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Teens Choose Jewish Summers

Ari Goldman - Program: ILTC. Affiliation: BBYO

This summer I attended BBYO's Summer Experiences: ILTC. This is a three-week camp in the mountains of Pennsylvania designed to develop leadership skills and help Jewish teens like myself find our Jewish identities.

It was difficult terrain, mediocre food, cold, wet and absolutely incredible. There, among 250 other Jewish teens that I am proud to call my family, I discovered what it meant to be culturally Jewish. I learned that my identity is mine to choose. I was not taught how to be Jewish, but rather taught how to explore the idea of Judaism in my own way. My Judaism, much like my experience at ILTC, is what I make of it. I am proud of my Jewish faith because it is simultaneously individual to me, and shared among millions of others like me.

So how was camp this summer? I guess you could say it was pretty good.

Leah Cooper - Program: BBYO Passport ILSI. Affiliation: BBYO

Never in my life have I been excited to wake up at five in the morning. I mean, who would be? It's early, cold, and requires copious amounts of coffee to handle well. But the three times I woke up at that hour in Israel led to some of my most meaningful days.

The first was when my best friend, Jordan, and I snuck out of our hotel to watch the sunrise in Jerusalem, the second was to climb Masada before it got hot (luckily our next stop was the Dead Sea), and the final morning was spent praying and advocating with the Women of The Wall for equal rights.

The International Leadership Seminar in Israel (ILSI) is the pinnacle summer program for teens in BBYO. Since freshman year I have done all the stops: CLTC, ILTC, and Kallah. I learned about leadership and discovered my own Jewish identity during these programs. But ILSI was something different. Waking up at five to see nothing but fog in the sky with Jordan, climbing Masada on a record hot morning, and being hit with sheckles from protesters (that we later donated to tzedakah) were all experiences I would have never had on my own.

Though small, these tiny moments added up to create the most amazing Jewish summer I could have ever imagined!

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