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BBYO Camp Offers Teens a Chance for In-Depth Exploration of Judaism

Read this story in the Jewish Community Voice

BBYO offers a myriad of summer programs designed to shape Jewish teens into better, more fulfilled leaders who will positively impact their Jewish communities at home and beyond. For three weeks this summer, I attended a BBYO program called Kallah, located at B’nai B’rith Perlman Camp in Lake Como, Pa.

The purpose of Kallah is to “explore your Jewish identity”; essentially, to learn as much as possible about Judaism’s various denominations and practices, to participate in many areas of Jewish life and tradition, and to find your place in the wide world of Judaism. To accomplish this, Kallah provided participants with a wide array of rabbis and Jewish educators. We took classes on a multitude of fascinating topics including Israel, holiday traditions, Jewish ethics, marriage and relationships, nature and spirituality, and more. Both in and outside of these classes, Kallah provoked many thoughtful discussions that helped participants challenge and affirm their beliefs. Participants were able to choose which classes to take and were also able to pick from a variety of how-to sessions and electives based on their personal interests. In addition to education and discussion, we participated in a wide range of activities including art, singing, dancing, Jewish cooking, swimming, ropes course, blog writing, and many more.

Kallah also provided the unique opportunity to connect with Jewish teens from around the country and the world. From South Jersey to LA and everywhere in between, teens from across the country were represented. Kallah also welcomed teens and staff members from Bulgaria, Ukraine, Slovakia, Argentina, Canada, and Israel. Every denomination of Judaism had a voice. We also had the ability to meet with strictly Orthodox teens from the nearby Camp Morasha, which gave the BBYO teens a fascinating insight into what Orthodox life is like, and vice versa.

At Kallah, Jewish rituals were practiced in a way that made them engaging and enjoyable. Every Shabbat, services were participant-led, which gave an opportunity for leadership as well as a fun and laidback atmosphere. We sang, danced, relaxed, and appreciated our day of rest together. On the final Shabbat morning, several participants who never officially became B’nai Mitzvah were given the opportunity to do so, which was a powerful experience for them and for all of us who were able to see them embrace Jewish adulthood. For me, the best parts of Kallah were the Havdallah services. We sang the prayers in one big circle around a huge tree strung with lights, a famous symbol of Perlman Camp, swaying and welcoming the new week together. This was followed by singing, bonfires, and a general feeling of happiness and community.

Between all the information I gathered, the new connections I made, the insight of rabbis and educators from across the Jewish community, and the emphasis on always asking questions, Kallah changed my outlook on the Jewish world. I have been inspired to continue learning on my own and to remain involved in the Jewish community after my time in BBYO ends, throughout college and beyond. BBYO has reaffirmed my love for Judaism and has made me incredibly proud to be a Jew.

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