When I stepped off the plane in Newark on Tuesday, June 7, I didn't know what to expect. Of the more than seventy people that I would be spending the next twelve days with, I knew one person. Walking to baggage claim 1, I was starting to wonder if this summer was going to be as fun as everyone had said it would be. As soon as I checked in and got my name tag, three people from Atlanta walked up to me and introduced themselves. When we got on the bus, we sat down and started playing cards. Being with them made the three-hour bus ride feel like thirty minutes. We got off the bus and ran through the rain to the gym.
When we woke up in the morning, everyone was excited to get started with the day. We started off by working on our leadership skills to bring back to our chapters. In the afternoon, we played basketball and went swimming. But, the part that brought the CLTC community together wasn't what we did during the programming, but instead what went on during free time. It was during the walks to meals and while we were hanging out before bed, that I really saw the bond of the BBYO community. While at camp, I met Jewish teens from Florida to California, who I will be able to reunite with when I go to college.
Throughout the time that I was at CLTC, we bonded through Maccabia, song sessions, sports, Jewish enrichment, and so much more. We were able to experience camp through a BBYO lens, and we were able to learn how to make our chapters and regions the best that they can be. When I left, I felt like a completely different person. I had stepped out of my comfort zone, and I couldn't be happier. I made lifelong friends at CLTC, and am excited to make many more during the time that I have left in BBYO.
Being able to spend twelve days learning about Jewish communities in other cities has given me the ability to give me an idea of how I want my chapter to look, and what I want to leave behind for the next group of leaders. I still talk to the people from CLTC every day and I am planning on visiting them this year. The connection to the Jewish teen community that BBYO has given me has played a major part in my life, and being able to go on a summer experience has shown me how BBYO connects people from around the world solely because they are Jewish teens.
About the Author: Joshua is a Member of BJBE in Deerfield and is a rising Junior at Highland Park High School. He is the S'gan of his BBYO chapter, Shabak AZA, and co-president of his synagogue's youth group. He is also a Diller Teen Fellow and plays lacrosse for Highland Park High School. He also is a song leader at his synagogue.
Interested in getting involved with BBYO? Learn more about the Great Midwest Region (GMR), which spans accross Illinois, here!