Posted on 02/16/2013 @ 07:30 PM
1500 teens, 150 staff, 300 volunteers, another 50 parents, friends and alumni. 18 countries from around the globe. Shabbat at BBYO’s International Convention had a lot of numbers, but the best is just one: One Shabbat.
Over two thousand Jews celebrated Shabbat together, starting by eating dinner together. The crescendo of singing the birchat hamazon, the blessings after the meal, gave many shivers as the in- and out-of tune voices all joined together into one song. But the experience, and the powerful message, didn’t end there.
To create the Shabbat experience that they envisioned, BBYO teens planned and created 24 different and distinct Shabbat services. The teens were committed to model pluralism and willingness to explore new ways to experience Judaism. Teens from around the globe envisioned these services, selected the prayers and wrote the scripts. Reform-style and Orthodox-style services took place next to each other. There were services focused on modern Israel’s additions to technology and on the unity of all Jews around the globe.
Shabbat at BBYO is more than just prayer services. Saturday featured an expanded “Limmud IC” – a four hour learning extravaganza framed by BBYO’s educational framework. The 60 session options offered by teens, staff, alumni, and community guests looked at all three components of BBYO’s objectives: to create an environment where teens can Identify: Strengthen Jewish Identity; Connect: Create Jewish Community; and Improve: Change the world. Teens had the opportunity to learn with BBYO alumni who have started businesses and who run non-profit organizations, study Biblical texts and modern Israel political stories, strengthen their own leadership and facilitation skills and explore their current and future selves.
2,000 people, one Shabbat. These twenty-five hours closed with powerful Havdallah services that combined song, stories, text study and reflection. But the experience didn’t end on Saturday night. It went home with each participant, each volunteer and each family. Each person took home a positive example of what Shabbat can be.