Every year, the Missouri Valley Regional Board gives awards to temple youth groups for their programs from throughout the year. This year, the St. Louis chapter of the Temple Israel Federation of Temple Youth brought home three awards from the ceremony in Omaha, Neb. The honors included Temple Youth Group of the Year for Missouri Valley, properly known as the PENGUIN Award, for Producing Energetic NFTYites Guiding with Understanding of the Importance of NFTY. The award is named after the Missouri Valley regional mascot, Victor the Penguin.
The plaque reads: “The award is presented to Temple Israel Federation of Temple Youth for challenging themselves throughout the year, and reaching the highest level of success.”
Debbie Schultz and Jennifer Patchin are co-advisers for the group, and Schultz said of the accomplishment that it was “not a one-year thing.”
“Over the past few years our executive board has worked really well together to really push themselves to do more than the average kind of programming,” Schultz said.
The different groups turn in reports of their programs from the course of the year and the regional board decides based on those reports which groups to recognize.
In addition to the award for Temple Youth Group of the Year, the St. Louis group also received Programming Vice President of the Year, which went to Matt Silies, and the Larger Than Life Award, which honors a successful annual fundraiser and went to the St. Louis group for its Taste the Rainbow Dinner, which raises money for Camp Rainbow, a summer camp in Missouri for kids with cancer.
Rabbi Mark Shook, TIFTY rabbinic liaison, said the awards were the end-product of a wonderful team effort on the part of the youth group leadership.
“They continue to work very hard at creating a youth group environment in the temple, which is exciting, has Jewish depth and brings a wonderful group of kids together,” Shook said. “The thing I am most impressed about is their dedication to tikkun olam, which they demonstrate by the amount of time and effort they put into their fundraiser for Camp Rainbow.”
Amanda Packman, TIFTY president and a 17-year-old junior at Parkway North, said she was shocked when the award was announced.
“I accepted the award,” Packman said, “and when I turned around everyone from the youth group was there behind me to take a picture, and as I came down I started crying, because we worked really hard on this, and we got it.”
Silies said Packman deserved the honor, as she was “a great leader and a great role model to follow under.”
Silies, a 16-year-old sophomore at Pattonville High School, said he was surprised to hear his name called, and that he was “happy for myself that I had this to show for the hard work, and for all the members of TIFTY, it is a good token for our hard work.”
Schultz said Silies is a “natural leader.”
“The other kids really look up to him because he just has a natural spirit of leadership and a love of being Jewish and for coming together with other kids,” she said. She also said Packman worked hard to get the board to come together and work together toward a common goal.
“Really, our goal was not winning youth group of the year,” she said, “it was to provide quality programming and increase membership and have fun when we come together. This was just an added bonus.”
Keren Douek is a staff writer and can be reached at [email protected]