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Experiencing Bulgaria through my own eyes

Posted on 05/23/2013 @ 11:58 AM

Whenever someone brings up Ambassadors to Bulgaria, one scene always flashes to my mind. I just sat down to lead a discussion on Judaism with Tony, the token Jew from his hometown near Sofia; Moni, the president of his local Jewish youth group chapter in Plovdiv; Predrag, the three-year-veteran of the program from Serbia; Jacob, the world traveler from New York; and Mark, the lead singer of a Latvian band. Of course, the first words out of my mouth are not one of the dialogue questions but, “How did we even get here?”

The answer is simple, but the journey was long. I got on a plane and arrived in a country which I knew nothing about. I can vividly remember walking up to the gated community center in Bulgaria. While I had hoped to find a welcoming entrance, once inside I felt uneasy behind the gate. I realized that I was witnessing something I was not used to, anti-Semitism. Swastikas that defaced the outside walls made me anxious, but, in contrast, joyous faces lit the space around me. In spite of all of the issues the community deals with, their resilience eclipsed the darkness and concern that had crept over me.

Some may ask how these people could be so optimistic even when they were forced into a corner in their own community. As I said before, the answer is simple.

These people were Jewish and, because of that, they were strong.

They were passionate about what they believed in and they wanted to make sure that future generations could have the opportunity to share the same ideals. So how did we all get there? At this point the answer should be crystal clear.

Max Goldstein, Regional Aleph Godol, BBYO Evergreen Region

Since the day I joined BBYO, the term “globalization” has become a part of my everyday speech. I learned the importance of raising money for the International Service Fund (ISF). This money helps provide international teens the opportunity to attend BBYO programming and explore their Judaism. They get to experience what I have come to love in BBYO!

At International Convention this past February, and at International Kallah this past summer, I had the unique privilege of meeting, interacting with, programming alongside and creating relationships with these special teens from overseas. The insight that each and every one of them brings is eye opening. Hearing all about the countries and Jewish communities they come from is incredible. However, I could not be more thrilled to be traveling to Bulgaria on Ambassadors to Bulgaria and to experience everything that my friends have told me. I can’t wait to explore my friends’ communities and gain a better understanding of Jewish life outside of the US. I have learned how different from, and sometimes similar to, the Jewish communities of Eastern Europe are in regard to my community. I cannot wait to discover where I fit within this large global Jewish community!

The teens I know and the teens I will meet have a perspective on Judaism that is unlike mine because of the gap of religion between them and their parent’s generation. Along with communicating about what makes each of our Jewish communities so special, I will get to explore the beautiful country of Bulgaria. Whether it is going to synagogues or the JCC, my eyes will be opened to what makes the country so special. However, I am most excited to bring back everything I learn to both my community and the International Order.

Maya Guthman, International S’ganit, 69th International Board of BBG

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