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Not "the most Jewish" of programs...

Posted on 07/19/2013 @ 12:19 PM

Whenever I mentioned to a BBYO colleague that I would be teaching at Kallah this summer, I was met with the same response almost every time. First they would say something like “KALLAH IS AMAZING”, and then they would say something like, “It’s the most Jewish thing BBYO does.” After two days on the job, I’m happy to tell you that the first sentiment is 100% correct. I regret to inform you the second is dead wrong.

Kallah IS amazing. An intentional community of more than 150 Jewish teenagers dedicating part of their summer vacations to explore Jewish heritage in a high-energy, safe, and fun camp environment is a tested formula for success. Even when I was growing up in the late 90’s in an AZA chapter that had no connection to international programs, there was still buzz about Kallah and its transformative power.

But it’s not because Kallah is the ‘most Jewish’ thing we do. How is Kallah any more Jewish than the IMPACT programs?? Service learning is so Jewish! ILSI is happening in the birthplace of the Jewish people! This is the same misnomer people use when describing religious/observant people as “more” or “super” Jewish. Judaism is not like athleticism, where if you practice or train more, you are more associated with the activity. Being Jewish is an inalienable identity that does not increase with more learning or observance, or decrease with less. It is like a cup that always remains full. Kallah is unique over other summer programs, not because it emphasizes Jewish content, but because it creates the environment where an ongoing, sustained, and enriched conversation about the role of Judaism in our teens lives can happen organically.

Today, nine teenagers stood in a circle with me in a very warm classroom as we learned a new and meditative tune to the Shabbat song Shalom Aleichem. We stood there, fully intent, mouths wide, and shoulders back, singing and listening to each other, with nowhere else to go for an hour and half. We recorded it for you, just so you could know how amazing it was.

Shalom alechem malachei ha’sharet malachei elyon, mi’melech malchei ha’melachim Ha’Kadosh Baruch Hu.

Peace to you attending angels, Messengers of the Most High The supreme Ruler, The Holy Blessed One

This Shabbat message was written by Rabbi Zac Johnson, DJE for the Western States Hub from Starlight, PA

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