By Joanna Grill, President of SHAFTY (Temple Shalom, Newton, MA)
This November my youth group SHAFTY, of Temple Shalom in Newton, MA, hosted NFTY Northeast’s Fall Conclavette. Something was unusual about this event, and it wasn’t just the record-breaking 340 participants that attended the three-day Conclavette or that the event had a Back to the Future theme and took place in 2015, the year to which Marty McFly traveled. Something was unusual because we learned we have the power to change the future.
The budget for every NFTY Northeast Conclavette includes give-away merchandise for each participant to take home to remember the event. In the past, this has included items like t-shirts, water bottles, sunglasses, or other relatively inexpensive merchandise. As we thought about what kind of give-away we wanted, we couldn’t decide what to choose. What kind of item would every participant enjoy? Would they just be inclined to throw it away after the event?
With over $2000 to spend on merchandise, did we really need to buy anything? If this event focused on the past, present, and future and the theme was Back to the Future, what was stopping us from actually changing the future? We unanimously decided that the money should go to a charity instead, and that the NFTY participants should get to choose which charity would benefit.
We explained this idea to the region and throughout Fall Conclavette, different SHAFTYites stood in front of the participants to explain the charity options we had chosen. On Saturday night, there was a jar for each charity (right next to the NFTY Northeast merchandise for sale) and throughout the evening, people voted for the charity they most wanted to receive the money.
The charities included:
- The Lone Soldier Center – an organization that assists the thousands of lone soldiers before, during, and after their service in the Israeli Defense Forces.
- Everything Starts with 1 – a non-profit that works to advocate for stronger laws within the educational system to ultimately eliminate bullying, started by parents who lost their son to Peer Abuse Driven Bullycide.
- Everytown for Gun Safety – an organization determined to fight gun violence in America by lobbying lawmakers, raising awareness, and educating people on gun violence and prevention.
- The Michael J. Fox Foundation– a foundation that funds research to find a cure for Parkinson’s disease, started by Michael J. Fox, the star of Back to the Future, shortly after he was diagnosed with the disease.
- More Than Words – a non-profit in Boston that empowers youth ages 16 to 21 who are in foster care, court-involved, homeless or out of school to take charge of their lives by taking charge of a business.
Everytown for Gun Safety received the most votes and the money went to ending gun violence in the United States. This is a very important cause for all of NFTY, and one which NFTY Northeast is already supporting through fundraising efforts throughout the year. We are excited to continue to support them with an even bigger donation- over $2000!
After the winning charity was announced, every participant received a blue sticker to remind themselves of the difference they helped make. The sticker (pictured here) says, “I changed the future!” When we came together as a community, we made a large grand total and a big difference. The future looks bright!