Life as a Parent and an Advisor

September 9, 2020
Hannah Borenstein

Cherry Hill, New Jersey, United States

Class of 2021

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I love my parents. We have this incredible thing in common: our shared love of BBYO. It is a special bond that we have because we share this remarkable passion. They have been volunteering as BBYO chapter advisors for a combined 20 years. I can talk to them about everything I am experiencing, and they get it! When my friends tell me how their parents don’t understand or don’t want to hear about BBYO, I cannot even relate. I love that we have this bond. I want to share our story so more teens can have what I do. I sat down with my dad, Jordan Borenstein, and my mom, Debora Borenstein—both advisors in South Jersey Region—to learn more about their experiences as advisors.

How did you become advisors?

Jordan (aka Dad): I was in AZA as a teen and helped start my own chapter (Bet Kama) in my senior year. In 1991, after graduating from college, a good friend of mine who was in BBYO with me told me there was an opportunity to become the first advisor for a newly formed AZA chapter. I went to the meeting and the rest is history. Marlcrest was re-chartered in 1991 and I remained the advisor until 2000, when we started a family. Our oldest became a member of Marlcrest AZA and, in 2016, there was a need for an advisor, once again. I jumped back in and have been back for four years now. 

Debora (aka Mom): I was in BBG as a teen as well. I have always had a passion for making a difference. I began advising in 1996 not long after Dad (Jordan) and I started dating. I became the founding advisor of Ohev BBG #2453. The teens were (and still are) our “kids.” It was beyond special to be mentoring and working with teens while Dad and I started our life together. We advised as long as we could until we started our family. In March 2016, I was approached to return as Ohev’s advisor. The very first thing I did was check with Elijah and you as BBYO was your world. You both gave your support and encouragement and the rest, as they say, is history. 

What's it like being both BBYO parents and advisors at the same time?

Jordan: I love it. We checked many times with all three of our kids as we wanted to make sure they would not feel "weird" or otherwise uncomfortable with us being there and they are fine with it. At one point, we had FOUR different chapters in our own home. You wanna talk about "smack talk" when Tournies rolled around? LOL. Now, there are three chapters in our home. We get to do everything together. BBYO weekends are family weekends. It's awesome. When people ask me how I can spend the weekend away with all these teens, I just tell them it's like a family vacation weekend. It's true! We do our thing with the kids and then we come together for meals and it's just perfect! Plus, it gives us perspective to lend the kids when they have issues or questions about their own BBYO experience. We are there -- we are living it, too.  Makes for interesting family discussions. 

Debora: Anyone who knows me knows that BBYO is my passion. I love being “that person” for the girls in my chapter. I love that BBYO is a big part of who we are as a family and that it is something we all share together. Many of my friends who have teens express frustration and not being able to connect with them at a deeper level or wish they had something they did together. That is the opposite of how it is in our home. We ALWAYS have something to talk about. There is always something to do. I treasure each and every moment as we are all connected through our love of BBYO. It makes our relationship solid and strong. It is a true gift.

What do you love about advising?

Jordan: I love having a front row seat in seeing a person move from 8th grade to 12th grade. Having a part in that metamorphosis is so satisfying -- almost as much as watching your own biological kids go through it. Believe me, there are many times when advising is not so much fun.  It's difficult and challenging and sometimes quite sad and upsetting.  So much of what these teens of today have to endure and manage is overwhelming. Being there for the kids in their times of need makes me happy and if I can help them overcome and get better, it's a victory that cannot be measured. 

Debora: I love watching the evolution of young, awkward teens into confident, strong young adults. BBYO gives SO much and it is a true joy and honor to watch how each girl grows into who they will become. I also love being an adult that is a positive and supportive presence in each girl’s life. I am there to guide, advise, be a voice of reason or whatever else it is they need.

What's your favorite memory from advising?

Jordan: I love being with the kids and watching them develop, but some of my favorite memories come from times when it was just the advisors together.  Spring Thing conventions in the 90's patrolling the camp, making late night coffee runs in the middle of winter, advisor happy hours, etc.

Debora: It is so hard to pick a favorite memory. My favorite times are when we are simply a group of girls, regardless of grade or school or town connecting, talking, bonding. Sisterhood is my favorite fold and I love watching it bloom within an event. I also love the camaraderie of the other advisors, especially at regional events when we are all able to connect together.

Why should a parent reading this think about becoming an advisor?

Jordan: Many of the adults I speak with claim there just isn't enough time to dedicate to advising. Truth is, it's not the time required, it's more the mindspace required. You have to let the kids into your life. If you take pride and satisfaction from helping mold young minds and you are a good listener (best and most important trait required) -- then you should absolutely consider becoming an advisor. 

Debora: If you want to share a life changing experience with your child, become an advisor. If you want to connect with your teen at a level that will create a significant and strong bond with your teen, become an advisor. If you want to make a difference with the next generation, become an advisor. The relationships that you build are life altering for you as well as the teens. I am proud that I am still connected to many teens when we first started back in 1996. The time investment pales in comparison to the impact I am able to make in a teen’s life.

Becoming a volunteer chapter advisor is an amazing opportunity to change lives, give back, and develop meaningful relationships. More and more parents are discovering the magic of advising and joining the global advisor community. If your parent is interested in becoming an advisor (or if you are a parent reading this), you can learn more about advising and apply at bbyo.org/advisors.

Hannah Borenstein is a BBG from Dafna BBG #1110 in South Jersey Region and is obsessed with thrifting.

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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