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New members, new board, lifelong memories at Spring Thing 2015

Read this story in Jewish Community Voice.

On May 2, over 100 teens from the South Jersey Region of BBYO set off for the final convention of the year: Spring Thing. The Aleph Zadik Alephs and B’nai B’rith Girls spent almost two hours on a bus, anxiously waiting to arrive at Camp Saginaw in Oxford, Pennsylvania. After pulling up to the campsite, the teens retrieved their luggage and headed down to their cabins. As the day progressed, it became time for Shabbat. The girls and boys split off to return to their bunks and got dressed up for a musical Shabbat service lead by guest Eric Hunker and member Samantha Waldman. The service was followed by games like Ultimate Four Square and Freeze Dance, giving the members time to socialize with one another.

The next morning, the AZAs and BBGs were given options of attending alternative Shabbat services, rather than going to a more traditional service. Although a typical service like the ones we attend weekly was one of the choices, there was also a musical service and a nature Shabbat service, as well.

“I went to be with the kids in the song group,” said Justin Brownstein, a freshman from Princeton BBYO, “…and although it [the service] wasn’t traditional, I felt it was a little bit more personal.”

After the services finished, the teens separated and attended electives they had signed up for the previous day. “Jewish Fishbowl” (games involving Judaic themes), “The ‘F’ Word” (a discussion about feminism), and “BBYO Debate,” were just a few of the options available to the members. Anna Fleisher of Ohev BBG commented that her favorite elective was the Israel Defense Forces because it gave her “great insight on all the different kinds of programs that they have, not only in the United States, but also in Israel.” The day continued with chofesh, an extended free time for the teens to walk around the camp, socialize with their friends, and participate in different activities and sports like singing and ultimate Frisbee.

Next came “Meet the Candidates,” where the boys and girls divided to meet the different applicants for regional board. The nominees introduced themselves and gave out their platforms, allowing each voter to carefully read over the candidate’s goals and ideas. Each chapter received time to interrogate the candidate, asking imperative questions about their relevant experience and their plans for their individual chapters.

Later, after dinner, Eric Hunker, Samantha Waldman, and Melissa Weinstein led a Havdallah service and song circle around a bonfire. Morgan Fisher, a member of Dafna BBG, described the bonfire: “It was amazing because it was with all of [my] friends…and it reminded me how lucky [I am] to have BBYO…”

The BBGs and AZAs then split off for the next four hours for the senior members to give “Life,” where the seniors give all of their BBYO merchandise, chapter memorabilia, etc. to younger girls and boys.

Finally, and arguably the most important part of Spring Thing, Election Day came. Elections are very different between the AZAs and BBGs; the girls are given one vote per person, allowing each female member to have a say in who wins a position on the South Jersey Region’s board. In AZA, however, each chapter has five votes, rather than individual Alephs voting. After many hours of deliberation and discussion, the teens came to a consensus and voted for which candidate they felt represented each board position appropriately. In the end, Sam Eigen and Charlotte Nordeen won regional presidents, Marlena Penn and Andrew Quigley won for regional vice presidents in charge of programming, Ben Berk and Dara Molotsky won regional vice presidents in charge of recruitment, Samantha Waldman and Josh Chazin won for vice presidents in charge of Judaism and community service, and Ben Curwin and Bonnie Doogan won regional secretaries, respectively. After elections concluded, the teens packed up their bags and reluctantly made their way to the buses home, realizing that the final SJR BBYO convention of the term had come to a close.

“BBYO has made me a much more confident person,” said Marisa Camacho, a departing senior, “and [what I’m going to miss most are] the experience and opportunities that came with it.” .

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