What is Family?

December 15, 2023
Rebecca Perlman

Glen Head, New York, United States

Class of 2025

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What is family? Webster's Dictionary defines family as “the basic unit in society traditionally consisting of two parents rearing their children” or “a group of individuals living under one roof and usually under one head.” When I joined BBYO, this was the definition that I believed was true. Although I went to sleepaway camp all my life, the friends that I met there had a different type of friendship. Similarly, at school, I have had the same friend group for the longest time, and although they are my best friends, some things I have gained from my BBYO friendship I cannot find in these. BBYO, this life-changing organization, has changed my definition of family. This community has opened my eyes to so many different opportunities and friendships. So now I must say that the people who wrote the Webster's Dictionary definition must have never been in BBYO and have been completely mistaken. 

Family in BBYO isn't blood and usually isn't the people living under the same roof as you (unless at conventions or summer programs, of course). We choose our family. The AZA’s and BBG's of BBYO have so much control because each teen is given many opportunities to meet new people and form everlasting friendships with teens from around the order. One of the phrases that you will always hear in BBYO is, “You will get out of it, as much as you put into it.” In BBYO, you can choose how much you branch out and how much you talk to others. But, the more you talk to others, the more friends you will have and the larger your family will grow. By going to events, conventions, and summer programs, your BBYO family can grow, spanning many towns, states, countries, and even continents. It is something I cannot understand how this happens, but these kids on the other side of the world will be your best friends and people you cannot live without talking to. 

But, there is no closer connection or family that you will ever create than the one with your chapter. This group, when you first meet them, maybe strangers in which the only thing you think you have in common is being Jewish and living in the same town, but you are so wrong. But, by the end of one event, they have brought you so much joy and laughter that you can’t understand what you would ever do without them. Each teen here has opened up and come into each event wanting to branch out and hopefully find their family inside their town. The BBYO family is the connections that you make and the people that you make them with. Your sisters or brothers in this organization are the ones that you choose because you want to spend time with them and want to get to know them. They are the younger kids who you feel like a mother or older sister to or, the older ones that light your path and you can't imagine your life without, especially when they leave for college. We, as teens in BBYO, have chosen our own family and although at each event or convention, they may grow, that's what makes it so special. Each person wants you to join their family and connect with them. So reach out to anyone and everyone because they will turn into your family and your ride or die. I know that I have tried, and this has grown my family across the country, and I have no regrets.

Letters to my newfound family: 

My sister Ronnie, you may live in California, but after CLTC, I wouldn't ever want my life to be without you. You made those 13 days so much more special and so much more laugh-filled. 

My family is Lara, Lindsey, and Emily, who may all be in different grades, but that's what makes it so much more special. Our time together always makes me smile, and our friendship means the world to me. Convention weekends and chapter events wouldn't be the same without all of you.

My roommates from IC last year; after those 5 days together, I couldn't imagine rooming with anyone else—the conversations we had at night and the TikTok we made will always be in my drafts. I will be visiting Michigan soon.

To the CLTC 4 group chat I have to put on silent. I may never understand how all of you text so much, but the conversations and FaceTime are something I will never take for granted and they mean the world to me.

The family that I gained at CLTC 4, spanning states and regions, is something that you have only ever seen in movies. Going on a summer program and not knowing anyone was scary, but from the circle on the airport floor, I knew that everything was going to be fine. Although CLTC is only 13 days, the friendships that you make here are unbelievable. It is shocking how fast you are able to connect with everyone there, and they are truly some of my favorite people in the world. From Texas to Colorado, to Pennsylvania, and more, everyone at the session had a profound impact on my life, and I am counting down the days to IC and ILTC next summer.

My stunning, stupendous sisters and siblings from Summit BBG. You all are my heart and home; with each event, I become closer and love each one of you more and more, Although we are such a huge chapter, the connections that we have been able to create are admirable in other chapters. I am so proud and beyond happy to be in the family that we have been able to create, and each of you will always hold a special place in my heart. To outer space and back, all of the aliens of Summit BBG are my favorite ever.

Finally, Lilly, I have no words to express how thankful I am to have you in my life. You are my best friend, my rock, my sister, and more, From rooming with you at conventions to classes together in school, our time together is nothing short of amazing. Although we are in the same friend group at school, without BBYO and Summit, I don't think we would have been this close. You are one of my favorite people, and I am so happy to see everything that you are doing with recruiting Jericho members. I love you more than words can ever express. Thank you so much for always being there with me.

And to everyone else that I have met from BBYO. Each of you is beyond amazing teen and can do so much with everything. Be proud of who you are, step out of your comfort zone, and find your BBYO family because we are all waiting for you.

Rebecca is a BBG from Jericho, New York, who shares a birthday with her dad.

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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