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Eco-Quest Costa Rica

Posted on 07/29/2013 @ 05:30 PM

Tags: 2013

As our teens reflect on the experiences they had this summer, it is our hope that their new friendships are enduring and that their experiences continue to touch their lives in a meaningful way for years to come.

One of our Eco-Quest Costa Rica #2 participants, Kayla Gartenberg, created this amazing video which captures some of the highlights from her trip and will help keep the memories alive.



Save a Child's Heart

Posted on 07/26/2013 @ 11:13 AM

Tags: 2013

As we previously mentioned on our blog, our trips to Israel incorporate somewhere between 8-24 hours of community service. One of the incredible organizations we work with is Save a Child's Heart.

Save a Child’s Heart (SACH) is an Israeli-based international humanitarian project, whose mission is to improve the quality of pediatric cardiac care for children from developing countries who suffer from heart disease and to create centers of competence in these countries. SACH is totally dedicated to the idea that every child deserves the best medical treatment available, regardless of the child's nationality, religion, color, gender or financial situation.

When volunteering with this organization our participants do various activities, ranging from making cards to entertaining the children. Our Euro-Israel Journey group came up with the following dance to show the children. Check it out!



South Africa Journey

Posted on 07/24/2013 @ 05:45 PM

Tags: 2013

Our South Africa Journey is filled with some exciting adventures including: Observing African penguins, going shark diving, going on Safari. Another amazing experience our teens have is "Sand Boarding" down massive sand dunes.

Here are some great action shots from this summer.



Mapping the Journey

Posted on 07/22/2013 @ 04:58 PM

Tags: 2013

Is it possible to creatively process an intense experience that is a teen tour to Israel? Toward the end of their visit to the country, BBYO Passport participants from Israel Journey 3/ Plus2, and Euro-Israel Journey, did just that during Kol HaOt’s “Mapping the Journey” session.

The teens first studied images in an artistic, wordless scroll that details the Abraham’s journey in the biblical story of “The Binding of Isaac”. Then, as a group, they created a color legend which itemized the highlights and emotions of their own trip to Israel. Using collage, each participant created their own map of their journey, using images that expressed their individual story of their Israel experience.

As the teens presented their awesome scrolls to the entire group, they relived their unforgettable BBYO journey – a pilgrimage that will be remembered for many years to come.



BBYO Passport - Lighting Up People's Summers

Posted on 07/22/2013 @ 02:57 PM

Tags: 2013


Our participants are having a glowing good time!


Where's The Meaning

Posted on 07/17/2013 @ 04:35 PM

Tags: 2013

Yesterday our teens celebrated Tisha B'Av in four different countries, on three different continents. Though itineraries varied from group to group, they all took time to recognize the holiday. Our ILSI participant Sofie Jacobs has been kind enough to share some of her thoughts from the day.

I never used to stand during the mourner' s Kaddish. Growing up in a Conservative synagogue, those who stood only stood because they, themselves, were mourners. I muttered "amen" at the end and "barechu" throughout because that's what my mom did. But those who stood only stood because they experienced a tragedy.

So going to different synagogues for Bar or Bat Mitzvahs, I sat during the mourner's Kaddish. My friends stood because that's what tradition and custom had taught them, but if I wasn't mourning, I felt no meaning to the prayer.

I couldn't find it.

So I sat.

Last year, I observed Tisha B'av at Perlman Camp. One of the last days of Kallah, closure to my previous three weeks of discovering my Jewish identity was found in a day of looking at the past and future of the Jewish people. Tragedy and success were discussed. I fasted.

At the end of the day during the Mincha (or afternoon) service, the Rabbi suggested we stand during the mourner's Kaddish in remembrance of the destroyed temple. I stood.

After all, on that day I mourned.

While I stood, I realized that the destruction of the Temple wasn't personal to me in that moment, but that didn't mean it had no meaning; it still can have meaning to my people or to those close to me.

The tragedies that personally applied to me weren't the only ones that deserved to be stood for. They have their own meaning to me. While I didn't initially find it, it's always there.

So I stand. It's not what my Rabbi, congregation or mother does, but it's my interpretation of a part of Judaism. I found meaning.

This Tisha B'av was spent in Jafa. It started with a beautiful service in front of the Jerusalem skyline; a city whose decimation we were mourning–now illuminated.

Earlier in the day, I went to a discussion led by an Arab/Israeli couple. They talked about being Arab/Israelis, and how, although the Arabian man feared it, he couldnt help falling in love with his Jewish wife. They told us to try and find love and meaning in everything we do. Throughout the day, I fasted like I did at Kallah. But I didn't connect like I did at Kallah.

Later that day, I was talking to a staff member about how it seemed Iike fasting was particularly hard this year. He told me that if you're fasting correctly, it's not that hard.

"If you go in with the right intention, it heightens your senses," he told me, "You can block out the hunger by focusing on what you're doing. You just have to find the meaning behind the fast."

The meaning behind the fast. Behind standing during the mourner's Kaddish, behind finding your own interpretation of tradition, behind falling in love.

So now I drive back to the kibbutz, surrounded by my best friends. We're singing on the bus. The Jerusalem skyline fades to pink.

There can be meaning in everything. It just has to be found.

- Sofie Jacobs
ILSI Participant


Helping to Give Back, One Onion at a Time

Posted on 07/14/2013 @ 01:37 PM

Tags: 2013

Our Israel Journey Plus trip provides our participants with the chance to connect to their history, to celebrate their future and to explore their Jewish identity. However, more important then the impact that Israel has on our teens, is the impact that our teens have on Israel. Israel Journey Plus includes 24 hours of community service.

Recently our Israel Journey #2 & Plus #1 group volunteered with Leket Israel. Leket Israel serves as the country's largest food bank and food rescue network actively working to alleviate the problem of nutrition insecurity among Israel's diverse population. Below is a thank you note that our group received.

I am writing to thank you again for volunteering with Leket Israel’s Project Leket: gleaning fruits and vegetables for distribution to Israel’s needy during your visit. It was truly a pleasure meeting you.

We greatly appreciate your participation, hard work and enthusiasm. Together you managed to pick an amazing 1800kg of onions , helping to feed well over 900 families that week. Please feel free to spread the word and tell your friends and colleagues to join us on their future visits to Israel.

As you may already know, Leket Israel – The National Food Bank and leading food rescue network, actively works to alleviate nutritional insecurity through its many food rescue and redistribution projects. Leket Israel provides food and nutritional support to 140,000+ people each week with an annual distribution of 21 million pounds of produce and perishable goods, close to 1,000,000 hot meals rescued and 1.5 million volunteer prepared sandwiches for underprivileged school children.

Thank you and we look forward to greeting you back in the fields in the near future.

All the best,
Shani Furtado
Leket Israel



Report From BBYO B'Yachad 2013

Posted on 07/12/2013 @ 03:37 PM

Tags: 2013

Yesterday evening, approximate 350 teens on BBYO Passport experiences in Israel convened to celebrate their being together in the Jewish Homeland this summer. The name of the event, "BBYO B'Yachad", is Hebrew for the word "together".

BBYO B'Yachad began with a carnival-style atmosphere where teens enjoyed decorating ancient pottery shards, getting their hands painted by professional henna artists, writing postcards home to friends and family (check your mailboxes soon!), doing a scavenger hunt around the park, taking photos for keep-sake gifts, dinner and dessert, and plenty of music.

Among the speakers at the ceremony were two BBYO teens on International Board, Ryan Dishell and Maya Guthman, who welcomed their peers to the event. They spoke about securing a strong Jewish future, embracing our summer journeys, and making new friends within the Jewish teen community.

We concluded the evening by singing HaTikvah, Israel's national anthem, followed by a popular song called "Yachad". Watching a sea of 350 teens holding each other arm-and-arm while singing was truly a moving experience. The night ended with a dance party under the stars, which exuded energy, camaraderie, and the notion of togetherness.

Ultimately, the purpose of BBYO B'Yachad was to celebrate the teens’ choice to spend a summer in Israel. With the myriad of choices available today, we are so proud that they chose to come to Eretz Yisrael, the Land of Israel. Traveling to Israel is a dream shared with our ancestors for nearly 4,000 years, and that is a dream fulfilled anew each summer on BBYO Passport since 1957. These teens are now part of an important legacy, and on behalf of everyone at BBYO Passport, we are honored to help start those journeys.


We have posted many more pictures from the event in the B'Yachad 2013 Gallery. Enjoy!


The Kotel in One Word

Posted on 07/09/2013 @ 03:02 PM

Tags: 2013

The Western Wall, The Wailing Wall or The Kotel it doesn't matter what you call it! This important Jewish and historical site evokes different reactions from all that visit, look below for our participants impressions!


Making a community on the trip

Posted on 07/05/2013 @ 05:23 PM

Tags: 2013

community |kəˈmyoōnitē| noun ( pl. -ties) 
a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals

One of our BBYO Passport philosophies is to create a community on every journey. 
Group dynamics and bonding are essential in any group. Our staff works hard to foster a community throughout the entire program. 
Read on to hear what Seth Schuster from Trek West USA #2 expresses about community.

Although one day has passed, I feel like I have just gone to a Supercuts. My hair is not shorter, nor is it any longer. However, I did "get in and I got confidence." After one day, because of the positive attitude exuded by each member of the group, I feel like a different person.

Let's get something straight, we are not a cohesive unit, we are a family! Only after one day, we encourage each other, help each other, and care for each other. I'll talk about my personal experience: As I inched closer to the jagged edge of the naturally eroded sedimentary rock in Slide Rock park, fear inched into my mind. As I inched away, my fear subsided. As I inched closer, it reentered. But soon, when I stepped to the edge, I wasn't scared because of the support of my fans (friends) and Jaden, a six-year-old who was able to show me off by jumping off the cliff with no hesitations. And if he was able to do it, I was sure able to do it! So with the support from everyone, I took the leap... three times! This goes with a major theme I believe is essential for all of us to have a successful trip - encouragement.

With that said. The most important part of this word is "courage," which must be resorted to when making a decision. After all, you can get the support of the world that will influence your decision, but only you can make your own choices in life.

Hope we all have a great rest of the summer!

- Seth Schuster
Trek West USA #2 


Trek West USA #2 overlooking the Grand Canyon



Trek West USA #2's Mission Statement


Trek West USA #2 about to tube down Salt River!



Shalom To All

Posted on 07/02/2013 @ 09:14 PM

Tags: 2013

Frequently, we look backwards during the final day of a program. We recall our journey behind us. We smile at our most rewarding moments, and we laugh at the moments gone horribly wrong. Following breakfast this morning, we spoke of "Shalom." It is a word so prevalent in so many of our lives as Jewish people, but at times we fail to realize when it can be most applicable. We say shalom to bid farewell, but also to greet a person or an experience. Though we bid a departing shalom as the trip comes to its conclusion, we recall our boldest memories with none other than a welcoming "Shalom."

Today we went to the only mosque in Sofia. One might wonder, why would a Jewish teen trip traveling through Bulgaria go to a mosque of all places? I suppose we can all interpret that question for ourselves. Yet as I looked around the old building, under construction due to earthquake damage, and as we were happily greeted by the leader of the institution, the best answer I could provide for myself was, "Why not?" The Jews and the Muslims in Bulgaria may both respectively be statistical minorities, but what I have now seen from both religions is the strength in which they protrude the sense of community. That's the beauty of it all. So to our fellow monotheists, our fellow semitics, our friends, I say shalom. May peace forever be bound to you.

We continued onwards, and we made our way to the orthodox synagogue of Sofia. The building was large and beautiful. We were given an explanation of the community of which it is part, and we were given a tour of the building. One portion was created into a Jewish Museum. Traditional Sephardic garments and art were all over the place, and we learned some of the history behind all of it. The history of the Jewish people of Bulgaria is strong, and without a doubt, so is the Jewish community. Never lose faith in the strength kehillah, no matter what city or what nation in which you seek it.

For the final major portion of the day, we made home visits to elderly Jews in small groups. My experience was nothing short of remarkable. My group, comprised of 3 Americans, 1 Bulgarian, and 1 Latvian, met with a 99 year old woman and her daughter. The daughter spoke English, but the woman we came to see did not. She did, however, know Bulgarian, Russian, and a decent amount of Spanish. Never did I think that my Spanish education would come in handy in Bulgaria. Yet instead of having her daughter translate everything I said in English to Bulgarian, I was able to speak directly to this woman in Spanish, as was one of our friends from Florida who made the fairly startling discover that he and this woman are distantly related. Not to mention, she was able to speak fluent Russian to our Latvian friend. To this woman, and to everyone who welcomed us into your homes, thank you for the experience.

So now, I head off to Israel tomorrow. Our journey here in Bulgaria comes to a close.
To you, whomever is reading this at home, to the many people that showed us around this country, to the very patient staff, and to the friends I have made along the way: Shalom.

- Ryan Dishell
Ambassador to Bulgaria 


Spending time in Sofia, Bulgaria



Tikkun Olam Day



Ambassador to Bulgaria 2013



Journey Through Poland

Posted on 07/01/2013 @ 12:03 PM

Tags: 2013

We are on our way to Warsaw after three wonderful nights in Krakow. On Friday afternoon, we arrived in Krakow and braved the rain to get to Kabbalat Shabbat services at the Galicija museum. We were lucky to be in Krakow during the first weekend of the famous Jewish Culture Festival, a program chock full of educational and cultural events. We joined Jews from around the world in a "musical Shabbat" that was both fun and moving, especially considering the setting - a place and community that has experienced incomprehensible suffering and yet is increasingly a center for Jewish culture and renewal.

We enjoyed all our Shabbat meals at Beit Yaacov, a former girls' yeshiva that is presently being converted into a Jewish community center. We ran into a number of other groups, including a huge group of Brazilian orthodox Jewish youth, and our participants had a chance to meet new people.

Even though Saturday was Shabbat, we didn't want to miss out on the beauty of Krakow. After a morning program of songs and skits related to the weekly Parasha (Torah portion), we walked through the park, played some games, saw the dragon of Krakow, and toured the opulent Wawel castle. We then had some free time in the old market square, with its artisan markets, street shows, and horse-drawn carriages...and plenty of ice cream.

After dinner, we went back to the Galicija museum for a "Niggun Jam." The place was packed with people eager to learn and share new tunes - niggunim. Hannah, Rachel and a number of other participants were especially excited about a Russian song the leaders taught the audience - stay tuned for a's awesome.

Sunday began with a walking tour led by Moran of the old Jewish quarter in Kazimierz. Two participants, Zach and Leah, "volunteered" to be our mock couple, searching for a place to get married, as we toured various synagogues as well as cemeteries. Moran shared stories of life in the Jewish quarter before beginning to explain the ghettoization that occurred after Hitler's rise to power. We gathered at the area representing the border of the former ghetto, and then stopped to admire the gates of Oskar Schindler's legendary factory, where more than 1200 Jews were saved.

Our minds focused on the power of one person, like Schindler, to stand up to a system of evil as we drove to Auschwitz. First, we visited Auschwitz 1, a former prison that today houses various exhibits on the crimes committed during the Holocaust. After passing through the gate with its cynical expression, "Arbeit Macht Frei" meaning work shall set you free, we visited the brand new "Jewish" exhibit.

Compared to the other exhibits at Auschwitz 1 which explore specific details and evidence, such as the shoes and real hair of the inmates, this exhibit is highly contemporary. The first room displays footage of Jewish life in Europe before the Nazi era and pays tribute to luminaries like Einstein and Houdini. Then, we see the propaganda that fueled the anti-Semitic storm in Germany, videos of book burnings led by Joseph Goebbels, for instance. There is a deeply moving room full of reconstructed drawings by children imprisoned in the camp and their perspective on the horrors surrounding them is insightful yet painful to encounter. Finally, there is a gigantic book with all of the names of those murdered during the Holocaust - six million names, birthplaces, and locations of their murder. A few participants found the names of their family members, prompting others to provide them with support and a shoulder to cry on.

After Auschwitz 1, we drove a few minutes to the gates of Auschwitz II (Birkenau), the most infamous and expansive of the Nazi death machinery. We began to walk along the train tracks, and stopped at various places to hear Moran share stories about specific victims and survivors. As we were in Budapest just a few days ago, she focused on the Hungarian Jewish experience, mainly. We walked past the ruins of the gas chambers, through the "sauna" where inmates (the 10% who weren't murdered immediately) were dehumanized upon arrival. Finally, we stopped in the rebuilt women's barracks, where we did a journaling exercise.

Moran was evidently moved when Noah said she had managed to make the most horrible place in the world feel hopeful.

Our time at Auschwitz and Birkenau is over, yet our process of discussion is ongoing. Today, Monday, we will visit Majdanek before reaching Warsaw. It is hard to imagine, but very exciting that we will be landing in Israel in just 2 days!!

Below are some thoughts from the participants:

"I have seen, I have heard, I have touched and I have experienced. Now I will never forget." 
- Sarena

"Words cannot describe the emotions I felt today. At first uncertainty of the day ahead, then fear of seeing the camps, sadness when in Barrack 27, and comfort when I saw other people with tears running down their face while hugging each other. I have been to Auschwitz, seen the destruction and loss of innocence, and now I will make sure the lives and stories of the victims are never forgotten." 
- Leah

"Witnessing the contrast between the beauty of Europe and the horrific stories that took place here has been a life changing experience." 
- Ariel 

"Today was a day I'll never forget." 
- Kaleigh

- Euro Israel Journey Central


Euro Israel Journey Central outside of a historic synagogue



Walking through the gates in Auschwitz 1 
"Arbeit Macht Frei" = "Work Shall Set You Free"



Euro Israel Journey Central at the Auschwitz exhibit



London and the English Countryside

Posted on 06/30/2013 @ 05:22 PM

Tags: 2013

After a long, sleepless night of travels across the ocean, we arrived bright and early in London! Everyone was excited as we started our city tour and saw our first sites, Westminster Abbey and the London Bridge!  As we walked across the bridge the group started taking pictures that will soon fill everyone's Facebook pages. The other side of the bridge was the London Tower, filled with the Crown Jewels.

After lunch on our own at the market we were excited to have our first group dinner together, an authentic British fish and chips experience. Exhausted from our first full day, we spent the rest of our night bonding as a group at hotel.  Day one in London and no rain! We were excited to see what the rest of the trip would bring!

Thursday morning started off with a tour of the English countryside en route to Dover. It was great to see the beautiful rolling hills and small towns; a contrast to the double decker buses and the red phone booths of London. We arrived in Dover with a beautiful castle in front of us. Most of the kids agreed it looked exactly like the one in Shrek, just not animated!

We toured the Dover Castle, and the caves that were used during both World Wars.  Looking across the English Channel we could see our next big destination, France. But first we had a big night ahead, the theatre in London. We walked to the theatre to see "Let It Be." The energy, dancing, and singing made it feel as though you were at a live Beatles concert!

Cheers and Shabbat Shalom from London!

- Euro-Quest Western #1


Euro-Quest Western 1 at "Let It Be"



Euro-Quest Western 1 touring London



Hola From Spain!

Posted on 06/27/2013 @ 04:38 PM

Tags: 2013

Hola! We finally made it to Espana! On the plane ride over we made lots of new friends both from our group and people sitting near by. We are continually encouraged to speak spanish by the locals, which is fine with all of us. It's definitely fun trying to communicate with others this way.

Since we landed, we've been exploring Barcelona. We got to experience the Sagrada Familia and Park Guell. In both places we got to see the incredible artwork of Anthony Gaudi. We can't believe the type of work he was able to create. It's amazing how this universal cathedral is still being built hundreds of years later. The park was also really pretty. It gave us a great view of Barcelona and allowed us to relax like a true Spaniard. There was even a giant salamander we took pictures with.

Later on in the day, we got to see an ancient synagogue which is one of the oldest synagogues in the world. It was a small structure that was almost like a basement of a building, but filled with lots of interesting artifacts and history.

At night, we watched dancers perform flamenco. It was so neat to see how fast their feet could move.  Before we ended our night, we put on a short performance of our own to showcase our newly learned flamenco skills. We can't wait to see what else Spain has to offer!

- Remi and Zachary
Euro-Quest Spain 


Euro-Quest Spain in Barcelona



Euro-Quest Spain at a Famous Soccer Stadium



Departure Day!

Posted on 06/25/2013 @ 12:32 PM

Tags: 2013

This week has been the start of our journeys all around the world. We are en route to Prague, Bulgaria, Spain, Costa Rica, Western USA, London & ISRAEL!

As our teens say goodbye to their families and hello to new friends and new places, we wish them safe travels! The summer of a lifetime is here!


Ambassador to Bulgaria heading out!



Euro-Israel Journey Central landing in Europe!



Eco-Quest Costa Rica 1 on their way!


Welcome to Summer 2013!

Posted on 06/24/2013 @ 01:53 PM

Tags: 2013

Welcome to the Summer 2013 BBYO Passport blog! This blog will serve as your insiders’ look to a summer of international Jewish teen travel as experienced by the teens and staff themselves. We’re capturing the action and magic taking place across 17 countries this summer and streaming it straight to you. So recline your seats and keep your tray tables down, we hope you’ll enjoy the journeys ahead…

See the pictures from the road on our SmugMug page.

Thank you for joining us on this journey!


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