Why BBYO Has No Barriers

May 18, 2023
Gal Rubel

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Class of 2025

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I am very lucky that my school offered the opportunity to go on March of the Living. It was an amazing chance to travel around Poland and Israel for 2 weeks with some of my best friends while connecting with my Jewish heritage.

I always knew I wanted to go but at my school it was only offered for older kids. After I changed schools last year, I knew I still wanted to find a way to travel and thankfully my new school offered it, but we were not sure if it was going to happen because of the pandemic.

In December we got the amazing news that the program was happening as usual after 2 years of it being canceled because of the pandemic. After I secured a spot and packed my bag last minute, I was on my way to Poland with just a quick pit stop in Madrid.

After 2 flights and a 6-hour bus ride through 3 countries, I was settled in Krakow. After a good night's sleep and a filling breakfast, one of the most important moments of the trip was happening, the march from Auschwitz to Birkenau, a place that killed and hurt so many was now filled with what the Nazis tried to destroy—Jewish life.

After a guided tour and learning, we had a break for lunch before the March began. Next to where I was eating lunch, some girls from Canada were trading pins. I brought Argentina pins and went up to trade. I asked them where they were from and their names and learned they were from Winnipeg. I realized I knew somebody from there, my IC roomie, Sophie.

Sophie and I weren’t supposed to share a room. Some sort of mix-up seemed to happen and I was rooming with 3 of the BBG lounge captains while the other captain was rooming with my cos and other LEADS day coordinators. It seemed by accident but after sharing a room and late-night chatting, I can confirm Sophie and all my other roommates were the nicest. Me and Sophie stayed some late nights talking about being N’siah and it was her who inspired me to run. As it turned out, this girl knew Sophie since they were three. We hugged and bonded over how we didn’t know each other but we were one degree separated. Not only that, but one of the girls had attended I program I coordinated and she remembered me. I thought that BBYO would stop there; I was glad I was wrong.

After saying goodbye and taking a picture, the march began and I felt proud to be Jewish. I felt pride in humanity. I felt pride in those who resisted in any way. When the march was done I was asked to take a picture of a family, I said yes. While we made small talk, I found out she was from Connecticut and that she knew one of the amazing correspóndanse I worked with, Sam from CVR. It was crazy again. We didn't know each other but were connected through BBYO. After an emotional closing, I went back to Krakow to continue with the trip. I then went to Lublin and the plan was to spend my fourth night in Warsaw.

After a long bus ride, when I finally set my bags and go to the elevator, I see Josh Rajunov, 33 Grand Aleph Shaliach, and somebody I just finished working with for IC. It felt weird, none of us knew the others were there, less we knew in the same hotel. We chatted and talked about Summer programs, our time and our common friendships. After a great catch-up with Josh and promises to hang out later as I saw him in Israel, I remembered the Rabbi from the community who hosted me in Global Ambassadors Week was there, I had an awesome time catching up with him and I remembered what I learned from when we went to his Sunday school. The surprises didn’t stop there. After having a delish dinner, I was going up to my room when on my way I spotted a BBG hoodie, a little shy I went and asked her if she did BBYO. She did and was actually chapter N’siah. We stayed up chatting, telling our favorite memories, and learning more about BBYO Eastern.

After saying goodbye and some more days in Poland, we flew to Israel for Yom Haatzmaut. We went to the Kotel and it was our last chance to change shirts. I asked a random girl from New York to trade and she said yes. We went to the bathroom to change and on our way there I asked her if she did BBYO. Not only was on the Regional Board and knew a girl who had been my admin in IC 2021, but she was also actually going to college with her. It felt surreal being reminded of the magic this movement has.

All the different crossovers were due to luck or maybe destiny but the next one was planned to a tee. In 2021, while I was still a freshman I joined the fauna ILN committee by the name of the Maimonides Moot Coort competition. I decided to apply because on the way back from a chapter meeting, a senior had done it and recommended it. We met every Sunday for months in Zoom. We laughed, learned, shared our experiences, and made friends. After winning the in-person debate in April 2022, we said goodbye to half of the team as they were graduating. However, life had other plans. When I learned I was traveling, I texted and planned how and when we could meet. We met in the Kotel and I ran to hug him. It felt like we were back to arguing at 5 AM or laughing because I said something funny.

All those encounters reminded me of the power of Judaism. This heritage makes me feel at home in 2 countries. It allows me to connect with millions of people, and to play Jewish geography with thousands. It was thanks to this movement that I discovered myself and my leadership. To the new members, the power of this organization is mind-blowing, you will find out how you fit into it. To seniors, BBYO really doesn’t end after graduation, it will always be a topic of conversation and nice memories. Jewish life survives and perseveres and all continents because of the fierce leaders it has. Because we organized ourselves through movements like BBYO. Because of leaders all over the world. Because of Alephs and BBGs like me and you. Make your impact. Leave your mark. Empower others.

Gal is a BBG living in Buenos Aires, Argentina who is in love with outer space.

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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