By Josh Friedman, participating in Masa’s SEE Galilee program
The smiles, laughs, awkward bumps, and shocked reconnections are all familiar to the seasoned convention-kallah-conclave-shabbaton goer. The tons of food, the lots of new friends, the silly games with funny hats on our heads, and the sudden quick changes from upbeat and dancing around to serious and attentive to passionate and imaginative are all a part of what makes up events across the Jewish community. I was so lucky once again in my life to experience such an adventure in spirit, emotions, passions, and ideas at the Masa Leadership Summit 2013-2014 this past week in Jerusalem.
My life so far has been a short history punctuated and indeed at times defined by these events. It began with Gesher Houston in 8th grade and in those days it was about just spending the day together on a Saturday, without the bells and whistles of a camp Shabbat. In high school, NFTY became one of the biggest pieces of my social and ideological life with only 4 weekends a year to make the most of it. I attended nearly every one and whether we were untying frozen t-shirts, playing name-that-tune, having a jam session, or sitting down for 90 minutes straight and talking issues of the world as if we were in charge, it always meant something powerful. That feeling made me desire to be a part of the leadership team, and after 3 years of having some of the best times of my life, I was chosen to stand in front of the reform Jewish youth of Texas and Oklahoma as their leader. There were ups and downs in my short time at the front of the room, but in every single crest and trough I had someone next to me who helped me find the meaning in it all. That meaning, or that search, desire, and passion for that meaning in my own life still drives me today in all my pursuits. It is that profound sense of self that I can firmly root to these environments, and my experience last week reinvigorated that same sense so far away from my home, yet eerily close to my roots.
The Summit was a week-long NFTY event; or a shortened camp summer; an amalgamation of stories, personalities, ideas, and friendships that collided and coalesced to encapsulate so many experiences and forces of voice in the world today. I refocused my ideas on my place in education in the future, and they are even grander than before. I met new faces whom I deeply hope to stay in contact with, and form long lasting relationships. But most importantly, I didn’t really do anything at all. I showed up. It was We, We who came together to talk about the world, to dance around the room, to sing and belt our hearts out. We revealed ourselves naked without fear of rejection. We stood side-by-side in support of all our brothers and sisters. We made a difference in our own lives, while making a difference for all the lives we touch in the future. The Summit was not a how-to in being a Leader. But rather it was an environment designed and facilitated to make everyone feel the energy and passion of leadership, so that each one of us realized we have that power ourselves already, it takes coming together as We to accomplish the next phase of our dreams.
Josh Friedman of Missouri City, TX is currently participating in Masa Israel’s Israel Way Social Entrepreneurship Experience Galilee program. He previously served on the NFTY-TOR board. He was invited to attend the Masa Israel Post-College Leadership Summit, an intensive, five-day learning and skill-building seminar for exceptional participants of Masa Israel programs, designed to provide participants with the skills and knowledge needed to become a strong and active Jewish leader.