CLTC, those four letters that not many people understand what they stand for, is more than just a place to gain leadership skills, friends, and memories. Chapter Leadership Training Conference is where I found myself and discovered what Judaism means to me. When arriving at the Commonpoint Retreat Center, I thought I knew what I believed in, because that was what was engraved in my mind from a young age. To me, Judaism meant that you believe in one G-d, you go to the temple on Saturday and follow along in a book called a Siddur. It also meant, singing prayers that you have no clue what the meaning is or how they relate to you, celebrating Shabbat on Friday night by lighting candles, drinking grape juice, and eating challah. Lastly, Judaism meant to me that you were persecuted and hated by Antisemitic people because of the religion you follow.
Although these can be the beliefs of Judaism, our faith is so much more than that. Although it is a monotheistic religion, this G-d we believe in can be so many different things, from a person who is all high and mighty, to a person just like each one of us. For this religion, there are services on Saturday mornings but each prayer means something whether it's just saying we are ready to pray, to deeper meanings of how we have to listen to one another for a more prosperous future. On Friday nights we celebrate Shabbat as a time to regroup, ground yourself and spend time with your family, friends, and even strangers. Antisemitism is the hatred of Jews, but has allowed us to stand up together and become more connected as a whole.
CLTC has taught me the meaning behind each one of these different aspects of Judaism, and how I don’t have to believe the same thing as everyone else, but I can be my own person. I learned how to create a service and choose prayers that connect to the meaning I am trying to put across. I learned different tunes that make services more interesting and more inviting. I learned that I LOVE being Jewish even though it can be difficult. I learned never to hide who I am to please others. I learned that my flaws make me unique and different. I learned to be proud of myself and to use my voice to make a change in the world.
This may not seem like it relates to anything about Judaism but it does. In the prayer, Elohi Neshma, G-d gives us an explanation of how they created each one of us. This taught me that G-d made me exactly how they wanted me to be, and not to change that because this is how I will impact the world. Birkot Hashachar is a prayer of saying good morning and thank you to G-d each day. This prayer is like an affirmation showing we should be thankful for ourselves and the opportunities we are given. Ein Keloheinu means “there is no one like our G-d.” Each person in this world is unique and different in their own beautiful way. We all have to learn to embrace and emphasize what makes each of us different, because that is what makes us special. These prayers and the meaning behind them show us as Jewish people we are perfect and amazing just the way we are. That each of us are special and unique and that should be embraced not criticized.
CLTC is a family because since everyone is from a different place we each have something different to bring to our new community. Whether it is a tune to a prayer, a different way to call in elections, or a different way to say a word because of an accent, these little things made us connect on a deeper scale because we were all so excited to learn and had open minds from the second we arrived at Newark airport. By the end, I learned so many different things to bring back to my home chapter and bring back to my everyday life. Now Judaism means to me that we are all different and that is totally okay. Judaism means we all have a common connection. Judaism means that I may be different but I am perfectly good with that. Judaism means that I have a connection to the G-d that I believe. Judaism means these prayers that I sing and chant are my heritage, my present, and my future. Judaism means I am good just the way that I am.
CLTC taught me to be proud of my Jewish identity and myself. Please sign up for a summer program I beg you. They are life-changing and the people you meet there are so beyond amazing in every single possible way.
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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