NFTY Convention was a unique and exciting opportunity for our Reform Jewish high school teens to gather from across North America to explore, learn, grow, and have fun together! As we welcomed the largest delegation in our region’s history to NFTY Convention, we were also thrilled to highlight our Jackofsky Emerging Teen Leader Fellows! This inspiring group of 9th & 10th graders are the current and future leaders in our region and in our movement. For them, NFTY Convention was their first North American NFTY event and the beginning of opportunities to connect with other youth and adult leaders from across our URJ movement. These fellows already add so much creativity, warmth, and talent to our community and we can’t wait to see all they do in our region and beyond!
On Sunday afternoon of NFTY Convention in Dallas, 24 current and former Jackofsky fellows, 12 youth professionals and clergy gathered with URJ staff to meet and honor Dr. Ellen Jackofsky. Our Jackofsky teen fellows had already experienced spirited Shabbat celebrations, inspiring plenary sessions, exciting off-site programming, and opportunities to create and strengthen relationships with their Jewish peers.
Throughout the weekend, teen participants were encouraged and empowered to choose from active sessions like morning runs and yoga, workshops on topics from navigating hard topics like fake news, making sense of multiple narratives in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict and disaster relief response from Hurricane Harvey. They had the opportunity to engage in deep conversations about the future of teen leadership in NFTY and the URJ and engage in leadership workshops on topics like networking, programming, marketing, programming, worship and music. Our Jackofsky fellow lunch served as an important pause amid non-stop programming to recognize incredible teen leaders in our midst and the donors and professionals that support them and enable them to have transformative experiences within our movement. The energy and potential in the room was palpable as the fellows introduced themselves and alumni of the fellowship spoke eloquently about the impact the fellowship has had on their lives. We are so proud of the current fellows and the legacy and impact of our former fellows.
We are grateful to Dr. Ellen Jackofsky and the Rabbi Lawrence “Jake” Jackofsky Youth Scholarship Fund and to our expansive network of youth professionals and clergy that support our teens along their Jewish journeys.
Sophie Appel (FWFTY, sophomore)
Sophie Appel is a sophmore in high school and in her final year of religious school. When she is not attending Jewish events, she is a sound designer in her school’s technical theater program and a camp counselor for the non-profit organaztion, Camp Impact. Sophie is thrilled to have been selected as a 2019 Jackofsky Fellow. Being a member of NFTY is a community effort. Community events with her Jewish peers are a huge part of her life. Over the last year, her involvement within Jewish events has grown exponentially. Sophie is currently serving as the media chair on NFTY TOR region’s cabinent and is the Communication’s Vice President for FWFTY, her Temple youth group. Further developing her Jewish identity and leadership skills are top priorities for Sophie. She is looking forward to seeing what’s next on her journey.
Evyn Gadd (SHFTY, freshman)
Evyn Gadd lives in Plano, Texas and is a Freshman at Allen High School. She is a part of NFTY-TOR and she loves them so much! Ever since her very first event, Evyn fell in love with the people, and has made lifelong friends! One of her favorite things about NFTY is that it doesn’t matter what grade you’re in, everyone is friends! She loves that she is close with people her age, but also with sophomores, juniors, and seniors, too! She has been singing since first grade when she joined her temple’s choir. She took Voice Lessons for 3 years and has been taking guitar lessons for about a year. It is her passion, and she could talk for hours about it! Evyn is a songleader with NFTY-TOR and she absolutely loves it! She is SO excited to be a Jackofsky Fellow and CANNOT wait until NFTY Convention!
Al Levi-Verret (TESTY, freshman)
Al Levi-Verret is a ninth grader from Katy, Texas. NFTY has given Al the opportunity to make new friends, explore his Jewish heritage, and embrace his leadership qualities. Al loves the social action experiences held by NFTY, they are opportunities you couldn’t get anywhere else. Al is the Vice President of his local youth group, TeSTY. This leadership opportunity has helped Al develop amazing social and leadership skills. Al can’t wait to see what else he can do as a member of NFTY.
Isaac Nathan (SAFTY, sophomore)
Isaac Nathan is a sophomore from San Antonio, Texas. He is active in NFTY TOR and is the Engagement Vice President of SAFTY, the San Antonio Federation of Temple Youth. For the past five years, Isaac has attended URJ Greene Family Camp and will be travelling to Israel this summer on Garin Greene. During the year, he attends Alamo Heights High School and participates in student council and the school’s theatre program. Isaac is also starring in his ninth theatre production at the Jewish Community Center of San Antonio. When he not studying or doing things with his TYG, Isaac enjoys listening to Broadway musicals, playing Xbox, and going to the movies, especially if the Avengers is playing! Isaac’s all-time favorite thing to do, however, is making new friends and doing the things he likes to do with the people he loves.
Nathaniel Nokken (LAFTY, freshman)
Nathaniel Nokken is a freshman at Lubbock High school. His favorite extracurricular activities include basketball and band. He is involved with his temple, and is on NFTY-TOR’s cabinet, where he is Gesher Chair. He is looking forward to meeting the rest of the members in the Fellowship and learning about more ways he can become involved in his region.
Love Rios (COFTY, sophomore)
Love Rios is fifteen years old and from Corpus Christi, TX. She has been homeschooled since kindergarten and has attended co-ops, teen classes, and H.O.S.T. choir. She volunteers at various places and is involved in many other homeschooling activities. Recently, Love has been given a wonderful opportunity as a teacher’s assistant at her temple, Congregation Beth Israel. She is looking forward to being part of teaching the children of our future just as she was taught in her religious school days. Love has been attending Greene Family Camp for two years and NFTY events for four years. She loves attending and looks forward to these events because they allow her to learn about what Judaism is, the history of it all and why she should be proud to be a Jew. Love also loves that she gets to be with other Jewish friends while having fun with the activities they all do together. Greene Family Camp is a great place and a place Love calls home. She is very grateful to be able to be a part of it all.
Bella Rogoff (COFTY, freshman)
Bella Rogoff is fifteen years old and a 9th grader from Corpus Christi, Texas. She had her Bat Mitzvah 3 years ago and was in her confirmation last year. Bella enjoys learning about her Jewish roots, which go back to Eastern Europe. This is Bella’s first year teaching Sunday school at her synagogue and she loves it. Bella also enjoys reading, playing piano, learning how to play guitar and tennis. Bella look forward to the NFTY Convention so that she can connect with the Jewish teens from all over the country.
Cameron Samuels (TESTY, freshman)
Cameron Samuels is a freshman at Seven Lakes High School in Houston, TX. Cameron has been very involved in social action ever since 17 students lost their life on February 14, 2018 due to nonsensical gun violence. He attended the March For Our Lives rally in Houston and later joined their team. Cameron has organized and participated in many events and demonstrations including Families Belong Together and organizing his Junior High’s #NationalSchoolWalkout. If he could fix only one issue in this country, it would be bridging the divide of Americans. It doesn’t matter who we are, we are still people living in the same world. But many people do not believe that. Cameron hopes to be able to strengthen NFTY-TOR by bringing us together in order to make the world a better place.
Becca Simpson (COFTY, freshman)
Rebecca is a GT student at W. B. Ray High School in Corpus Christi. She’s a member of Congregation Beth Israel. This will be Becca’s first NFTY Convention. She’s looking forward to meeting other Jewish students across the USA and representing NFTY-TOR. Rebecca prides herself in being Jewish. She attends Greene Family Camp for Fall and Spring Camp and has attended Camp Young Judea for four years. At school Becca is involved in ROTC. She recently joined Scouts BSA as of February 1st. She has already obtained the rank of Scout. She’s currently working on her Tenderfoot Rank. She serves as Patrol Leader over the girls. In Becca’s spare time she loves hanging out with her friends, music , art, and photography. She is looking forward to taking what she has learns at Convention and applying it to the region as well as NFTY as a whole.
Caroline Sloter (FWFTY, sophomore)
Caroline Sloter is a sophomore in Fort Worth, Texas. Caroline is extremely involved at her school in academics, theatre, choir, and dance. She is also very involved at her temple as FWFTY’s Religious and Cultural Vice President and a songleader for congregational events. Caroline is a long-time camper at Greene Family Camp, and she is a passionate counselor for the non-profit, Camp Impact.
NFTY has always been an important part of Caroline’s life due to her family’s involvement. Caroline loves being on NFTY-TOR’s Regional Cabinet as Assistant Head Songleader, and she can’t wait to pursue further leadership roles. Caroline is so excited to be a 2019 Jackofsky Fellow, and she is eager to continue being a leader in NFTY.
Erin Solka (ATT, sophomore)
Erin Solka is a current high school sophomore in Austin, Texas. Within her local congregation, (Congregation Beth Israel) she is serving on her TYG board as a co-Communications and Outreach Vice President. In her free time, Erin loves being involved in her school’s theatre department, writing for her school newspaper, doing arts and crafts, eating bagels, and hanging out with friends. She is excited and honored to be a 2019 Jackofsky fellow and can’t wait to start working with everyone!
Hannah Tell (NOTTY, sophomore)
Hannah Tell is so excited to be a 2019 Jackofsky fellow! She is currently a sophomore in high school in The Colony, Texas. In her TYG, NoTTY, Hannah is the Membership Vice President at Congregation Kol Ami. For fun she likes to play with her dogs, watch Grey’s Anatomy, and play flute in her school’s marching band. Hannah is beyond thrilled and honored to be one of this year’s fellows. She can’t wait to meet everyone at NFTY Convention!
Camille Trawick (TABSY, sophomore)
Camille Trawick is from Austin and is a sophomore at Lake Travis High School. Camille is on the tennis and Congressional Debate team. At Temple Beth Shalom Austin she is the president of her TYG, TABSY. Camille loves empowering her TABSY family and am excited to empower more people through this Fellowship!
Samantha Zelling (NETTY, freshman)
Samantha Zelling lives in Grapevine, TX. She is a freshman at Colleyville Heritage High School. Samantha has attended Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville for the past ten years and GFC for six years. Her hobbies include piano, musical theater, dance, biking and trying to get all A’s in her classes. Samantha is an officer in her high school’s Freshman class council and very involved in DECA at her school. In her free time, Samantha likes to go to concerts and watch Netflix. She also enjoys sitting on the Jr. Board of Trustees at the Dallas Holocaust Museum. Samantha is very excited to be a 2019 Jackofsky Fellow because being involved in the Jewish community and with other Jewish teens is incredibly rewarding. Samantha’s Judaism is very important to her and she cannot wait until NFTY Convention, which will be hosted in her city!
Molly Zimmerman (FWFTY, sophomore)
Molly Zimmerman is a sophomore from Fort Worth, Texas, and attends Beth El Congregation. She goes to Trinity Valley School and participates in theater, choir, dance, and cheer there. She has attended Greene Family Camp for eight years and will be traveling to Israel with the Garin Greene program this summer. Molly is the Programming Vice President for her TYG, FWFTY, and a song leader for NFTY-TOR. She is so excited to be a Jackofsky fellow and can’t wait to see everyone at NFTY Convention!