Throughout my four years in BBYO, it has always been said that "from the outside looking in, you can't understand it. And from the inside looking out, you can't explain it." I never quite realized the magnitude of this very notion until I experienced what would be the best forty-one days of my entire life. Perlman Summer, a forty-one-day BBYO combined summer program, consisting of ILTC (International Leadership Training Conference) and Kallah, changed me as a leader, as a Jew, and as a person entirely.
I embarked on my journey to Perlman on June 27th, a day that I will never forget. For someone who has never attended sleepaway camp, being surrounded by all my old CLTC 5 friends as well as hundreds of new faces hinted at how surreal this experience would be. As soon as we stepped off the bus and embraced the campgrounds, the Perlman tree, the Perlman magic: I knew I was home.
At ILTC, we were able to expand our horizons as leaders, conversing with teens who have different perspectives from communities around the world in our Blueprints. Blueprints were cohorts of teens led by BBYO staff where we learned not only how to run a chapter or region, but run a movement. As Regional Mazkirah of Big Apple, the skills I obtained throughout the 3 weeks will guide me as a leader for years to come, in and out of BBYO. In addition to Blueprints, meaningful Shabbat & Havdallah services, immense dorm bonding, and invigorating Maccabiah, I was also given the opportunity to collaborate with teens and staff to visualize some of behind the scenes work for IC Dallas 2020. This special experience provided insight into management skills and operations for organizing events that I will take with me into the next chapters of my life.
Originally, I was registered for only ILTC, but it flew by in an instant, and I couldn't imagine leaving Perlman; I couldn't leave my heart and home. Therefore, with a lot of begging my parents and a lot of luck, I was fortunate to spend the next 3 weeks at International Kallah!
I grew up in a home where Judaism was always celebrated but never practiced, which left me with constant curiosity and fascination with the religion and finding myself. Hence, Kallah, a summer program focusing on spirituality and most importantly finding your Jewish identity, offered me so much. At Kallah, I can truly attest to the fact I've met some of my closest friends to date, with whom I keep in touch with daily. Not only did I have the special opportunity to run two meaningful Havdallah services at Kallah but I also heard stories from seven Holocaust survivors, and helped coordinate the annual Shabbat to Remember video to advocate for Holocaust remembrance. Listening to their stories in remarkable detail changed my customs as I now stand for the Mourner's Kaddish and the Shema; traditions I never practiced before Kallah.
However, one of the most touching moments I keep near to my heart was my Hebrew naming and Bat Mitzvah ceremony amongst 400 of my best friends. Although nervewracking, I saw my Jewish identity truly shape itself into a new form as I was called up to the Torah and given the Hebrew name of Kalanit; which refers to a blossoming flower, inspired by my chapter Kallah BBG #2466 and the summer program that helped me to grow as a young Jewish woman. It was in these very three weeks we realized the true meaning of our theme, "But this is ours." אבל זה שלנו
The 59,040 minutes that consumed just a fraction of my summer, will forever be 59,040 minutes I wish I could relive. No amount of photos, Perlman playlists, Perlman souvenir hoodies, or videos around the Perlman tree will ever quite encapsulate the magic of Perlman. It is safe to say that BBYO has seriously given me everything. Every fiber of my being wishes I could be back in Lake Como, Pennsylvania, with Eric and Happie serenading 400 teens as we stargaze under the tree. My Perlman summer may have ended, but it is now my time to share my experience, as I assure you this once-in-a-lifetime experience is not one to miss out on! So click that button, take the chance, and sign-up today!
Sierra Kaplan is a proud BBG from Kallah BBG #2466 in Big Apple Region #12 and loves to sing.
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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