As Alephs, our rich history and rituals contribute to the core foundation of our siblinghood. They bond us together and show us that the Grand Order of the Aleph Zadik Aleph is more than a platform for Jewish teens to connect, but a welcoming community for members to share their stories and be their authentic selves. Throughout the pandemic, as we were forced to adapt; the physical separation limited our ability to connect and uphold some of these traditions. While the Greater Atlanta Region (GAR) had a mixture of virtual and hybrid regional conventions and chapter events, our region struggled to recreate the special environment of sleepovers and fully in-person conventions. At the beginning of Fall 2021, as the current situation allowed GAR to have in-person conventions and events, our region worked to focus on strengthening our siblinghood by reintroducing some of AZA’s most sacred traditions.
As Regional S’gan, it was my responsibility to coordinate Greater Atlanta Region’s Leadership Training Institute (LTI) alongside the Regional S’ganit. A vital aspect of the convention was bringing the Alephs of GAR together, showing them what siblinghood truly meant. To do this, I wrote an AZA Separates about self-love. Each member sat in a circle with a plastic candle, while our regional board walked around reading a script about loving your body, accepting what makes you unique, social media, societal norms, overthinking, toxic masculinity, and anxiety. Then, our regional board sat in a smaller circle in the middle while each Aleph had the opportunity to get up and share their story. This separates left members feeling better about themselves and more comfortable with each other as Alephs. These Alephs experienced one of BBYO’s most special rituals, and in doing so, could bring separates to chapter programming.
Throughout the two-day LTI convention, we helped train chapter board members to create programs, communicate with their peers, recruit members, and implement their Stand-Up cause. During a rotation about programming, one group came up with the creative idea of making a Halloween Hot Tub Havdalah event. Fast forward two months later, this idea became a reality as I worked with my liaison chapter, Kol Ram AZA #2557, to create a special separates and Havdalah service inside a hot tub. After teaching these members the history of our order, many members opened up about their journey with AZA and why AZA is special. This bonding has strengthened the siblinghood of the emerging chapter while showing them what makes AZA unique.
In addition to separates, traditions such as Good & Welfares, Big/Little, board bonding sleepovers, and business meetings have helped remind members why this organization is unique. By utilizing business meetings to motion to select a chapter mascot, regional anthem, amend the constitution, or change the election packet, we are working to educate the members of GAR, showing them another way to foster change. Board bonding sleepovers have helped reignite the passion of chapter board members, reminding them why they took a greater role in their chapter, naturally encouraging board members to apply their passion towards their role. In GAR, as brainstorming Big/Little experiences for AZA chapters, Alephs-In-Training will gain exposure to the experiences and knowledge of older members while bridging any divide between younger members and upperclassmen. Big/Little creates strong relationships and ensures that every Aleph is accounted for and has someone they feel comfortable coming to for advice and support.
The culmination of the effects of these traditions can be seen at GAR’s Spirit Regional Convention. From November 12-14, while each chapter competed in a fun competition, SRC focused on strengthening the bonds of chapters and GAR AZA as a whole. On Saturday, as we participated in fun services, rotations, and competitions, members were able to connect with members from around GAR. SRC culminated with meaningful AZA separates that gave Alephs the opportunity to open up about their experiences with failure. Participating in a region-wide separates and cheer circle left members feeling more connected to their siblings in AZA. This carried over to late-night chapter bonding activities and games such as Good & Welfares and other fun activities, which left members having formed close relationships with their chapter and region. As each chapter starts planning their final events of the semester, the Alephs of GAR are now more connected to their siblings of the order.
As our order emerges from the pandemic, we have the opportunity to build more personal connections. Through separates, Good & Welfares, business meetings, Big/Little experiences, and other traditions, we can strengthen our siblinghood. These experiences have reminded me that AZA is way more than making fun memories at events and conventions. AZA is about learning, growing, and maturing into your best self. AZA is about having a community of siblings that will support and be there for you.
If you have any questions about implementing some of these traditions mentioned in your communities, please feel free to contact me at +1-404-324-1246.
Jordy Levy is an Aleph from Greater Atlanta Region and loves BBYO.
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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