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Life Lessons on Shabbos

Posted on 11/17/2014 @ 09:00 AM

After I was elected International N’siah, a family friend of mine gave me a beautiful set of travel candlesticks to light on Shabbat in all of the different places I visit. I have celebrated Shabbat with 10 different communities so far this year, and I have used these candlesticks in each one and captured a photo. These candlesticks have been to DC, Pennsylvania, Texas, Tennessee, Florida, Georgia, Missouri and Colorado. On Friday, November 7, 514 chapters in 10 different countries celebrated AZA BBG Global Shabbat. Of all the communities I could have visited that week, I chose to spend my 10th Shabbat with the Tulsa BBYO community at their Tulsa Kallah Weekend.

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Left - Amanda's traveling candlesticks on 9 different occasions throughout the year. Right - At Tulsa Kallah

Tulsa BBYO was already a big part of my life before I was even old enough to join BBYO. My mom was born and raised in Nona Bloch Salomon BBG #243, the Tulsa BBG chapter. Three of my first cousins have served as N’siah of the chapter, and one of them even served as the 62nd International N’siah, eight years before me. My BBYO roots have been planted in Tulsa BBYO, and I was so excited to finally spend a weekend with this special community. Throughout the 24 hours of my Shabbat with Tulsa BBYO, I learned three very important life lessons, which made this Shabbat the most special of all.

Life Lesson #1: We All Need A.I.R. To Breathe

Yes, I already knew this lesson from third grade science class when we learned that humans inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide, and without air to fill our lungs we would not be able to live. But I’m not talking about air, I’m talking about A.I.R.—which stands for Affection, Intimacy, Relationships—the theme of Tulsa Kallah 2014. Throughout the weekend, we had several open conversations about what it means to be in a platonic relationship, in a romantic relationship, and the gender roles and stereotypes associated with being in a relationship. I learned that life is all about building connections with people, and that we all need to have strong and healthy friendships and relationships in order to be happy and live meaningful lives. I learned that we may need air to inhale and exhale, but we all need A.I.R. to breathe.

Life Lesson #2: Music Is The Best Medicine

Speakers are always brought in for Tulsa Kallah, and they help elevate the programming and echo the weekend’s theme. Two different speakers were brought in for this year’s Tulsa Kallah. The first were two actors from a troupe called Catharsis Productions who spoke to us about gender roles in society and did some improv to show us how to speak up for ourselves in the hopes of reducing violence in interpersonal relationships. The second was a woman who told us her story of being a survivor of sexual abuse, and how she overcame it. Both speakers were so fitting with BBYO’s most recent BBYO Stand UP Campaign, Girls Achieve Grapeness, which aims to advocate and spread awareness to end violence against women.

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Eric and Happie leading an impromptu song session at Tulsa Kallah

After the intense morning of hearing both speakers talk about such heavy issues in our world today, I started to get a headache and a wave of exhaustion came over me, so I planned on taking a nap to cure me of my mid-convention fatigue. However, before I was able to, I saw Eric Hunker and Happie Hoffman, two of BBYO’s incredible songleaders, sitting on a table, strumming a song on a guitar that had become all too familiar for me. Eric and Happie cover a lot of great songs, and my favorite is a cover they do of Michael Kiwanuka’s I’m Getting Ready (which you can listen to here) This is a song I’ve listened to when I want to feel calm and at peace, and there they were, sitting on the table, singing and strumming this very song. My face lit up and I walked over to sing along, knowing every single word. The next thing I knew, a group had gathered on the floor, and we spent the next hour singing songs and letting music feed the ache in our souls.

When we finished this jam session, I realized that my headache had faded away, and I had never felt better. Tulsa Kallah taught me that in tough times, music is the best medicine.

Life Lesson #3: I’m A Leader Because My Voice Matters

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Salomon BBG #243 advocating to #BanBossy

At Tulsa Kallah BBG separates, I learned (along with Salomon BBG) how to #BanBossy. We talked about the role of women in our world, and how when girls try to be leaders, or be assertive, or speak passionately about their beliefs, such admirable actions are spun against us in a negatively light. Most of the time, girls who dare to rise above the status quo are called bossy for trying to make a difference. Throughout the program, we discussed that this is a problem caused by both men and women, but we cannot let being called “bossy” stop us from being the changemakers and groundbreakers that we have the power to become. Every BBG got a piece of paper with “Ban Bossy” written on one side, and had to complete the sentence “I’m a leader because…” on the other. As I sat with a group of girls I had gotten so close to in such a short amount of time, I realized that every single one of us cannot let being labeled “bossy” quiet our voices, because everybody has a voice, and everybody matters. The one thing no one can ever take from us is our voice, and we have to use our voice to speak up for those who don’t know how.

At Tulsa Kallah, I learned how to be a leader, which is why I chose to complete my sentence like this:

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Amanda's answer to I'm a leader because

Submitted with undying love for Tulsa Kallah 2014, BBG Global Shabbat, candlesticks, Salomon BBG #243, Life Lessons, A.I.R., music, voices, and #BanBossy,

I remain,

Amanda Eliza Lauren Freedman
70th International N’siah

BBYO International Office
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Washington, DC 20001
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