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What I Learned at Global Shabbat and Why We Need to Let in the Light

January 16, 2019
Hannah Alper

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

There are many things that make BBYO a home to many, but I believe that one of the most interesting things about BBYO is the fact that it is truly a global movement.

During this year’s Global Shabbat, on December 7th and 8th, thousands of teens from forty-seven countries were all lighting the Shabbat candles, eating amazing Challah, and listening to moving stories from special guests.This global event left Jewish teens inspired to unite and emphasize Jewish tradition. These teen led events sparked a feeling of empowerment, togetherness, and community that was unwavering.

My chapter, Kavod V’Kehilah BBG #5003, hosted a Global Shabbat event. We hosted Holocaust survivor Max Eisen, who was in Auschwitz at merely 12 years old. We were mesmerized as he shared his story of  traveling to Canada with $1 in his pocket. One week after he arrived Max was able to secure a job to provide for himself and build a new life. The most amazing part of Max’s story was when he released his memoir, someone emailed him and explained that she saw his book in the store and immediately recognized it. This "someone" was Max’s aunt, his grandfather’s sister. Just a few months later, Max flew to Manhattan and reunited with ninety members of his family who he didn’t even know existed.

Max now travels and speaks to young people with the hopes of preventing history to repeat itself and to inspire students to speak out and stand up for themselves. After Max spoke to us, our chapter held a discussion about anti-Semitism. We all shared stories of how we’ve been affected by anti-Semitism in our everyday lives, whether it be seeing anti-Semitic signs at school or hearing jokes about our identity from our own peers. We all recognized that anti-Semitism is never a joke and that we are never alone. We also brought up the recent hate crimes in Pittsburgh, across the US, and even in Toronto.

Unfortunately, even in the 21st century, anti-Semitism has remained present. But we came to the conclusion that we must continue standing up for ourselves and others, especially in the face of discrimination and hatred.

The theme for this year’s Global Shabbat was “Let There Be Light”. With so much hate and darkness in the world recently, daily life can feel helpless and overwhelming. But the only way we can create change is by bringing light and love to people everywhere.Global Shabbat was one incredible opportunity to do so, but I hope that we can continue to spread this light daily. I think this quote sums it up best, inspired by this year’s Global Shabbat theme:

“Even in darkness, it is possible to create light.” –Elie Wiesel

Hannah Alper is a BBG from Lake Ontario Region and is currently serving as Regional Mazkirah. She has been an activist since the age of 9!

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