How did you spend your four years of high school? Was it participating in a sport? Joining a club you're passionate about? Landing the lead role in the spring musical? Whatever that may be, you enjoyed those memories made. For me, my favorite extra curricular that took up most of my time during my four years outside of high school was BBYO: B’nai B’rith Youth Organization.
BBYO is a pluristic teen-led organization for Jewish teens in the grades 8th-12th. My journey began during the 2015-2016 school year, my freshman year.
My best friend invited me to come with her to this bowling alley event in our area, sponsored by the Philly BBYO region. I was a bit reluctant at first, thinking everyone was going to be unfriendly and extremely cliquey. However, my expectations did not meet reality. I was greeted with open arms from two regional directors and the president of the region. Later that night, I met some of my friends who really impacted my decision of signing up. After a bit of convincing, I was sold that night, signed up and became an official member.
Throughout those four years, I would attend chapter dinners, programming and sisterhood sleepovers in my chapter (based on location) Chalom BBG #3354. This is where I met some of my best friends and deepened my connections with my Jewish faith.
It was not until the end of my sophomore year I ran for our chapter board and was elected to be the 27th Morah (Vice President of Membership). Serving as this position strengthened my leadership skills. It also taught me to reach out to unfamiliar strangers to promote the organization I fell in love with two years ago. By the end of the programming year, I had recruited 17 girls into our chapter. I decided that I wanted to continue serving as this position, so I ran again for chapter board, and with my luck, I was re-elected as the 28th Morah. Now it’s my senior year and I'm finished with this organization.
Outside my chapter, I attended events and conventions in my region, as well as becoming friends with people outside my chapter. In addition, on the international level, I attended the international convention (held in Orlando 2018 and Denver 2019) where I met all my international best friends from around the globe and whom I still keep in touch with to this day.
This organization has given me so many friendships, many memories to dwell on, as well as leadership skills useful for the real world. When the time came to apply to colleges during my senior year, I knew I wanted to participate in a Jewish-affiliated club on campus. That’s when I heard about Hille, a well-recognized Jewish organization on college campuses worldwide.
The group would hold daily Shabbat events Friday nights and held high holiday activities throughout the months. I was very intrigued by what this organization had offered. When deciding what college I would attend, I had spoken to each of the colleges' Hillel to be more informed on what they had to offer as well as how often they hold events. Each of the colleges I was accepted to were all extraordinary, but when it came to Hofstra University, I felt an instant connection with the Rabbi, who told me how active the Hillel is as well as there being a huge population of college students who took part in BBYO/USY/NFTY. I knew instantly I would fit in perfectly, since I was a part of one of those organizations. I made up my mind a few weeks later and chose to attend Hofstra Univeristy, for their strong academic offerings in addition to their awesome Hillel.
Never would I have thought that joining BBYO would have shaped me into the Jewish woman I am today, or even would have helped me make a decision on a college I would attend for the next four years based partly on their Hillel. My advice to incoming college freshman (like myself) or any high school sophomores, juniors , or even seniors, that whether you were a part of a Jewish organziation, wanted to join one but were too busy, or never was apart of one, it is never too late to get involved on your campus's Hillel. Hillel is open to all Jewish backgrounds, there is no restriction on whether you were actively involved in a Jewish youth group or not during high school. Also, Hillel can help you deeply connect with your Judaism as well as lead to meeting some of your future best friends. I hope that participating in Hillel at Hofstra in the upcoming school year will do just that for me.
Lead Image Credit: Rachel Saferstein