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Following the Yellow Brick Road
Posted on 10/22/2014 @ 10:00 AM
In Kansas City, I bought a postcard with a picture of the Wizard of Oz with the caption “There’s No Place Like Home.” I buy postcards in each city I visit, so I didn’t think much of it when I made the purchase. I liked it better than the postcards with images of tornados and farmland, so I spent 99 cents and added the postcard to my collection without a second thought.
I sat on the plane flying home to Toronto and pulled out that postcard, reminiscing about the old friends I had seen, the new friends I had made, the memories and laughs that we had shared – and realized that I didn’t really want to leave.
Home is many things. It is place, it is people. It is physical structure and it is arms wrapped around each other. But it has taken on a new meaning for me these past few weeks: Home is the feeling of not wanting to leave.
This year, so far, I have traveled to 13 different cities. I’ve been to 10 different states on 9 different visits. I’ve seen 7 regions, 6 councils and, in every single one, I am welcomed with open arms, immersed in the chapters and felt like I have always been a part of their community.
I just completed the “Mid-America Tour,” where I visited the 4 councils that make up Mid-America Region. Visiting North Star Council in Minneapolis, I was reminded how important it is to focus on building the future now when I attended a program joint with their BBYO Connect teens. Visiting Omaha Council, I was reminded of how important it is to remember our roots and the place from which our Movement stemmed, and I was enriched in a Jewish community full of so much history.
In St. Louis Council and Kansas City Council, I was infused in fall. The backdrop of these visits were pumpkin patches and trees bursting with every fall color fading into one another like a rainbow. St. Louis held a “BBYTober-Fest” event filled with lots of fall fun, and Kansas City restarted an old tradition of hanging out on Saturday nights at a local diner – something an alum of the community reminisced about earlier that morning.
After all of the new connections formed, inspiration shared, and passion reignited, Mid-America has a special place in my heart. My visits were warm, like being wrapped in a cozy flannel button-down on an autumn day. It was like being at home, and not wanting to leave.
As I returned to Toronto, I spent my first evening back home attending The UJA Federation of Greater Toronto’s Major Donors Dinner, where the keynote speaker was Alan Dershowitz, an author, political commentator and past professor at Harvard Law School. As I thought about all of the new homes I had just built on my most recent visits, Professor Dershowitz reminded me of my most important home of all: Israel.
He spoke of the situation Israel is facing, and how the world twists the facts to make Israel look like the bad guy for practicing her right to defend herself. He profoundly put it: “Israel uses its soldiers to protect its civilians, Hamas uses civilians to protect its soldiers.” He told us how scary the future could look for Israel if we stay silent, but we were reassured that gathering here tonight was the best way to Speak UP for our Jewish homeland. “You need to make sure that the North American Jewish Community is strong, because that is our most powerful military weapon.” Professor Dershowitz helped me see the crucial role BBYO plays in protecting the future of Israel, and I am so thankful to be a part of an organization that does so much to keep our home safe.
Never forget that every voice can make a difference, and we must always follow the “yellow brick road” to protect the places and the people we call home.
Until Next Time,
Shanah Tovah and Happy New Year BBYO!
Posted on 10/13/2014 @ 01:28 PM
We are so excited to be kicking the Keeping PACE blog off after a meaningful Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. We each had an inspiring end to 5774, and we are ready to make 5775 the best year BBYO has seen yet.
In our short time since August Executives Conference, together, we have visited 15 different councils and regions, and we have been inspired by the members and welcomed into their communities. We have seen the three Florida regions come together for the first time in 10 years for a convention since they split from being one Florida Region. We have seen the roots of AZA in Omaha, Nebraska celebrate their 90th anniversary with the whole community. We have met with community leaders and visited the oldest synagogue in the South. We have seen kickoffs to the BBYO year all across the country, drawing record numbers and bringing excitement to the 2014-2015 BBYO year.
We have witnessed our Movement’s historical moments as we kick off the New Year by breaking records. On September 30th at 8 PM EST, we made the biggest push for registration for International Convention that we have ever seen. The Order was buzzing with so much energy that no one could keep up with the explosion of notifications on social media, and it was night where we watched our Movement move. In a mere 18 hours, we had over 2,000 teens signed up from all across North America, and we were able to show the Jewish world the power that we have. We have seen record numbers in numerous regions, and IC 2015 in Atlanta will be the biggest and most powerful yet. Sam was able to celebrate IC registration in Chicago with Great Midwest Region (GMR) at a party in the city which was incredible! GMR brought in record numbers and it was just an overall great night for them. Amanda launched IC registration with Southern Region: Atlanta Council in the host city of IC - Atlanta, Georgia! Atlanta has a record number of about 220 members registered, and they showed so much excitement to welcome our Order into their hometown for IC 2015.
Sam is currently visiting South Jersey Region and Amanda is doing a Mid-America Region tour visiting all four councils: North Star, Omaha, St. Louis, and Kansas City! We have been adjusting to the travel life since the year kicked off, and are loving life on the road. We’ve learned a lot in only the first month of our term. We have memorized our frequent flyer numbers, acquired the skill to fall asleep instantly on any moving vehicle, and we have never appreciated laundry and a home-cooked meal so much. But more than that, through our visits, we’ve been immersed in each community and how special they are. We’ve been to big cities and small, conventions from 30 teens to 250 teens, and been fascinated by the unique traditions each council and region hold dear to their hearts.
But there is a moment during each visit when we feel it: that BBYO feeling. That sense of being in the greatest place with the greatest people, and feeling a part of something greater than yourself. We enter every visit feeling so welcomed, and we leave feeling inspired by the moments we were a part of, confident that the future of the Jewish people is in great hands.
We could not be luckier to spend our year being a part of the magic that is AZA and BBG, and we can’t wait for the future adventures to come!
Until Next Time,
Sam and Amanda
Keep PACE with us!
Posted on 09/10/2014 @ 01:28 PM
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