Make sure to stay up to date with your 90th Grand Aleph Godol and 70th International N’siah! You can also follow their adventures on Instagram and Twitter (here’s Sam’s handle, and here’s Amanda’s)!
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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.
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.
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
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:
Submitted with undying love for Tulsa Kallah 2014, BBG Global Shabbat, candlesticks, Salomon BBG #243, Life Lessons, A.I.R., music, voices, and #BanBossy,
Amanda Eliza Lauren Freedman
70th International N’siah
The Opposite of Loneliness
Posted on 11/07/2014 @ 09:00 AM
“We don’t have a word for the opposite of loneliness, but if we did, I could say that’s what I want in life.” The feeling of the opposite of loneliness is something I have been searching for my entire life, hoping this year could provide some clarity for me. This year, though, I want to find more than my opposite of loneliness; I want to find what makes the members of AZA and BBG feel the opposite of loneliness.
This desire was reaffirmed at CLTC 7 this past summer where my co, Hannah Stulberg, and I read an edited passage from the book The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan. Keegan was a stellar author from Yale University on the search for the opposite of loneliness before her life was taken away in a car accident. It taught me that we can all find an opposite of loneliness in our lives, and I hope to find this year that for others.
“It’s not quite love and it’s not quite community; it’s just this feeling that there are people, an abundance of people, who are in this together.” One of the greatest things about this year so far has been the communities I’ve visited and seen that no one stands alone and, the best part about the communities I’ve seen, is that no two are the same.
I spent a week in Rocky Mountain Region where I saw the AZA community they have built on brotherhood and some incredible traditions. I spent the week leading up to Fall Convention staying with numerous Alephs in the region and, during that week, every family made sure I never felt lonely and I always felt at home. I was anxious to see the full RMR community at Fall Convention and, when I did, I was blown away. At the Pink Shabbat service Friday night, I felt at home. I felt a level of respect and passion towards the topic of cancer research and awareness. I was able to share my own experience with cancer and the community of RMR let me open and talk about how my past communities made sure I felt the opposite of loneliness. I felt every single of the 127 people at the convention and I felt great.
I had heard about the incredible brotherhood and passion of the Alephs of RMR, yet I was ready to feel it for myself. During spirit, I felt a feeling I have never really felt before. Everything I had heard about RMR spirit was true and it was the most passionate and exciting spirit I have ever been a part of. What was so special about it was that every Aleph in that circle felt the opposite of loneliness. I saw every single Aleph cheering and showing how much they care. Thank you, RMR, for showing me what true brotherhood is and how to make members in the community feel the opposite of loneliness.
After leaving Denver, I went to New England Region for a week as well for their kickoff. I spent the week with various members through the Boston area as well as Providence, Rhode Island. I want to fast forward to a moment at New England Region Kickoff which stuck out to me as a time where I felt exhilarated and empowered to make others feel the opposite of loneliness. We were well into the cheer session when an Aleph from NER, Yishai Barth, started talking. I didn’t really know going in what cheer he was prepping all of us for, but I was anxious to figure it out. Yishai started talking about how AZA is more than just a bunch of guys and how it is truly a brotherhood and how it takes every single one of us to be loud and to make a difference. He was talking about the cheer “Never too many,” one of my favorites. Yishai said we start low for the cheer because we came from a low place and we started as few, but we built a community that is strong and mighty and that is why we rise up, get louder and jump like crazy.
I now am spending my time with Michigan Region meeting the community here in the Detroit area. I am excited to be attending Fall Convention and Global Shabbat this weekend with my brother Alephs and sister BBGs. I can’t wait to meet the community in Michigan and find what the opposite of loneliness means to the members here.
We don’t have a word for the opposite of loneliness, but if we did, I’d say that’s how I feel in BBYO. How I feel right now. Here. With all of you. In love, impressed, humbled, scared. And we don’t have to lose that. We’re in this together, BBYO. Let’s make something happen to this world.
Fraternally submitted with an undying love for,
Athens of the South AZA #258, Cotton States Region #72, CLTC 5 2011, CLTC 7 2014, feeling the opposite of loneliness, the Grand Order of the Aleph Zadik Aleph and the 7 Cardinal Principles upon which it stands,
I will forever remain Aleph Samuel Albert Perlen
A Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Story
Posted on 10/31/2014 @ 10:00 AM
Every moment of our life is a choice we make.
Some choices are conscious: decisions that we are actively making. Choices where you spend time weighing all of the pros and cons to actively choose the best possibility - like deciding what to wear today, deciding whether to order the Oreo or strawberry banana milkshake at Johnny Rockets, or deciding what to do with the rest of your life.
Other choices are subconscious, where we don’t even think that we have power or control over what we are doing - like choosing to get out of bed in the morning, choosing to work hard in school, choosing to make a positive impact on the people around us. We make these choices without even taking a minute to realize they are happening.
I’ve thought a lot about choices and decisions recently. I spent this past weekend with Rocky Mountain Region at their Fall Convention, where the theme was Choose-Your-Own-Adventure, and I was very impressed with the choices made to plan and participate throughout the weekend.
It started Friday evening with a Pink Shabbat to raise awareness for breast cancer. Almost every Aleph and B’nai B’rith Girl chose to deck themselves out in Pink Shabbat attire to join in the cause. People decided to share their personal experiences with breast cancer, and I watched as a communal bond was formed. It continued through RMR’s Annual Mr. AZA Pageant, as the convention body chose to support their fellow Alephs in strutting their stuff, and I was proud of my co, Sam Perlen, for placing 2nd (I guess you can’t win ‘em all).
It continued Saturday afternoon when Sam and I got to run our first roadshow program together. We’ve been planning programs to be able to run on visits, and we created a Brotherhood/Sisterhood program to run on visits when we are together. The program requires getting into partners with someone you don’t know in order to spend time truly getting to know someone new. We figured teens would choose to go with their friends, but were surprised when the participants went out of their way to pick a partner they really did not know in order to gain the most out of the program. The choice to participate and fully engage themselves in the program resulted in a meaningful experience each time we ran it.
But it was confirmed during BBG separates that evening. This separates broke the mold of crying and candles (okay there were electronic tealights, but still), and it was an evening where everything depended on the choices we make. We were given a situation and had two paths which we could take. Once we decided what we wanted to do, we divided into smaller groups and kept playing out the situation. At one point, we sat in a circle and reflected on a tough decision each individual had made up until now. What was mine, you ask? The choice that led me here, writing this blog post about this crazy adventure of a year. I realized that we are afraid of making decisions because choice means change. But, the wise words of Harvey Mackay should guide us all towards how we make decisions: "If you get a chance, take it. If it changes your life, let it. Nobody said life would be easy, they just said it would be worth it."
Thank you, RMR, for reminding me that existence is standing at a fork in the road, while living is choosing what path to take. And, that the best choice of all is the choice of adventure.
Later in the week, I started thinking more about the choices we make. I'm a strong believer in the idea that "either you run the day or the day runs you." We may not be able to control everything that happens to us, but we are able to choose how we react to life at it's most trying times. Too often, we let the day run us. We get frustrated, knocked down, and don't want to get back up until a new day comes and it's our turn to run it. But, choosing to run our days is the best way to run our lives. Flying to Boston Wednesday, I was exhausted and frustrated, my backpack feeling heavier than ever, and I started to let the day do the running, which never feels good. So, I sat on the plane and realized that it was my turn to take control of how the day turned out. Sure, it started a little rough, but the choice was mine whether I wanted to enjoy it or not. So I lost myself in Taylor Swift's new album (recently downloaded to my iPod), closed my eyes, and started to run my day.
We don't have a say in everything that happens in this world, but we do have a say in how it affects us. After an attack on my country's security last week, this is how we chose to react:
Submitted with undying love for choices, chances, adventures, running our days, and refusing to fall,
Amanda Eliza Lauren Freedman 70th International N'siah
This World is an Incredible Place
Posted on 10/24/2014 @ 10:00 AM
This world is a pretty incredible place filled with unique and interesting people. In my travels up to now, I have been able to experience and see this incredible world. I have been able to see how Judaism is practiced all across America. (I’ve also been able to eat a lot of great food that is unique to the places I have been!)
Most importantly, I have seen what AZA means to Alephs nation wide. Two of my favorite parts of AZA are separates and passionate cheer sessions. There is something special about being with your brother Alephs and diving deep into meaningful discussions and programs. Yet, there is nothing like the feeling with your hand on the shoulders of your brother Alephs and their hands on yours cheering about AZA until you can’t anymore. In my travels so far, I have been able to experience unique separates and crazy cheer sessions where I come out looking like I took a dip in a pool.
In Atlanta Council, I was part of the most unique cheer session I’ve ever been a part of. It was awesome to see nearly every Aleph in the circle with a red mark on his left chest from the AZA heartbeat. With Lake Ontario Region and Eastern Canada Region, I saw the Alephs of two regions come together as one as blood brothers and unite. It was powerful to see each Aleph in the room look at themselves and reflect. In South Jersey Region, I attended one of the most powerful and meaningful separates I have ever been apart of. I was able to walk around a museum set up by the regional board about what it would be like in about 80 years if the Jewish people were no more. The members took this program very seriously and they got a lot out of it. This was followed by an awesome cheer session where you could tell every member was really into it.
In the 10 regions or councils I have been to, I can tell how much AZA means to all of the communities. In Atlanta, I was able to see what a crazy and unique cheer session can be like. In DC, I saw the excitement for the year. In Omaha, I was able to see the roots of this order. In Kansas City, I saw excitement and passion cheering for their hometown Royals who are now in the World Series. I saw a new chapter in St. Louis put all they could into being successful as well as a fun time at a Cardinals game. In GMR, I saw an excitement around IC and their chapters that inspired me. In South Jersey Region, I saw the Alephs stand up to anti-Semitism and learn about what could be.
Now in Denver, I am excited to be a part of the community here for the weekend at Rocky Mountain Region’s Fall Convention. It will be an incredible weekend where the members of RMR support Breast Cancer Awareness as well as Cancer Awareness as a whole with a pink Shabbat this Friday night. This is a cause dear to my heart, and it is incredible to hear that Alephs and BBGs Stand UP for this great cause.
My travels have been inspiring so far, and I can’t wait to see what the rest of the year has to come.
Fraternally submitted with an undying love for
Athens of the South AZA #258, Cotton States Region #72, CLTC 5 2011, CLTC 7 2014, RMR Fall Convention this weekend, Walking Dead with Rosie, Baseball games with BBYO, Peach tea at conventions, Rusty Smith, IC kick off with GMR, Israel, Keeping PACE, Omaha, Nebraska, the Grand Order of the Aleph Zadik Aleph and the 7 Cardinal Principles upon which it stands,
I will forever remain Aleph Samuel Albert Perlen
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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