As I stepped onto the hallowed grounds of URJ Camp Coleman for the first annual Greater Atlanta Region Fall Con 2023, I couldn't help but feel like I had traveled back in time. This was the place where, for four unforgettable summers, I first forged a deep connection with my Jewish identity and experienced a sense of belonging like no other. It was my home away from home and had left an indelible mark on my life. This weekend, however, was different in many ways. I was with different people, representing my chapter, Frank Fierman AZA #2233, as a member and regional Mazkir, and the year was 2023. Yet, despite the changes, one thing remained constant – that familiar and powerful sense of brotherhood.
Fall Con was a remarkable event, and part of its brilliance lay in the fact that it was partially coordinated by none other than my best friend and the regional Moreh, Reid Kaplan. The excitement had been building in me for weeks leading up to the event, knowing that it would be held at this special place. Camp Coleman, nestled in the heart of the North Georgia Mountains, had been my summer refuge, my haven of Jewish discovery, and a source of countless cherished memories.
The parallel between then and now was striking. The first time I set foot on this camp's soil, I was a wide-eyed camper, eager to explore the adventures and friendships that awaited me. I had been a member of my temple's youth group and attended Hebrew School, but it was here that I truly felt the depth of my Jewish identity. The bonds I formed with fellow campers transcended friendship; they felt like brotherhood. We shared experiences, stories, and moments that shaped our lives, and I couldn't have asked for a more supportive community to help me grow as a person.
As the years passed, I knew that all good things must come to an end. In 2021, I bid farewell to my time as a Coleman camper. With my Bar Mitzvah behind me and no longer attending Hebrew School, it felt like I was stepping away from my Jewish identity. But that's when BBYO entered the picture. From the moment I attended my first event, I could sense the difference. It became the lifeline that kept my connection to my Jewish roots alive. The camaraderie and sense of community were just as profound as those I had experienced at Camp Coleman. Once again, the friends I made felt like brothers.
Now, in 2023, I was back at the same place where I had initially discovered my Jewish identity, but with different companions. My fellow chapter members from Frank Fierman AZA #2233 were my brothers in this new journey. We had our own unique experiences and stories, but the sense of brotherhood remained unchanged. It was the same place, a different time, different people, yet the same brotherhood.
This weekend was a testament to the enduring power of these connections and the importance of continuity and growth within the Jewish community. It reminded me that while we may move forward in life, our roots remain steadfast, grounding us in the values and friendships that have shaped our past.
As I departed Camp Coleman once more and, in all likelihood, for the last time, I couldn't help but feel a sense of déjà vu, not just because of the place but because it vividly highlighted the extraordinary parallels between BBYO and Coleman. The bonds of brotherhood remained just as strong and unchanging as ever. In the world of BBYO, we find not just friends but family. In the heart of the North Georgia Mountains, we find a place where Jewish identity thrives, generation after generation. This weekend served as a living testament to the enduring power of these connections, reinforcing the remarkable synergy between BBYO and the formative experiences at Camp Coleman that shape and strengthen our Jewish identities.
Isaac Barker is an Aleph from Atlanta, GA, and he wants to use his last year in BBYO to help younger members fall in love with BBYO just as he has.
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.
This is how I felt as a freshman (ninth grade in the U.S.) IC delegate, and also as a member of multiple IC steering committees; while leading and attending a bunch of programs throughout the weekend.
Jewish teens in Metro Detroit headed out to Detroit to help out their community during J-Serve.
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