Throughout my time in BBYO, I’ve attended “LIFE” events at the end of every year. These events involve seniors ending their experience in BBYO by making speeches about their memories and the specific things that made BBYO so special to them. Oftentimes, seniors would include the same quote by Winnie the Pooh that reads, “how lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” I never truly understood the magnitude of this quote and wondered how a Jewish youth group could make such an impact on so many.
Perlman: A place that made this quote make too much sense. 18 days changed my life and the lives of many others. It is an environment full of excitement, the most genuine people, comfort, and a new place to call home.
June 24th marked my first day of ILTC. Driving down to Lake Como, I was unaware of how the summer would pan out and was afraid of having a bad experience. When I arrived at the gates of B’nai B'rith Perlman camp, I was greeted by three smiling and enthusiastic madrichim. Then, I said goodbye to my parents and stepped out of my car. I was surrounded by 200 strangers on a foreign plot of land. Unaware of where to go or what to do first, I walked to my bunk. Right away I knew this was my home.
After unpacking and getting settled in, Shabbat rolled around within the first 24 hours. The schedule on my name tag told me that we had Shabbat pictures, a service, Shabbat dinner, an evening activity, and BBG separates. I also checked the schedule for the next day which consisted of a list that read “Aruchat Boker,” “Saturday Morning Shacharit,” “Aruchat Tzohorayhim,” “Chofesh,” “Blueprint Reflection,” “Havdalah,” and “K’far Program.” As I was still new to Perlman, I was unsure what most of these words meant. Following the directions given to me by my madrichim, I followed the schedule and grew to understand the meanings of these terms along with the rest of the camp.
While I learned many new things and met so many new people during my first Shabbat at Perlman, looking back, the one thing that stands out to me most from my first Shabbat was Havdalah. I’ve attended a Jewish summer camp in previous years, so I thought that I knew what Havdalah was going to involve. I would have told you that Havdalah would have consisted of sitting in small circles, passing around spices, and waiting to be able to go to the next activity. However, at Perlman, this was far from the truth. Havdalah consisted of standing in one large circle around the Perlman tree, hand-to-hand, swaying to songs and prayers, and screaming “Shavua Tov” in the loudest possible volume. My first Havdalah at Perlman lit the flame to my Jewish identity and appreciation for Shabbat.
During the rest of my time at Perlman, I had a good understanding of what Shabbat consisted of and why I should look forward to it every week. I now knew what the daily schedule meant, and I knew that I should look forward to all that the day had in store for me.
Not understanding the schedule on the first Shabbat may not seem like a big deal, however, it showed me that living in the moment and not worrying about what will happen next will end up working out for the better. Not knowing what to expect on the first Shabbat and going with the flow was much better than wondering about the next activity and therefore not living in the moment. Having false expectations for the first Havdalah was just one way that Perlman managed to exceed all of my dreams.
Perlman taught me the power of a community, the importance of genuine friendships, and the significance of living in the moment. While my phone is still filled with pictures and videos, and while it still plays the music that we, as a community, once listened to Eric and Julia serenade us with, no amount of reminiscing will allow me to relive the most special experience I’ve ever had the opportunity to experience. No amount of missing the people who were once so foreign to me, but are now my best friends can make up for the 18 days we spent together. No amount of stories can quite explain the magic of Perlman. While the 438 hours go by in the blink of an eye, the memories truly last a lifetime. The only thing I would ever trade the memories of Blueprints, Kavanahs, Chofeshes, Havdalah services, and Shabbat Shiras for is the ability to do it all over again. How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.
Jessica Gelman is a BBG from Nassau Suffolk Region, and she loves to help others.
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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