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A Teen's Spiritual Perspective

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She's gaining a 'global perspective' through B'nai B'rith Youth Organization

by Allison Van Wye Special to WJW

The alarm sounded, and I quickly jumped out of bed. Six in the morning had snuck up on me faster than I had anticipated, and suddenly I was thrown into the chaos of teachers, textbooks, schedules and everything else encompassed in the first day of school. I sat in homeroom that first day, my heart and head aching, as I dreamed of hiking in Israel and praying in a synagogue in Bulgaria as I had done during my long summer days. I tuned in to my principal, who was discussing over the intercom all the opportunities this new school year could bring, giving me much cause to think.

I began to think of what the New Year meant, for me and for everyone around me. I thought of the approaching Jewish holidays, the pending arrival of cool, crisp air, procuring apples from my favorite local market, and the special look of fine china on the table, all symbols that I automatically associate with this time of year. I thought about the holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, occasions I historically look forward to, which allow me to spend time with my loved ones and to take a step back from the daily, hectic life of a teenager and reflect on the past year and the year to come.

However, this year holds a different significance than in the past. Yes, I will still pass time at grandma's house with all of my cousins, eat my mom's same delicious apple cake, and use the same hand-drawn challah cover I made as a toddler. Nevertheless, the difference is that this year will not be all about me. This year, I have the power to affect teens like myself across the globe through serving as international sh'licha (vice president of social action, community service and Judaism) on the International Teen Executive Board of BBYO. This position allows me to work with nearly 30,000 of my peers to make an impact on the world around us through BBYO's programs such as Stand UP for Each Other, an anti-bullying campaign; Speak UP, an Israel advocacy campaign; and BBYO Shabbat, bringing thousands of families from around the globe together for a simultaneous Shabbat experience. This year, I have both a responsibility and an opportunity to make the High Holidays more meaningful than ever for Jewish teens everywhere and it is a charge I take very seriously.

Reflection is a key aspect of the High Holidays, reminding us of both our personal history and future, as well as that of our people's. We must remember what has happened in order to look clearly into the future. In order to assist teens in this reflection process, BBYO is participating in the 10Q program, a reflective tool created by the organization Reboot. The 10Q program allows users to go online and answer a series of questions throughout the 10 days in between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The 10Q program asks for personal reflection, with the first five questions concerning the year past and the last five regarding the upcoming year. Once the user has completed all 10 questions, the answers are saved in an online database. Then, a year later, the user receives their answers from the prior year so they may accurately reflect on the past year, followed by completing 10 questions once again for the next year. Participation in this program will be highly promoted in the BBYO community, as will the idea of reflection as the High Holidays draw near.

For me personally, this time of year represents an opportunity for a fresh start. It signifies a chance to strive to be the type of person I wish to be. As I begin to consider my plans for the upcoming years after high school, I see these holidays as a chance to celebrate my heritage, my family, and the joint power I have with my peers to live our lives in the best possible way.

Allison Van Wye is on the International Teen Executive Board of BBYO.

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