When We Say "Best 12 Days," We Mean It

November 11, 2018
Tess Mendelson

Chevy Chase, Maryland, United States

Class of 2021

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“The best 12 days of your life.”

I was told this over and over again before attending Chapter Leadership Training Conference (CLTC) in June of 2018. This 7 word phrase was engraved into my mind until it was almost reflex to associate CLTC with “The best 12 days of your life.”

Using “best” to hype up these 12 days does not do CLTC justice. The reason I think many teens use this word to describe  this experience for themselves is because they have never experienced anything like this. CLTC is an eye-opening experience and makes you ask questions that you would have never explored without it. CLTC is about finding yourself and your purpose, and I know that these 12 days helped me truly find myself and my purpose on this planet.

I don’t think I ever gave myself time to reflect properly on my experience at CLTC. It all happened so fast, one minute I was there, and the next I was on the plane ride home ready to take my finals that I had been preparing weeks for. Even after I took these tests, I did not have time to reflect on my experience because I was immediately on my way to summer camp.

Going into CLTC, I was ready for a life-altering experience. I did not have as good of a school year as I had hoped for, and I needed something refreshing to boost my motivation in all aspects of my life. I knew that by going to CLTC, I would be able to learn new leadership skills to take back to my council and chapter, but I did not realize the impact that these 12 days would have on every aspect of my life.

As I sat in Judaic workshops questioning my religious beliefs and challenging my prior values, I gained a new sense of gratitude for an everyday opportunity handed to me; school. Since 6th grade, I have attended a Jewish Day School. I have always loved the community that my school provided me with, but I never was able to connect on a deeper level with my Judaism. CLTC helped me realize that I already had made these connections, but I was not finding them within myself. All of the connections to Judaism and G-d had already been made because of the education I was provided with; now I knew how to channel these beliefs and values. These workshops helped me realize how grateful I am to be able to wake up everyday and go to a Jewish school where I can freely explore my religious beliefs.

Another aspect of my life that CLTC improved was my family life. I have always grown up in a tight-knit family, and family was an important value emphasized by my parents from a young age. As high school began, and I started to get more involved in BBYO, time for my family started to fade. I began to prioritize aspects of my life in the wrong order. During our March of the Living program at CLTC, I realized that family was the most important thing in my life. Family is something I can always fall back on and is a constant in my life. Realizing that Jewish families were ripped apart and their lives were torn made me feel something I had never felt before.  I felt hollow inside, like my bones were slowly disappearing. I felt sick to my stomach and it made me realize how lucky I am to have the family I have.

“Who is your Jethro?”, was a program that I will always remember from my CLTC. This was by far the most emotional program I have experienced since I have been in this organization. This hit me hard, but in all the good ways. Gratitude is the one word I can think of when it comes to my experiences with this program. I don’t want to give much away about this program because I truly hope that anyone reading this gets to experience this program either at CLTC or in their home community.

Now that I have been given time to reflect on CLTC, here are my major take aways:
• Being Jewish is what binds us together, if you can’t connect to your Judaism, dig deeper because it is there, I promise!
• Prioritize what is important to you. Keep what you love close to you; this should be a person, not an object.
• Find time to appreciate the people who keep you going. Showing your gratitude to them means the world.

Tess Mendelson is a BBG from Northern Region East: DC Council and is an editor for her school's yearbook.

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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