So tomorrow I leave for my big excursion to Europe!!!! I am going to be doing lots of traveling and lots of exploring. I am going to London, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, and Brussels. I promise to be safe and aware in everywhere I go!!!! This will be my last blog post until after my adventures. My first leg of the trip is to London with four other NFTY Alumni for the World Union of Progressive Judaism Conference. Below is a press release about our amazing trip written by the wonderful trip leader, Andrew Keene. Enjoy and I will see you all in three weeks!
Reform Jewish Millennials Engage Peers Through Small Group Gatherings: First NFTY Alumni Meet-up in London This Month
Young Adults From MILWAUKEE Create A New Global Jewish Experience
Motivated by a passion for global Jewish connections, a group of North American alumni of NFTY-The Reform Jewish Youth Movement have organized a meet-up for young adults in London from April 11-17 in collaboration with the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ).
Former NFTY President and current member of the Executive Board of the WUPJ Andrew Keene developed the idea for this unique and meaningful travel experience: “There is an entire Jewish world beyond the United States. In some ways it is comfortingly similar and in others strikingly different. It is our obligation as American Reform Jews to be part of a larger conversation and a larger movement, one that spans over 50 countries – and growing – and touches the lives of nearly two million people.” NFTY is part of the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ), the largest and most powerful force in North American Jewish life. The URJ is a member of WUPJ.
This entrepreneurial model of millennial engagement is the cornerstone of the URJ’s new NFTY Alumni Network which is empowering alumni to spearhead projects—Shabbat and holiday celebrations, virtual hangouts for college students, North American gatherings—for other alumni.
The group members, traveling to London from the US and Israel, will tour Jewish London, connect with other Jewish millennials in London, and participate in the biennial conference of the European Union of Progressive Judaism (EUPJ). On Wednesday, April 13 the NFTY Alumni Network and URJ Kutz Camp will sponsor a larger gathering of alumni and friends of URJ Youth Programs. On Monday, April 11 the group will join a global WUPJ delegation for dinner and a program on the history of Jewish London.
A highlight of the EUPJ conference for the NFTY group will be a Shabbat experience held at both West London Synagogue and Liberal Jewish Synagogue with over 300 progressive Jews representing nearly 25 countries and 100 reform congregations and communities around the world. The 90th anniversary of the WUPJ, founded in London, will be celebrated during the EUPJ conference as well.
“Millennials are global citizens with a start-up mindset. These innovative young adults have organized a substantive travel experience for their peers grounded in progressive Jewish values. They are literally “leading” their own Jewish journeys and we are committed to partnering with them along the way as together we strengthen the bonds among active Jewish communities worldwide,” says Rabbi Daniel Freelander, president of WUPJ.
Individuals can follow the group throughout their trip in the NFTY Alumni Facebook Group.
Brief biographies of the alumni who have organized the NFTY alumni meet-up in London:
Sierra Debrow grew up in Charleston, South Carolina and is currently a junior at the College of Charleston studying psychology and English. She plans to get a graduate degree in social work to focus on issues of inclusion in the Jewish community. She attended the URJ Kutz Camp and worked there as a one-on-one counselor for teens with Autism Spectrum Disorders.
Andrew Keene grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and is currently an Entrepreneurship student at Drexel University in Philadelphia. He was NFTY North American President in 2013-2014, is an alumnus of URJ Kutz Camp and Kesher Birthright Israel. Andrew is a Trustee of the URJ and a member of the Executive Board of the World Union for Progressive Judaism.
Rose Snitz grew up in Tulsa, OK and is currently living in Brooklyn, NY, taking classes and working as a freelance songleader and Jewish educator. She is an alumna of both URJ Greene Family Camp and the URJ Kutz Camp and has traveled to Israel with NFTY in Israel and Kesher Birthright Israel.
Marissa Steinhofer grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and is currently living in Ashdod, Israel teaching English for 10 months through Masa Israel Teaching Fellows. She is an alumna of URJ Olin-Sang-Ruby-Union Institute and URJ Kutz Camp. She was active in her local youth group, Hillel on campus, and served as a youth advisor.
Ilana Symons grew up in Pittsburgh, PA and is a freshman at NYU studying philosophy and Judaic Studies in hopes of becoming a rabbi. She was president of her local youth group, is an alumna of URJ Camp Harlam and the URJ Kutz Camp, and has traveled to Israel with NFTY in Israel and NFTY-EIE.
About the Union for Reform Judaism
The Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) builds community at every level—from the way we collaborate with congregations, organizations, and individuals to how we make connections across North America to advance contemporary and inclusive Jewish life. Providing vision and voice to transform the way people connect to Judaism, we help congregations stay adept and agile, motivate more young Jews to embrace Jewish living, agitate for a more progressive society, and foster meaningful connections to Israel.
Founded in 1873, URJ has grown into the most powerful force in North American Jewish life, with almost 900 member congregations and work that inspires millions of people. Our legacy, reach, leadership, and vision mean that we can unite thousands of years of tradition with a modern, evolving Judaism to strengthen Jewish communities today and for future generations.
About the World Union for Progressive Judaism
The World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ), established in London in 1926, is the international umbrella organization of the Reform, Liberal, Progressive and Reconstructionist movements, serving 1,200 congregations with 1.8 million members in more than 50 countries. Headquartered in Jerusalem, the WUPJ represents the largest body of Jews in the world who seek a traditional yet contemporary expression of their Jewish spiritual, cultural and religious identity. The WUPJ supports the Progressive Zionist Youth Movement, Netzer Olami, and the TaMaR Progressive Young Adult Movement.