In the heart of the East Coast lies a region comprised of a diverse community of people who are spread across 4 vastly different states. From Augusta's small chapters to Charlotte's ever-so-large chapters, the Eastern Region has so much to offer. And with such a rich history, there is so much to discover.
Eastern Region welcomes members from all over North and South Carolina, Augusta, and Savannah, Georgia, as well as Virginia Beach, Richmond, and other smaller parts of Virginia. Like many other regions, we have revived many chapters throughout the years to increase our outreach across our states into areas with little to no chapters. Some of our biggest focuses in the Eastern Region are on our small chapters. Our council Morim and chapter liaisons strive to create programs that have a pull factor that they can’t get anywhere else. However, this may not always be the case. As a region, we have changed and evolved our ways throughout history. Sometimes, our chapters struggle to gain members or have consistent programming. So to counteract this, we must figure out a way to combat this with the help of our regional board.
At our most recent regional convention in 2022, we voted on legislation to disband the council boards and create a single regional board. Within this legislation, we have added a Mekasher and Mekasheret position who are focused on our small chapters and communities. This way, we can guarantee that we can dedicate more part of our regional board’s attention to the very chapters that build us.
As a way to rewind and reflect on Eastern’s old regional board structure, I reached out to some former members of Eastern Region—Jordan Jaffie, Josh Baylor, Nicole Berger, and David Stark—to hear about their experiences. I asked them each the same questions, but their responses varied widely. This is what they had to say.
The first question asked them was a simple yet thought-provoking question. I asked them what the biggest thing they took away from BBYO was, especially from a uniquely structured region such as Eastern. Jordan and Nicole both mentioned the friends they made in BBYO. Jordan, who hailed from Southeast council, said that Southeast council’s smaller size allowed her to really connect with the people that she met. Southeast council, unique in its distance between chapters, truly is a small council with many small chapters. With all of these smaller chapters, however, there are many leadership opportunities within our chapters and on the council board. Both Josh and David, who were both from Southeast council, said that some of the biggest things they learned from BBYO were their leadership skills. David told me about how he had to learn how to be a good leader without being able to see or talk to the chapters in person. Personally, it can be tough to help your chapter and regional counterparts in the exact ways that they need when you are so spread out like we are. Communication plays a big role in how Eastern region has survived and continues to thrive as a region.
Involvement in BBYO creates a feeling of community. Many people choose to continue their involvement in Jewish life when they go to college, and sometimes it's because of their experience in BBYO. My next question to them was exactly that. I wanted to know if they had chosen to continue their Jewish involvement in college and if their time in BBYO played a role in that. Josh chose to continue his involvement in college through the Hillel and Chabad events on his campus. He said that he liked the sense of community that he got from going to them and that he wanted to continue his Jewish involvement after everything BBYO gave him. David joined a Jewish fraternity and goes to services at his on-campus Chabad because BBYO helped connect him more to his Jewish identity which made it a priority for him to continue to cultivate his identity in college. Like David, Jordan also decided to continue her Jewish involvement after her graduation from BBYO. She became a very active member at her University Hillel and became a co-chair of the Jewish Life Committee, as well as attending Birthright over winter break this year. She explained to me that she chose to continue her Jewish involvement because she loved all of the Jewish experiences BBYO had given her.
All of these amazing people have left their own unique legacies on Eastern Region and each of their respective councils. Each of these people has had such unique experiences throughout their time in BBYO. When they joined, they were given advice from their predecessors and the people who recruited them. Now it's their turn to give advice to current and future members. Each of them offered a unique piece of advice, which anyone could find useful. Here is the advice shared with me.
“Make the most out of it” was a common theme in all of the advice I received. “It’s going to fly by before you know it.” Meeting new people was a central idea in the advice that both Jordan and Josh gave me. I’m sure we’ve all heard that being in BBYO is such a unique experience. This is absolutely the truest thing I have heard about BBYO and it’s exactly what Nicole told me when I asked her for any words of advice. She said it’s “an abnormality” to be able to be surrounded by Jewish teens from all over the world. She said that it gives you a sense of community that is hard to replicate anywhere else. Similarly, David told me that you should live in the moment because you only see your BBYO so many times, and it's your job to make the most out of it. Making friends is the biggest thing you can get out of BBYO, and staying in touch can be with the friends you make along the way. Who knows, you may run into people you met in BBYO when you continue wherever your life takes you, like Jordan, who continues to cross paths with people she went on summer programs with and people she met at conventions. That just goes to show that anything can happen, all you gotta do is leave your comfort zone.
After taking a look back, all we gotta do is take a look into the future. We are in charge of our own destinies and paths through BBYO and through life. All you gotta do is seek it out. Find your friends, and forge your path together. And remember, the only person who can carve your path is you.
David Sternfeld is an Aleph living in Charleston, South Carolina who loves 3D printing, swimming, and playing baseball.
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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