Delivered by Haley Peckman
Shabbat Shalom everyone (PAUSE), and thank you for coming to SALTY’s Creative Service. Tonight is different from all other nights, because this Shabbat we gather not only as a congregation; but also as a regional youth group. Tonight, we kick start NFTY GER Hagigah: a weekend where all participating will be challenged to Turn Up Your Shine! I hope that each of you here tonight, GERite or not, take time this weekend to really focus on being present so that you may transcend what makes you passionate onto the community surrounding you. Of course I hope that each of you carry past experiences and look ahead to the future; but while you are here, put those things aside. Be here.
In this week’s Torah portion, Aaron is given specific instructions on how to succeed in G-d’s eyes. Conversely, no one gives us a plan to follow to a destination of personal achievement and happiness. That is a motivation that must stem from inside the individual. This internal awareness can spark the light of passion that may lead us on a lighted trail to greater fulfillment.
SALTY and GER are both environments that I have had the opportunity to explore my passions and see my inner light join the many flames of my friends and mentors. Quite literally, there is a tradition in NFTY GER that exemplifies this idea. Each year at Spring Kallah (our last event of the NFTY season), candles are passed down from seniors to underclassmen. Each candle has some sort of theme or meaning and has either been passed for many years, or is just beginning with those two people. The senior and the underclassman sit down together and the senior lights the wick. The ceremony ends with both people blowing out the flame. I have always been fascinated with the cyclical nature of the candle giving process. A flame is created and shared, blown out, and yet another person walks away with the candle. At the end of my sophomore year, one of my closest friends took me aside. We took refuge from the rain under a gazebo and she took out a very plain, short yellowing candle. She lit the wick and looked me in the eye as she told me its history. This candle had been circulating in NFTY-GER since before I was born. She explained that the candle was nameless, themeless. And it was her favorite candle. It had been given to her by a graduating Regional Board member who had been her first NFTY friend. He bestowed the nameless candle to her because of his complete belief and pride in her. She told me that it meant the world to her, as tears started streaming down her face. I realized too, how much she meant to me; how much she believed in me; and how all of that was supposed to fit into the small, old, nameless, yellowy candle. I got up from that gazebo a much more confident person. My friend gave me much more than a candle and a couple compliments that day. She encouraged my inner light to get brighter. I think that maybe we are all small and nameless candles at some point in our lives. But the encouragement we can feel from the other flames is what makes each of us individually significant.
“The Duality of Light” was another experience that really stuck with me. By chance, my sister Bryce had come across a link online about an free exhibit at Lincoln Center. It looked interesting, so my mom dropped us off and we walked into Alice Tully Hall. The woman that was running the exhibit asked us to have a seat in the waiting area because, to our surprise, the exhibit was to be experienced one person at a time. As Bryce and I were waiting, an older woman came out of the exhibit and chatted with her friends. She seemed excited, spooked almost. She said that there was another woman inside the exhibit. This only spiked my curiosity, but also made me a little anxious. Bryce and I planned that I would go in first, and tell her if it was worth it (or if it was horrifying). Eventually, it was my turn and I walked over to the woman running the exhibit. A separate hallway had been built in the middle of the hall, and she instructed me to walk into the hallway, turn right, and walk all the way to the end until I reached a strip of light on the floor. It seemed easy enough, but I was concerned as to why I would need such specific directions to walk down a hallway. I began walking down the hallway. She told me I was going to see something that only I could see. It was pitch dark and all I could see was the strip of light she had mentioned. There was a recording playing of shushing and water dripping. I could feel my eyes trying to open wider and wider, and a shift to more cautious walking. When I got to the strip of light at the end of the hallway, I looked up at a screen. A million tiny lights twinkled and then abruptly exploded. A person was walking towards me on the screen, and I soon realized the person was myself. I also realized that the self I saw onscreen was a recording of the past few minutes I had spent walking to the strip of light. Just as suddenly as my image had appeared, I blew up into a million bits of light. I was gone and a blueprint of stars replaced me. I was awestruck. I stood in front of the screen, thinking about how small I am. How short our image is here before we are again replaced by the galaxy. After a couple minutes of taking this in, I walked back out of the dark hallway. The woman asked me what I had seen, and I told her. She said it was very good and that I should not tell anyone. However, I am telling you because 1) the exhibit is over and 2) I think it is too relevant to exclude. The Duality of Light Exhibit was created to challenge our perception of space through light, and it has been an experience that really grounded me and made me think about who I am and what I can do in my life. I hope that each of you are able to vicariously experience the exhibit, since you will probably not be able to actually experience it.
I hope all of you take time this weekend to get inspired, motivated, and passionate. I hope each of you come into the present moment and find yourself a stronger light at the end of Hagigah.
Thank You and Shabbat Shalom.
Delivered by Scott Gillet
Shabbat Shalom! In this week’s Torah portion, Tetzaveh, G-d tells Moses to have the Children of Israel find the purest oil to kindle the everlasting menorah, but in addition to that it describes Aaron’s consecration to become a high priest. The parasha speaks of some of the preparations for Aaron and his four sons: Nadav, Avihu, Elazar, and Itamar to be enthroned into priesthood.
Becoming a priest gives Aaron a “new light” and he is able to “Turn up his Shine”, which happens to be the theme of this weekend. Just like Aaron, SALTY has “turned up its shine” in the past five years.
About five years ago, SALTY was not considered to be an active youth group outside of Temple Beth Miriam. They would run the Purim Carnival and an event here and there, but they were definitely lacking something special. Until four years ago, when both Temple Beth Miriam’s Board of Trustees and the Executive Board decided to hire a new Youth Advisor, named Dee Ross. Dee quickly jump-started the Youth Group in a number of ways bringing SALTY to a whole new level. In 2007, Dee helped send five SALTYites to the URJ Biennial in San Diego, California. The next year, SALTY was ready to take on NFTY-GER, the North American Federation of Temple Youth- Garden Empire Region. As a new youth group, SALTY surprised NFTY-GER by bringing an extraordinary number of participants to Kallot. In the first two years of SALTY’s participation in NFTY-GER, they averaged about five to eight SALTYites per event. In this past year, which was the third year of SALTY’s involvement in NFTY, we were honored to have two SALTYites on the NFTY-GER regional board and we averaged about ten participants per event. Now this year, SALTY once again has two members on regional board, and thus far, SALTY has been averaging about eighteen people per event and we are lucky enough to have twenty-one SALTYites participating in Hagigah this weekend.
During these five years, SALTY has sent nine members to Urban Mitzvah Corps, four to Kutz Camp: NFTY’s Campus for Reform Jewish Teens and eight members to NFTY Convention 2011 in Dallas, Texas.
We are so honored to have seen this progress and we could not have done it alone. There are many people to thank that have helped SALTY “Turn up its Shine”. When I say your name, can you please stand up. First off, I would like to thank the Pess, Berg, and Spector families. These families have always supported the Youth of Beth Miriam in many ways. They have established scholarship funds and then continually replenished them to help all Beth Miriam youth go to URJ Camps, NFTY Events and NFTY Summer Programs. You are also always volunteering to help us. Your generosity has allowed Beth Miriam youth to thrive and grow into successful Jewish young adults.
Next I would like to thank Temple Beth Miriam’s Board of Trustees and Executive Board. Your hard work helped make this event possible and is greatly appreciated. Another large acknowledgement goes to all the Beth Miriam families who opened their homes and hearts to both SALTY and NFTY-GER this weekend. Finally, I would like to thank our Youth Director Dee Kalman. Dee, without your leadership, enthusiasm and background of participating in NFTY, UMC and Kutz, I do not believe that SALTY would be an active youth group both inside and outside of the temple. You truly are the driving force behind this youth group and have inspired every SALTYite to turn up their shine, just like you always tell us, “Jewish stars make other stars shine brighter”, you make us shine brighter. Which is why, the Hagigah chairs, Haley, Erika, Jenna, and myself are happy present you with this gift in honor of our gratitude.
Now, NFTY-GER, it is your time to shine. Whether you are a new member or old, from a large TYG or even a small TYG, you have the opportunity to turn up your shine and share your light with the world. This weekend, have a nice conversation with someone you have never met before, whether it be GERites, temple congregants or Temple Beth Miriam youth. Show that NFTY-GER can really turn up their shine, and Congregants, you will be so impressed on just how “bright” GERites are. Shabbat Shalom.