How Jewish Sleep-Away Camp Led Me to BBYO

June 7, 2023
Julia Bakman

Los Angeles, California, United States

Class of 2025

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I still vividly remember the excitement and nervousness I felt as I boarded the bus that would take me to my first summer at Jewish sleepaway camp. Little did I know that this experience would shape not only my summers for the next 5 years of my life, but also pave the way for my involvement in BBYO later on. From the exploration of my Jewish identity to the lifelong friendships I created, sleepaway camp became the catalyst that led me straight into the welcoming arms of BBYO.

At Gindling Hilltop Camp, surrounded by the natural beauty of Malibu, California, I discovered a vibrant Jewish community that helped me explore and embrace my Jewish identity. From morning shabbat prayers by the ocean, toShabbat celebrations under a star-filled sky, the environment allowed me to connect with my heritage on a deeper level. The engaging programming, continued traditions, and meaningful discussions opened my eyes to the richness ofJewish traditions, igniting a sense of pride and belonging that would carry me forward into my BBYO journey.

One of the most remarkable aspects of sleep away camp was the incredible friendships I formed with fellow campers.Together, we had countless adventures, shared late-night conversations in our cabins, and created memories that will last a lifetime. These connections became the foundation of my BBYO experience, as many of my camp friends also became involved in the organization. The tight-knit Hilltop community that we built during those summer months gave me a seamless transition into BBYO, solidifying our motto of living 11 for 1, the one month a year we can be united together.

For me, camp was not just a place for fun and friendship; it was a training ground for leadership and personal growth. Camp encouraged me to step out of my comfort zones, which empowered me to take on leadership roles and make a positive impact both within and outside of our camp community. These invaluable experiences provided a solid foundation for my involvement in BBYO, where I continued to grow as a leader and contribute to meaningful programming that connected me closer to my Judaism.

The journey from Jewish sleepaway camp to BBYO has been an incredible one, filled with cherished memories, and lifelong friendships. Sleepaway camp has served as the gateway that deepened my Jewish identity, introduced me to my best friends, and equipped me with the skills and confidence to immerse myself in BBYO and all it has to offer. As I reflect on my journey, I am grateful for the experiences I had at camp, as they continue to shape my involvement in this organization and my connection to the Jewish community. For those that haven't experienced the magic of camp, don't worry, because it's never too late! I encourage you to get involved with programs like Camp America or theFoundation For Jewish Camp, and to take the ride of your life on this incredible journey.

Submitted with Undying love, A damn proud BBG, Julia Bakman, Mitzvah ‘22

Julia Bakman is a BBG from Lilith BBG in Pacific Western Region. When she’s not at a BBYO event, you can find Julia reading a good book or going to a concert with friends!

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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