BBYO Kallah provides support for Jewish spiritual journey
October 27, 2010
As a Jewish teenager, I worry about school, extracurricular activities, homework, walking the dog, and of course, sleep. During the summer, I have no worries (well, I still walk the dog). This summer, instead of sleeping till noon and staying up until 2 a.m., I chose to discover my Jewish identity.
I attended Kallah 2010, an international summer experience offered by BBYO held for 19 days at Camp Perlman in Starlight, Pa.
To prepare myself for Kallah, I did a lot of thinking about who I was and what kind of Jew I recognized myself as. Yet going to Kallah, I was still very confused. I had had a bar mitzvah and was raised Conservative, but I couldn't be sure that was what I wanted. Walking into Camp Perlman on the first day, I was anxious to get started on our spiritual journey.
That spiritual journey anxiety ended when I was awakened at 7:15 a.m. to prepare for morning services by some guy from Ohio. Was I really the kind of Jew that woke up so early to pray? Did I really want to start my day with prayers I didn't understand? These questions swirled around in my head. I couldn't make any sense of them. I was scared for what I had gotten myself into.
By, after getting used to waking up so early, the "interesting" camp food and taking cold showers, I completely forgot about my spiritual journey. Instead, I learned about different Judaic cultures, Jewish traditions, the Holocaust and even some Israeli dancing. I took classes with incredible educators about Jewish philosophy and Jewish heritage. By the halfway point of the program, I hadn't thought about what kind of Jew I was. I prayed every morning before breakfast, prayed every afternoon before dinner and said prayers before and after all meals.
Throughout my time at Kallah, I experienced so much. I met three kids from Israel and a boy from Bulgaria who told me all about their lives. I was amazed by the adventure these teens had taken to attend our program.
I also joined the Kallah-capella, an a capella singing group. I love to sing and joining this group allowed me to release any stress from my day out through song. We sounded very good and were all excited about the success of our group.
During the last four days, everything clicked. I was given the opportunity to make my own tallis. I tie-dyed my fabric and even learned how to tie tzizit. Wearing my tallis was amazing. I had created this sacred Jewish symbol with my very own two hands. We also were given a siddur of our choice to take home. I chose the Orthodox prayer book because I felt that reading from it was very cool.
While prayer from my very own prayer book and wearing my handmade tallis, I realized who I was. I was Jewish. It didn't matter what type. It didn't matter how much I prayer; I had made a spiritual journey during those 19 days that would stick with me forever. I did stay Conservative, however.
On the final day, we out together a show called Cafe Kallah. Many acts performed as well as my singing group. The show lasted until 2:30 a.m. and was the perfect way to end such an amazing few weeks.
Kallah was easily the highlight of my summer. I would recommend for anybody to attend. After I returned home, my worries came back. Sleep, dog and school. But this time, I could tackle them with a new force inside of me; a new force I could definitely get used to.