B’nai B’rith Youth Organization forges bonds between Jewish teens

Freshmen Zoe Hirshfield and Lindsay Frankfort connected with other Jewish teenagers at the Lonestar MIT/AIT Convention.

Rachel Levine

Freshmen Zoe Hirshfield and Lindsay Frankfort connected with other Jewish teenagers at the Lonestar MIT/AIT Convention.

Megan Chang, Staff Writer

At Havdalah, a Jewish ceremony marking the end of the Sabbath, teenagers sang, prayed and bonded over the great memories that had occurred on the Lonestar MIT/AIT Convention.

Nearly 230 Jewish teenagers from the Lonestar Region of Texas travelled to Camp Olympia in Trinity, Texas, from Oct. 26 through 28 for the Lonestar Members in Training (MIT) and the Alephs in Training (AIT) Convention. Members in Training are the female Jewish freshmen while the Alephs in Training are male Jewish freshmen. Juniors and seniors on the Regional Board of B’nai B’rith Youth Organization had planned this retreat with limited assistance and guidance from administrators.

Aspiring to connect Jewish teenagers and immerse them into the culture with various experiences, BBYO helps Jewish teenagers get out of their comfort zone while establishing a sense of community with other Jewish teens. Freshman Lindsay Frankfort says that she enjoys the connectivity that BBYO brings by hosting different services that accomodate all types of Judaism, such as reform or conservative.

“[BBYO] makes everyone feel whole because [everyone] is Jewish and going through the same things,” Frankfort said. “[Everyone] is in high school. It’s just a special bond you can’t get anywhere else.”

The freshmen participated in bonding activities and Jewish traditions while the leaders helped facilitate their transition into BBYO. The leaders on the Regional Board hosted religious services, hypnotist shows and relay races, along with a costume dance, which freshman Zoe Hirshfeld and senior Lauren Schwartz say was the most memorable moment on the trip. Both girls believe that the dance allowed them to meet and bond with other Jewish teenagers from around the Lonestar region.

“My BBYO friends are very separate from my school friends,” Schwartz said, “but BBYO has given me another community to have, and it’s really nice.”

Although some freshmen might have felt apprehensive about completely immersing themselves in a new environment and culture, BBYO aids in this transition. Before attending the retreat, Frankfort was extremely nervous and worried that she would not know anyone there.

Upon arriving at the retreat, both freshmen believed that all of the older high school students who attended this retreat when they were freshmen were welcoming and created a relaxing atmosphere.

“Being Jewish is so much more than just fasting on Yom Kippur or celebrating Hanukkah,” Hirshfeld said. “It’s about connection and being a mensch, which is a Yiddish word [that means to be] a good person.”

In addition to having the opportunity to meet Jewish teenagers from Houston, San Antonio and Austin, Hirshfeld and Frankfort value the lessons and values they learned from this experience.

“I really found out why I’m Jewish, and it’s not necessarily for the religious purposes but because of the connections I can make with other Jews,” Frankfort said. “[What I gained the most] was less about my Jewish identity but [actually realizing that] I could express my Jewish identity through other Jewish teens — [bonding] helped me gain perspective, and I can’t wait to continue that in the future years in BBYO.”