I had no idea what to expect. Walking into the Henry Kaufman campground, all I knew was that this was a service on Shabbat, a day of the week that I never really observed. Even though I didn’t know any of the prayers, or who Happy and Hunker were, I felt at home pretty much instantly. I swayed with the chapter I soon belonged to and ate penne ala vodka with some faces I still can’t recognize. It was something so special that I hadn’t known that I needed. The feeling I got was something I hadn’t felt in the month since I last stepped foot at Camp Silver Lake.
Realizing Summer 2019 was my last summer at camp was immensely difficult. I was giving up a home, one where I had my best friends and my best memories. Over my five years, it had become a safe haven, for it allowed me to get away from the stresses of at-home life. But I knew that being a waitress would tarnish my sparkly memories of a place I love so much. I couldn’t let myself have an experience I knew I wouldn’t like just so I could try and hold onto those golden summers for a little while longer.
That loss of home made it so easy to find a new home in BBYO. I was lost, looking for something to latch onto, something that would provide me with best friends, an escape from home, sometimes horrible food, and a Jewish outlet.
BBYO has been a rock for me over the last year and a half. Even when nothing was happening, and everyone was physically alone, BBYO continued on. They were there in a way that no sleepaway camp, college class, or summer activity could be. It became a home in my actual home, turning a zoom link into so much more.
As we move back into in-person programming on Long Island, I am reminded once again of what these intense moments of HOME are like; when I split mac and cheese with a friend; when I take a bow at the end of a movie simply because it had my name in it; when I take pictures to capture every moment of happiness. It’s a good feeling, and BBYO brings that to me and so many others.
This summer I get to attend my first in-person BBYO summer program. I am BEYOND excited to spend my summer in a place that already feels like home. Summer camp, clearly, has been a huge part of my life, and having a home to go to this summer is beyond exciting.
I’ll always miss Camp Silver Lake. That place, those people, my memories, will always have a huge slice of my heart. I’ll always have my best friends, those with whom I spent some of my best summers. But because of BBYO, the ache is gone. BBYO gave me a year-round home that was there through the best and worst of times, one in which I couldn’t survive without. Both places are home to me and have made me a better person. I know, someday, that I’ll have to leave BBYO; blow out my flame, and hand my clothes over. BBYO has given me the knowledge that even when I have to shut the best doors, even brighter new ones will open, and the old ones will still let me take a peek inside.
Sydney Levine is a BBG living on Long Island, New York who is obsessed with bucket hats.
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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