very nervous because I barely had any friends with me. After the first ten minutes I realized that I was surrounded by people just like me and from then on, I haven’t looked back. JYG taught me some very important life lessons. Not only did the social action projects make me aware of current events, but going to services and learning things about my religion also opened my eyes quite a lot. I don’t think I would’ve been able to come out of my shell as much if I hadn’t been surrounded to by truly the most joyful and energetic group of people ever. The people at NFTY always welcome new members as if they had been family for a lifetime and it’s always a very refreshing feeling to make new friends. Now, as a sophomore in high school, I always try to do the same for the incoming NFTYites. NFTY truly is one of the best places for a young Jewish teen to be, and I couldn’t ask for a better family.
–Asher Wolf, Sophomore, Denver, CO
NFTY Junior Youth Group chavurah is a great way to meet other Jewish middle schoolers and bond over a weekend. JYG was my first NFTY experience. In 7th grade, I went to Saint Louis and met so many amazing people and started to build my new NFTY community. I made friends who I am still close with today, two years later. JYG and all of NFTY has taught me so many communicational and new social skills, that help me connect with people in new ways. NFTY is also a way to learn leadership and other important social skills that translate into daily life. Events like this help you meet the amazing and welcoming people that make up NFTY Missouri Valley.
-Cecelia Shoenfeld, Freshman, Boulder, CO
My very first NFTY event was my 8th grade JYG Chavurah. My sister had been in NFTY for a number of years and had convinced me to attend this event. I will always be grateful to my sister for making me come because NFTY has changed my life. Ever since that event I have gone to nearly every Chavurah that I’ve been eligible for. I’ve missed dances, rehearsals, and countless plans to spend time with my favorite Jewish community. JYG is such a great introduction to what NFTY really is. It allows you to get a sneak peek of the magic that NFTY brings to every kid, while still being able to stay near your comfort zone with people your age. I love NFTY and I love JYG!
-Emily Birger, Junior, Kansas City
My first NFTY event was my JYG chavurah in 8th grade. Going into the event, I knew one person and we weren’t even that close. I was extremely nervous because I wanted to be accepted into the NFTY community and I wasn’t sure if that was going to happen. Low and behold, by the time we went back to our host homes on Friday night, I had already made friends from other states who would end up being extremely close to me and some of the best people I know. Additionally, at JYG I looked up to the high schoolers that were there. All the high schoolers were leaders in our NFTY community and from that point I decided that I wanted to be a leader as well. JYG gave me exposure to everything that a leader is and can be and was a huge factor in helping me receive the leadership roles I have had.
JYG is an unbelievable event and really helps in the forming a foundation for the love of NFTY. Without JYG I would never have been able to experience this amazing NFTY community and without NFTY I would be a completely different person. JYG can be life changing.
-Julian Albright, Junior, St. Louis, MO
Out of all of the Missouri Valley events I’ve been to, my 8th grade JYG chavurah will forever be my favorite. It was in Kansas City, and on the last day of the event a huge snow storm hit Missouri, so we ended up being trapped there and staying an extra night. All of the girls from Saint Louis spent the extra night at the hosting congregation’s Rabbi’s house and it was a blast. All of us stayed up practically all night bonding and getting to know each other. It is definitely one of my fondest memories in NFTY. And it is the reason I kept coming back. I made so many new friends at that event that I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see them again, so I kept coming back. Though being snowed in is extremely circumstantial, the point is that JYG gives middle schoolers the unbelievable opportunity to make new friends and bond with old friends. JYG chavurah is such an easy way to fall in love with NFTY and really helped me find my place in Missouri Valley.
-Meghan Platke, Senior, St. Louis, MO
When I was younger, I always wondered why my sisters would never stop talking about this NFTY thing. Every event they came home from they came home with new NFTY merch, many memories made, and fun stories to share. However, now I know. NFTY is something special. JYG enlightened me to a whole new world of experiences in a way. The people you meet and the things you learn stick with you. Overall, junior youth group made me so excited to join NFTY. These experiences that I make, the people I meet, and the memories made will all always be close to my heart.
-Noa Greene, Freshman, Boulder, CO
I was in 7th grade when I attended my first JYG. It was in Missouri and I was really nervous because I had no idea what to expect. However as soon I got to the airport I was greeted by so many friendly faces. We got to eat a lot of food in the airport which is always a plus. As we arrived at Temple I was scared I wasn’t going to make any friends, but almost immediately, I made my first new friend in line getting my name tag. Everyone seemed to be so happy that I was there even if I barely knew them. I never felt excluded or out of place. That was the start of my immense love for the NFTY MV community.
-Sydney Felsen, Senior, Denver, CO
For more pictures, check out the sideshow from JYG 2017.
Are you interested in attending JYG 2018 in St. Louis? Find out details and register here.