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.
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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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To Everyone Who Hasn't Had Sex Yet, Wait For Marriage, It's The Right Move

If you have not had sex yet, wait.

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Premarital sex is not a new concept, no matter how much people like to pretend it is. You can trace scripture and historical texts back thousands of year to see that lust and fornication have been a problem since… well, since we humans have been problems.

They tell you in sex ed that sex causes you to form a bond with someone. They throw some big chemical names at you that are apparently in your body and cause that emotional attachment to happen, then you move on (or back to) how important condoms are and why STDs are so scary.

As a middle schooler or teenager, you can't understand what it means to become permanently connected to someone as a result of a quick, physical act.

If you haven't even had your first kiss, you really can't imagine what it's like to develop such a complex and intimate connection with someone because you have yet to feel the butterflies in your stomach from a kiss. So you really don't know what it's like to have a whole different type of feeling in your stomach.

You never forget your first love. It's one of the most cliche things you consistently hear, but it's true. Ask anyone. I guarantee your parents can still spurt out their first love's name in a few seconds. And most people never forget their first time. I know all my friends can recount that often awkward and slightly terrifying moment as if it happened an hour ago. When you mix those two, especially if you are in your teens, oh boy.

You never forget that. No matter how hard you try.

Everything you hear about sex is true: it's amazing, fantastic, life-changing, etc. There's a reason people have done it as frequently as they do, for as long as they have. But every time you sleep with someone, you leave a piece of yourself with them. Every time you choose to take that final physical step with someone, you cannot go back and collect that piece of your dignity and soul that you left with someone.

So, imagine what happens when you break up with someone you've slept with. Or that you just hooked up with. You have given someone a little slice of yourself forever. And you can never get it back. And imagine what happens when you do that multiple times. You give a piece of yourself to five, 10, 15, 20 or more people. Then you meet the person that you want to spend forever with. And you no longer have that whole part of you. You've given pieces away, and you can no longer give those to the love of your life.

So, save those pieces for your future spouse.

If you have not had sex yet, wait. If you have, consider not giving more pieces of yourself away to people who are not your spouse. Sex was created to be between two spouses, nobody else. So we need to try to maintain its integrity.

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I've Never Been to Church, but I Believe in a Greater Being

Written during an existential crisis

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I was raised without religion - not necessarily as an atheist but just had never been involved with a church or any church's teachings. This wasn't particularly any decision on my own part, just how life unfolded from my background. An issue that I've constantly struggled with, as early as when I was in first grade, is how life came to be. Quite often, I've had strong, mentally burdening existential crises land on me - possibly because of the lack of religion in my life. When these crises happen, I think often of religion, and in the possibility of a greater being.

Though I've never spent a day in my life at Church, I've developed my own beliefs in a greater being over the years.

The main reason for this is the irrationality of life. There is no proven explanation for how we came to be. Though we can trace back to a certain point - such as how our person, continent, world, planet, solar system was created, there comes a point when we can't explain any further. Everything comes from something. The first cell split into two cells, which continued to split. But what could have caused the first cell? What could possibly have caused something to come from nothing? There are theories that attempt to explain this, such as a disturbance in the blank universe which created the first cells. But, what caused this disturbance? This is something that I'll never be able to prove or even to wrap my head around.

Beyond this, there are so many other parts in our existence that don't make sense or can't be explained. For instance, in quantum physics, particles will split apart for no apparent reason, but when you put a camera up to watch the particles up close (all factors remaining the same), the particles no longer split. Also, there have been proven variations in the most basic physics laws, such as gravity. But no explanation to explain these small 'mistakes'.

For me, I've considered religion to explain these, and I've also considered conspiracy theories such as the simulation theory. The simulation theory and religion share the idea of a greater being - of a creator. Though I haven't had much experience with religion, I can explain the idea of a creator through the simulation theory. In a nutshell, the simulation theory argues that we are in a simulation - the being simulating our world could be in a completely different universe - perhaps different dimensions, different rules of physics, etc. Whatever their world is, it could be something that we can't even fathom - and it could also be a universe that does make perfect sense. Our universe is riddled with mystery and confusion - what if the greater being's world is one that isn't? To think of this, imagine how in a 2D world, the people living in it would never be able to fathom what it's like to live in a 3D world - what we take for granted. In the same way, we may not fathom what it's like to live in an elevated life. If it's likely that we'll ever be able to simulate life, then we ourselves could be living in simulated life (since that technology can exist). This could offer an explanation for our existence, but we would never know. A similar explanation could also be made with religion.

I read an amazing metaphor for believing in a greater being. Imagine when you were first conceived, and living in the belly of your mother for months. At this point (assuming hypothetically that you're conscious), you would have no idea what's to come next. You may believe that birth is death - it's bringing you into something you've never experienced, and you may think this means disappearing. However, you take a leap of faith and you soon find that birth, in fact, leads you to a new chapter of a life. But of course, you would never have known when you were in the womb, where all you knew was what you were experiencing.

It never hurts to have faith. It grounds you and can help you through rough existential crises. Whatever for the reason for our existence, we most likely will never actually find out - possibly in the afterlife, but no one has lived to tell the tale.

Thanks for reading my thoughts, and musing with me during this existential crises.

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