After two and a half years of BBYO Australia as a whole coming together virtually, our two chapters, BBYO Sydney and BBYO Melbourne, accompanied by keen teens from other cities around Australia, were finally able to be together in person!
My chapter, BBYO Sydney, was founded in early 2020, two years after BBYO Melbourne, and our chapter has always loved being able to learn from our siblings down in Melbourne. To finally be in a room all together celebrating the last Shabbat of the Jewish year was incredible.
Although the Sydney teens had to wake up at the crack of dawn to get to the airport and arrive in Melbourne on time, from the moment we stepped into the UJEB building we felt at home. We felt the ruach of the whole group coming together. The sound of the whole group screaming the lyrics to the songs that brought us together and the sight of everyone dancing was incredible.
The weekend was jam packed with activities but every single moment was amazing. We started the weekend with super fun icebreakers that encouraged all of us to get to know each other a bit better and learn a bit more about each other. This was followed by Shabbat activities, which allowed us to choose what we wanted to do to make sure that we as a group were ready for Shabbat. From Challah baking, Shabbat decorating, and the iconic Shabbat plays to my personal favourites of IC Shuk merch designing and Shabbatograms (letters that you could write to friends, which were put on their place at their tables at Shabbat lunch), everyone had a blast and worked together to ensure that we had the best Shabbat ever. We continued the day with an incredible program run by the BBYO Melbourne board about the power of teens in today's world!
Then it was time to get ready for Shabbat and we started off with a Shabbaton favourite of Shabbat photos. Kabbalat Shabbat was everything that we could have asked for, sitting in a circle with everyone singing and sharing what Shabbat means to them was very moving. I personally loved singing Hinei Ma Tov, specifically after the mods explained that this song was about how amazing it is to be with all your brothers, sisters, and siblings, something that could not have been more appropriate. We continued the night with a lovely Shabbat dinner filled with iconic Australian chants and songs. For me, a personal highlight of the convention was walking into dinner to find a placemat with a special message for each of us from other BBYO teens all over the world. After dinner, we had a super interesting program about the development and creation of Israel, getting taken through a ‘museum’ of the different parts of Israeli history. This was followed by Shabbat board games, where I watched multiple games of shesh besh and a particularly intense game of Articulate that may or may not have lasted till 1am.
After very little sleep, we all could not have been more excited for the day ahead on Saturday. We started off the day by splitting into smaller groups and going to different shuls around Melbourne. I was put into the group that went to the Sephardi shul and had the awesome opportunity of experiencing a Sephardi shul service, something very different to my regular. After the service we were all able to go downstairs and see the Torah more closely, while being told about the differences between Sephardi and Askenazi shuls. This was an amazing opportunity to experience something out of my ordinary and has made me even more passionate about pluralism in our community. Then we returned to the centre to have lunch. We were given the option to stay at the centre and take part in a program or leave and spend time with family and friends for a couple hours. I decided to stay at the centre, where we had an awesome program about our identity and the relationship between our identity and the high holy day period. After everyone returned from their activities offsite, we all had a lovely Seudah Shlishit where we sat around singing songs and eating an Australian classic, fairy bread. For those who don’t know, fairy bread is a classic Australian party food where butter is spread on bread and then dipped in a bowl of hundreds and thousands. As we were coming to the end of our Shabbaton, we were given some time before dinner to pack up and get ready to leave after our night activity. We then had dinner which was followed by the moving service of Havdalah. There is nothing quite like Havdalah with a group of teens who are all singing and swaying together welcoming in the new week, and in this case, getting ready for the new year. Finally, to close our incredible weekend we went on an excursion roller blading! This was a super fun opportunity for me to learn a new skill and have fun with my new friends before we had to say goodbye. Although goodbyes are always bitter sweet, this one was filled with hugging and sharing social medias with everyone. We were all super excited to stay in contact and come together again soon. After another night spent in Melbourne at a friend's house, the interstate kids were taken back to the airport to return home and get ready for Rosh Hashanah.
Although short, BBYO Australia’s first ever National weekend was an incredible experience filled with fun and truly meaningful experiences. We all made so many new friends and got to experience how special it is to celebrate Shabbat altogether. We are all super excited for the numerous national conventions that are yet to come!
Ruby Borer is a BBG living in Sydney, Australia who has a dog named Marshmello.
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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