My Year of International Connections

November 19, 2021
Dina Shlufman

Tenafly, New Jersey, United States

Class of 2023

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At 4 am I jerk myself awake after a bad dream. I reach for my phone to find 100+ WhatsApp messages, most of which are not in English. “Guys, guess what I just dreamed about!”

I joined BBYO during my freshman year, right before the pandemic, and began the summer of 2020 having never seen anyone from the organization in-person. On a whim, I signed up for BBYO on Demand’s virtual Ambassadors to Latin America program and was instantly greeted with the most welcoming, fun, and engaging atmosphere I had ever experienced. While the program itself was unforgettable, the friends I made were the catalyst for my hyper involvement in BBYO. The teens I met from Latin America became my absolute best friends, and I’ve never even really met them! I was even able to attend one of their virtual chapter meetings. We have shared our culture, language, and Judaic practices with each other. But, more than that, they provided me with a connection to the outside world, even while we were all stuck inside.

After this program, I knew that I needed to find more ways to connect with BBYO’s global community. At IC 2021, I was given the opportunity to meet even more global teens. One of these teens from Argentina and I became so close that she sent me a box of Argentinian candies, along with a friendship bracelet for my birthday. I am also so thankful for the new perspectives of the world that they’ve given me. During the recent violence in Israel in May, one of my IC roommates from Israel introduced me to other teens from Maccabi Tzair. They were able to give me first-hand accounts of the situation as they were experiencing it and gave me the information necessary to educate my friends and classmates on the topic.

In one final attempt to soak up drops of our BBYO community for the year, I signed up for BBYO’s first in-person Movement Makers Summer Experience. Throughout those 12 days, I met incredible teens and madrichim from all around the order. We were able to grow and build upon our leadership skills together. One event we did that particularly stuck with me was in Kivun (which means direction in Hebrew), our leadership seminar. We were each tasked with drawing a map of our own town in order to locate potential places to hold chapter and regional events. I loved watching everyone describe where they lived and what teens like and do for fun in different places around the world. It opened my eyes to the beautiful diversity within our organization.

These experiences bring me back to the proverb, “Kol Yisrael Arevim Zeh Lazeh” (כל ישראל ערבים זה לזה), which roughly translates to “All of Israel is Responsible for One Another.” Jews make up less than 0.2% of the world population and it is crucial that we stand united. BBYO has fostered such an accepting environment by providing a home for every teen, whether they live in Israel or within the diaspora. I hope that in the future, I am able to form more connections with global Jewry.

Dina Shlufman is a BBG from GJHRR: Northern and she loves to write.

All views expressed on content written for The Shofar represent the opinions and thoughts of the individual authors. The author biography represents the author at the time in which they were in BBYO.

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