Abbreviated Life Story: Jewish Identity Edition

February 9, 2021
Samantha Sternberg

Los Angeles, California, USA

Class of 2022

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From 'Mommy and me' through 6th grade, I attended a small Jewish day school. I had been born and raised in a Jewish bubble and thought being Jewish and only knowing Jewish people was the norm. When I graduated from elementary school and transitioned into middle school, I chose to leave the cycle of Jewish education. To some, this may seem like I popped my bubble; however, for me, it was a motion of expanding my bubble. I met kids from all nationalities, area codes, ethnicities, races, and religions. My eyes were opened to a new world. I took this opportunity to educate myself and explore both the differences and similarities between myself and my peers.

Soon after starting middle school, I had my Bat Mitzvah. For most kids from my elementary school, their B'nai Mitzvah was a last hurrah, but for me, it was not the end of my Jewish education. I still felt a need to continue strengthening my Jewish identity and I missed belonging to a solely Jewish community. My temple, formerly a part of B'nai Brith, held its own youth group, but that community felt too familiar and simply lacked engagement and fun. 

I had remembered my mom sometimes mentioning a fun youth group she did as a teen called BBYO. I wondered to myself, bring your own what?! It turns out that not only was my mom in BBYO in the past, but my next-door neighbor was a member of the present. I went to one event at my neighbor's house and thought, Woah, this is so the place for me. More than anything, I wanted to start going to weekly meetings; however, my competitive cheer practice was the same day and time as chapter meetings. Regardless, I continued to stay as involved as I could and even signed up for Winter Convention without ever going to a chapter meeting! I instantly felt comfortable and connected to those in Pacific Western Region.

Fast forward to the start of quarantine: cheer practices soon switched to a virtual setting, which allowed me to attend chapter meetings! Everything perfectly fell into place, and, as cliché as it sounds, it was "meant to be." I soon got more involved in my chapter and even ran for Morah after a couple of months. I loved holding the position of Morah, as it allowed me to introduce more teens from my Jewish day school and other places to BBYO. Now, nearly 30 years after my mom held the gavel, I am my chapter’s N'siah and have officially changed chapter meetings to Wednesdays so I can do both cheer and BBYO! Being N'siah has been a dream so far, and Kochavim BBG has such a promising future in Pacific Western Region and the International Order.

BBYO revived the feeling of belonging and allowed me to be a part of a Jewish community once again. BBYO has given me more than I could ever give back. I am forever thankful for the friendships I have formed, the experiences I have had, and the memories I have made.

Thank you, BBYO, for expanding my small Los Angeles bubble to the entire world while still keeping that close-knit, home-like feeling.

Samantha Sternberg is a BBG from Pacific Western Region, and she can do a backflip!

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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