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Jewish teens get inspired at BBYO’s East Coast Kallah

Read this story in the Jewish Community Voice

Over 700 Jewish teens gathered in Bethesda, Maryland Mar. 21-23 to join together and celebrate their Judaism. This convention, named East Coast Kallah (ECK), is in its fifth year running, and is open to BBYO members living in New Jersey as well as New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Northern Virginia. Thirty participants from South Jersey Region BBYO attended ECK. This year, the theme was “Hineni: I am here. Where are you?” (“Hineni” is a Hebrew word that involves being “fully in the moment.”) As one of BBYO’s largest events, ECK strives to create a meaningful three-day convention experience where teens can learn about Judaism, meet new people and have a memorable and inspiring experience.

Friday, Mar. 21 began with a rousing Opening Ceremonies featuring Maryland Congressman Chris Van Hollen. At night, all 700-plus teens convened as one body for an uplifting Friday Night Shabbat service. The entire room experienced prayer as a community and how Judaism can feel when it is shared by so many together. Afterward, the convention’s main song leaders, Eric Hunker and Happie Hoffman, led a spirited and fun music session. Later, boys and girls split up for separate, meaningful programming. This started the “rest day” on a refreshing note in order to welcome Shabbat at the convention.

After a restful night’s sleep, Saturday began with several morning service options. Among the selections were a traditional Torah service, Shabbat with meditation, and many other creative and diverse options. In the afternoon, the focus was about learning how to explore Judaism and community service options. Among the available breakout sessions were the Israel Forever Foundation, Jewish Coalition Against Domestic Violence, and AIPAC. These informative sessions about building a better world gave participants a chance to learn and be inspired. That night, the convention body was transported to the Bethesda JCC for BBYO Live!, an energetic presentation that included Rebecca Kantar, the founder of BrightCo; Dr. Rick Hodes, a doctor in Uganda; and Bruce Levenson, owner of the Atlanta Hawks. All three speakers had amazing and inspiring stories that every member in the audience could relate to. The night ended with a dance featuring local artist Trap Messiah.

“East Coast Kallah brought together over 700 enthusiastic Jewish teens whose commitment to Judaism has secured the future of the Jewish people. I met so many people from different states who have the same drive as I do, and that fact makes me proud to be Jewish,” said Michael Rosenthal, a junior at Eastern High School.

East Coast Kallah 2014 achieved its central goal of asking teens to be “Hineni.” It allowed all BBYO members to connect with one another while immersing themselves in meaningful, Jewish experiences. .

Jessica Sklar is mazkirah for the South Jersey Region (SJR) BBYO. Together with Jordan Gomer, she handles communications for SJR BBYO.

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