A Thank You Letter To My Youth Group

A Thank You Letter To My Youth Group

I’m still a spooey loving, havdallah singing, damn proud BBG thanks to you.

To the incredible organization that shaped me to be who I am today,

I want to say thank you. Thank you for the experiences, the friends, the way you shaped me to be who I am today. I wouldn’t be a “damn proud B’nai Brith Girl” without the four years I had with you. As a young college student, I find myself comparing my past experiences of conventions, programs, and business meetings to my world now. I take everything I have learned about being a young Jewish woman and have applied it to every aspect of my life. Without your guidance and help to form me, I wouldn’t be who I am today- someone I am proud and confident to be.

Thank you for the weekly meetings.

As a small and scared eighth grader about 5 years ago, I was lacking friends, faith, and freedom. I had two friends, I knew I was Jewish, and I could stay out until about 9pm on a weekend night - I craved more. I needed stability, love, and light in my life. So when a cool and fun high schooler called me and invited me to BBYO, I jumped at the opportunity. I went to the first meeting and was hooked - I had found my place in the world. Immediately, I was welcomed by many different girls who all shared the same things with me. Young, Jewish, and a longing for sisterhood. As weeks went on I found myself counting down the days, the hours, even the minutes until I would be reunited with my tribe for an hour during the night. With these meetings, I found myself meeting my best friends. I found boys and girls that enjoyed my company and wanted me around them. I found a new home within the small space where our community would meet, and I am so thankful to have had five years of weekly meetings.

Thank you for the conventions.

Being able to say that I was surrounded by hundreds, sometimes thousands of boys and girls that are going to be the change that is wished to be seen in this world is rare. I’m lucky to be able to say I was, and even luckier to say that I am one of those people that can make a change, and I realized that during conventions. While spending a weekend at a convention, I mingled and created and shared new ideas with 300 of my closest friends from within my “region” or respective area, all while growing and developing into a strong, jewish leader. There were programs teaching us about Judaism or participating in community service, havdallah and other jewish traditions and prayers that I did not know before but now sing and chant in my head constantly, AZAA/BBGG and pretending to enjoy sports, business meetings and finding out how to take charge and learning leadership skills, and separates which had every girl and boy in their respective rooms remember how important they are all ultimately help shaped me into a new being. The best part is, the small regional conventions were only the beginning. Once a year, BBYO put on the biggest teen jewish gathering known, international convention (trust me, we broke a Guinness World Record, it is huge!). This convention, known as IC, was the number one best experience of my life, and luckily for me I got to attend twice. I am so thankful for the opportunity to have met so many people from across the globe, to have been able to be crammed in a hotel meeting room with thousands of teens, to have spent a majority of my money on late night pizza and clothing during Chofesh or free time, to have listened and been inspired by a multitude of speakers and leaders, and I will forever be grateful for the time spent in airports and lobbies and hotel rooms with people that I still call friends today. I gained so much knowledge and so much faith within myself during the five day experience and no words will ever be enough to express the gratefulness I have for this event and organization altogether.

Thank you for the sisterhood I hold onto so dearly.

I never expected to find my best friends through this organization, and I didn’t just find my best friends - I found my family. My sisters and brothers. Today, I am farther away from my favorite people than I’ve ever been. However, it’s like nothing has changed since the last time we saw each other as if no time has passed. It’s like our very last convention was just yesterday, that i was giving my life and sharing my stories to the crowd of younger members in front of me, and that we still have years of BBYO and friendship ahead of us. With the friendships and sisters that I’ve made, I will always remember and be thankful for the chapter sleepovers and bonding sessions including the pretzel and icing treat called “spooey”, pizza, and mean girls. It doesn’t matter that some of my friends are 100 miles away or a few states away, I created such strong bonds with these girls and guys that no amount of miles will break us up. For that, I thank you for giving me such strong connections to people that I never would have met without joining this organization.

So, BBYO, thank you for being such a strong and powerful organization and presence in my life. Thank you for shaping and helping me and thousands of other young jewish leaders see that faith and friends go hand in hand. Thank you for giving me the chance to find myself. Since my time in this incredible organization, I have used my knowledge and new found skills to continue to grow and prosper. I will always remember the experiences and laughs and tears that I have gone through, and will forever be thankful that I could be apart of it and letting it become a part of me. With that, BBYO, I give you my life.

All of my love and gratitude,

A Damn Proud BBG of the Mid America Region, Yachad BBG #2370

Cover Image Credit: Alec Rothman

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We Need To Stop Being So Scared To Talk About Faith

Ditch the fear and start talking.

From a young age, we are taught that there are certain things that you simply do not talk about: money, politics, and faith. In a time when tensions are high and patience is low, faith can be a tricky subject to address. The worry that someone will be offended is almost tangible, especially in a group setting. But is this societal norm really benefiting us? Is this hesitation truly serving us or is it preventing us from being able to understand something that 84% of the world's population holds close to them?

Stop backing away from conversations about other religions and start making a sincere effort to understand, you may be surprised at how much you learn.

Many people don't even question the fact that we are so often reminded not to bring up faith. But understanding why faith is such a taboo subject for our society is key to moving towards having an easy conversation about it. What are we so scared of? Contrary to popular belief, discussing faith does not equate to enforcing a religion onto someone.

There is often a preconceived notion (and a totally valid one) that simply bringing up the idea of religion is an effort to convert someone. But why does this make us so uncomfortable?

Perhaps because faith is so deeply personal, something that we cling to in times of fear, that it shouldn't dare to be shared out loud. The hesitation is understandable, but it is certainly not serving us. No one should feel obligated to preach their beliefs to each person they meet, but as a society, we should eradicate the idea that it is socially unacceptable to share these beliefs, especially with someone who doesn't share them.

This fear to offend someone with religious beliefs again comes from the idea that it is something confrontational. This negative connotation prevents us from seeing the world for what it really is. Learning as children that faith and religion are meant to be kept to ourselves doesn't prepare us for knowledgeable conversations later in life. Enforcing this view of faith is really another form of tunnel vision and sets us back rather than moving us forward.

Moving past this perception of faith is not easy, it takes time, patience, and a willingness to learn. Opening up to these conversations has the potential to bring an abundance of knowledge and understanding. Being unafraid to have differing views and simultaneously being willing to accept these views as someone else's personal perception allows us to have more meaningful and honest conversations. Speak to someone about their belief in Islam, read Buddhist text, and you will find that the best way to nurture spiritual knowledge is to expand it.

Note: Another interesting aspect of faith in America is the discussion about its presence in public schools. For further reading on this topic, go here.

Cover Image Credit: Pixabay

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Poetry On Odyssey: Young People, Why?

The hearts of Christians everywhere are filled with sad songs.

Why are you in a rush to grow up so fast?

What has changed that makes you retaliate

In such a way?

Got the Christian world so sad.

There is a way that appears bright.

But it's ways won't lead to the light.

Deep within you know it's not right.

Got the whole Christian world ready to fight.

Why do you want to be so grown?

The hearts of Christians everywhere are filled with sad songs.

Cover Image Credit: Pexels

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