Keeping Pace: A Month in Europe 🌎

January 2, 2024
Courtney Saxe

Las Vegas, Nevada, United States

Class of 2023

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Hello! Well, it’s been a minute since I kept pace with you. December has been such a wonderful month and I have so much to share about my experiences in Europe! In total, I was able to visit 9 different countries in the past month and it has been the most exhausting, rewarding, and exciting experience. 

I started my journey in Dublin, Ireland, where TJ and I attended their winter convention. What a blast!! Such a unique experience learning the ways that the teens cheer, the way that they observe Shabbat, and so much more. During the convention we went to a zoo light show in the city, went to some escape rooms, and helped keep the beach clean with some community service. It was so nice to spend Hanukkah surrounded by Jewish teens and see how spirited and excited they were about the programming. 

After an amazing convention we headed to Barcelona, Spain for the 99/79 December International Board Retreat. Flying our board of five different countries is nothing short of historical and also phenomenal for the BBYO Barcelona community. We had time to tour around the beautiful city, eat delicious food, and get to know the inner workings of how BBYO operates there. During the retreat we dreamed, brainstormed, and planned for the rest of the year. Big topics including J-Serve, counterpart support, Founders Fest, and the Centennial International Convention! The board also had the opportunity to be with the BBYO Barcelona community for Global Shabbat. Such an impactful retreat to gear us for the rest of the term!

After this trip, we had a few quick stops in some remarkable communities. Starting in Budapest, Hungary, we spent some time with the community to help incorporate more AZA & BBG traditions and explore the beautiful city. Then, we headed on a train to Kosice and Bratislava Slovakia for the following days to meet with teens and workshop the future of BBYO Slovakia. We then took a quick bus to Vienna, Austria which included attending Vienna’s Jewish Youth Group Awards. We got to meet teens from different youth groups and celebrate the power of our Judaism. 

Heading to the Baltics, TJ and I got to spend time in Riga, Latvia to educate on the power of BBYO and how teens can get more involved. The programming within this community was remarkable. The board put such hard work into their programs and even dressed up! I was just blown away while attending their Harry Potter programming (and also trying to learn Russian.) Not to mention the moment I fell in love with Riga chocolate. We then had a flight to Vilnius, Lithuania to attend their winter camp. There we got to introduce BBYO to a wide network of Jewish teens as well as excite those attending International Convention in February! It was such a blast to dance, workshop, and be able to explore the beautiful city on Christmas. 

Finally, we ended our Europe trek in Dusseldorf, Germany for ZWST Winter Machane Camp. We spent a week with the teens and attended all of their workshops, discussions, and spent New Year's with fireworks! We led sessions on BBYO and discussed our excitement to have so many ZWST teens attending IC! The Madrichim at the camp led beautiful sessions that really helped me feel connected with my Judaism. In a time where I am away from home for so long, it is so special to know that the same traditions I grew up with for Shabbat and within my community, are done all around the world. This was such a special opportunity to spend time in Germany over New Year's with these amazing teens and help bring BBYO’s connection closer to ZWST. Not to mention such a fun day in Belgium with all of them and beautiful inductions. 

Overall, this was such a unique opportunity to meet so many teens from across Europe and visit a total of 9 countries in just a month. I have been blown away by the hard work of all of the teens into putting in programming, to all of the staff for supporting TJ and me throughout our travels, and grateful for the opportunity to educate. I am so excited to see the representation of these communities at IC, and can’t wait to see what the future holds for BBYO Europe. Happy New Year, and talk to you later!!

Courtney Saxe is a BBG from Mountain Region is serving as the 79th Anita M. Perlman International N'siah.

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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