AZA: The Power of a Separates

November 4, 2022
Reid Kaplan

Atlanta, Georgia, United States

Class of 2024

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Aleph Zadik, Aleph Zadik Aleph, thump thump. Aleph Zadik, Aleph Zadik Aleph, thump thump… I remember my very first AZA separates quite vividly. The memory of that night still burns bright in the back of my mind: we were walking along the parking lot of the Atlanta Jewish Community Center in a single-file line of Jewish friends, acquaintances, and strangers, all with cloth masks over our faces, losing breath while we chanted and beat our chests to this almost incomprehensible rhythm. 

After a few minutes, we arrived at the soccer fields, where we circled up around a tarp with the letters A, Z, and A written in the center, surrounded on all sides by little LED candles. Then, the guys in the center began to walk in circles around the tarp, giving a surprisingly powerful spiel about life stressors, how they manifest and impact all of us. When the spiel was over, the upperclassmen set out five colors of paint, each representing a different type of stressor– blue for school, red for family, yellow for sports, green for friends, and purple for future. Following this moment, they told us to splatter the tarp in whichever color stressors we had been wrestling with recently; so we all stood up and splattered the tarp with paint. When I stood back, I took a good look at the tarp, and realized everyone in the circle had something in common; each and every one of us was struggling with stress in our life and in this moment we were not afraid to say it. 

Although I came and left that convention with minimal knowledge of what BBYO was, those twenty-five minutes– from pounding my chest to painting a tarp with stress–resonated with me forever. From then on, separates would be my favorite part of AZA and BBYO, and still is to this day. But at that point, early 2021 during one of COVID’s highest peaks, I had a lot to learn about what AZA truly means. Fortunately, the countless separates which I’ve attended have helped me find out:

  • At my CLTC separates, our madrichim told us about their BBYO stories about the special friendships and bonds they made from their unique experiences as a community.  Unfortunately, they were now BBYO alumni, thus their time as an AZA had come to an end. However, I still had a long journey ahead of me, with enough time to make more of these brotherly connections just as they did, and I couldn’t have been more excited for the journey ahead.
  • Less than a year later, I flew to Baltimore for International Convention. One night, I attended a separates revolving around the topic of acceptance. The leaders handed each Aleph a slip of paper with a widely known poem among AZA titled, “No Man is an Island.” These words provide the definition for brotherhood and have encouraged me to go out of my way for acceptance.
  • At my chapter convention this past spring, my board and I decided to write our own separates about new beginnings. We informed my whole chapter about the importance of being an active member in BBYO and the values of AZA.

To me, AZA is a brotherhood, nothing more, nothing less. Each of us all have something in common with other Alephs, whether it be life stress or desire for acceptance, although these worries seem to dissipate when around them. We are all united under one brotherhood, one home, one heartbeat. No matter where we are in the world, or whether our BBYO journey has ended or not, this connection will last forever. 

Reid Kaplan is an Aleph living in Dunwoody, GA with a great passion for BBYO, and is always willing to learn more about this organization!

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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