With my arms embracing those around me, singing reassuring melodies, I looked around in awe at the newly sewn community. Within the closing circle, I was surrounded by numerous faces, both familiar and unfamiliar. Although I didn’t have the chance to meet everyone, and there were people I didn’t have the pleasure to converse with, something told me that they were my family and this is my home.
Winter Kallah was an event designed to bring NFTY teens from across California together for one extended weekend, jam-packed with programming, friends, and fun. Having attended, I believe that, with the inspiring work of the two regional boards, Winter Kallah can be marked down as one of my favorite NFTY experiences.
As soon as our bus arrived at Camp Ramah, I was immediately greeted by loads of fellow NFTYites, some of which I hadn’t seen in months or even years. As the activities began, I found the organization for mixers and programs interesting. On our nametags, we had a group name listed for each one of our programs and mixers, often separating friend groups. Whilst this may seem odd to assign random groups, it allowed me to branch out much further than usual. With this group-forming style, I was able to meet dozens of other NFTYites, getting closer with many of them. One of my favorite programs was the Social Action Program in which we created our own protest with our group. I knew only one person in my group, yet, by the end of the program, we had shared many laughs and conversations. After this, I found it easy to walk up to them, like I had known them forever.
Sunday was when the epic fun began. Most of the day revolved around Maccabiah, a team competition. The whole camp was divided into 4 teams (Go red team!) and participated in various challenges throughout the day. This program instantaneously united yet divided the camp in such an energetic way. Every team was extremely spirited and patriotic, leading to intense, friendly competition. Through this high energy social program, I formed countless friendships with those on and off my team. Following this experience, I noticed that everyone became exceptionally more comfortable with being their own wild selves, as well as strengthening bonds with those around them.
Because NFTY CWR and NFTY SoCal were combined at Winter Kallah, I loved sharing and learning the traditions of each region. As a part of NFTY CWR, I am very passionate about our “pass the kiss” tradition. Something about introducing it to a larger group, and them to support it, made it even more special. In exchange, NFTY SoCal presented many of their customs, as well. Some of my favorites included Asefah, Shabooyas, and their intriguing take on “Shavua Tov” following Havadalah. With the discovery of new traditions, the event’s novelty created a thrilling atmosphere.
Lastly, I would like to reflect on a simple program that was particularly meaningful to me. During this brief program, everyone was given a slip of paper with a quote on it. The task was to walk around and discuss your quote with others, exchanging papers when the quote was deemed more significant for you. I finished with the quote, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” from Psalms. I felt that this short excerpt encompassed Winter Kallah perfectly. The union of both NFTY regions created a single, beautiful community. The magnitude of love and support I witnessed throughout the weekend was astonishing and I am beyond grateful to have been a part of it. I may have lost my voice, but I found so much more at Winter Kallah 2019.
Written by Megan Wallace of TASTY