MY SUMMER 2019:
41 days at Perlman,
4 days at International Execs,
3 days at NREtreat,
2 days of Board Bonding,
50 DAYS OF BBYO
3 BIG TAKEAWAYS.
This summer was seriously one for the books. In my 70 days of summer vacation (-- not 104, Phineas and Ferb were wrong), I spent exactly 50 of them on various BBYO programs. The magnitude of this summer is still something that’s difficult for me to fully process. Even as I write this I realize that my experiences are already embedded in my everyday life back home. I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to travel from Lake Como, PA to Waynesboro, PA, and Rockville, MD for these once in a lifetime experiences. I haven’t only learned how to be a stronger, more personable and organized leader, but how to integrate my Judaism into being the best version of myself whoever I’m with and wherever I am. I’m so honored and excited to bring every breakout session, Shabbat service, G-d talk, leadership rotation and everything in between back home to NoVA Council and beyond.
As much as I wish I could, I can’t relive every moment of this summer... the magic of the movement launch party at Execs, the feeling of the cool breeze in Eno Village at Perlman, the warmth of the Havdalah candle at Regional Execs. The people were what made these moments special, and they’re what I will keep with me beyond this summer, this year, past lives and graduation. The unconditional love that we have for each other is what allows the memories and moments to live on. They’re your best resources and biggest cheerleaders. The teens, educators, madrichim and the staff are what made every day so special; they were there with a purpose and their passion was hugely evident.
But, lifelong friends don’t just appear. Friendships take time and lots of effort, and what’s special about the people in BBYO is that they are willing to put in the time. Some of the friends I made were from the first day, while some were nearing towards the end of the experience.
It was one of the last nights of Perlman, and as I was tidying my cabin, I realized I had brought a bunch of shirts I wanted to trade. So I went into the common area, folded my clothes neatly on the floor, sat down, and asked my dormmates if they wanted to trade as they walked by me. Before I knew it, the rest of the BBGs in my dorm were sitting down with folded shirts all around me. At that point, it wasn’t about t-shirts or trading. We were telling each other funny stories, laughing, showing each other pictures of our pets back home, explaining how we practice rituals in our communities, you name it. This was the first time that we had all fully bonded as a dorm. I hadn’t realized that we could be so different on so many levels, but still laugh at the exact same things.
This summer, I was faced with countless opportunities for self-growth. Every morning I woke up and made a conscious choice of how I wanted to face the day. The environment found in BBYO programs is so unique and invigorating. This beautiful space allowed me to try new things, talk to new people, and learn more about myself. I can safely say that this kind of atmosphere is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. Whether I wanted to improve my time management skills, explore my relationship with G-d, or work on my interactions with the people I engage with, I had the opportunity to do so, and the resources and support around me to make me proud while doing it.
Throughout every single experience with BBYO this summer, I was asked the question, ‘Why do you do what you do?’ meaning, why am I passionate about this Movement, and why do I choose to be a leader in my community and go on all these summer programs. For a really long time, I couldn’t figure out an answer. Was it your friends? Judaism? Wanting to make a real impact? What I realized was that it was all of it was combined, which was so unique. It was an opportunity. The opportunity of being able to experience a panel of eight Holocaust survivors, the opportunity of sitting next to hundreds of other Jewish teens from various countries participating in the same service while reading from four different siddurim, the opportunity to not only be a leader, but a Jewish leader, and being in an environment where I can improve myself with unconditional love around me.
From the orange and red sunsets, to the purple-y pink sunrises, to a pastel blue canvas with fluffy clouds, to the clear dark skies at night with millions of stars scattered across, the Perlman sky was truly magnificent. More than that, it serves as a greater purpose. The sky is a constant reminder to breathe, to absorb everything around you, and to check yourself. It’s always there, whether you look at it or not.
I spent a fair amount of time looking at the sky during Perlman. I stargazed with my Kallah cabin while Happie strummed her guitar and sang to us, I watched the sun set on a walk around the loop with my ILTC cabin, I stargazed with my Blueprint and Beiteinu while reflecting on our experiences, and I went outside to look up during Shabbat Shira when I needed a break. Everytime I looked at the sky, I reflected. I felt grateful, and I thought about what I would do differently when I got home. I made pledges to myself to ask more questions, to always assume good intent, to stay aware of Israeli politics, to show more gratitude, and to always be the best I can be.
At International Execs the sky was different, as was the one the night of board bonding. Even though all of these skies I witnessed over the summer were special and unique in their own way, the one constant through all those impactful experiences was BBYO. There is something different about BBYO skies. You’re able to see more clearly during those nights at camp or convention and appreciate the beauty around you. You know that you'll never be in that space and time ever again in your life, so you do as much as you can to take it all in before it's too late. No camera can capture that kind of beauty.
Ending the summer was difficult, especially leaving the incredible friends I had made over the past fifty days. As cheesy as it sounds, “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened” (Dr. Suess) was more applicable and relatable than it had ever been before. I was sad it had ended, but every moment of my BBYO summer experiences have prepared me to take action, and now, I am ready.
Emma Rosman is a BBG from Northern Region East: NoVA Council and is an expert IKEA Furniture builder.
All views expressed on content written for The Shofar represent the opinions and thoughts of the individual authors. The author biography represents the author at the time in which they were in BBYO.
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