Why Perlman?

November 10, 2023
Alexandra Dawes

Plano, Texas, United States

Class of 2025

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For the first full 24 hours, I heard countless staff members and madrichim tell me it was THE place. The place where I’d find a home standing in the same spot where countless amounts of Alephs and BBGs stood before me. 

I just didn’t understand, I thought it was all a joke, and everyone had been trained to say good things. I didn’t understand why the staff members and madrichim would CHOOSE to spend three to six weeks of their adult lives living with loud, messy teenagers! Most of all, I didn’t understand how, no matter who I asked, they all told me that Perlman was special and that no other summer program, camp, or youth group could give you anything close to the “Perlman Experience”. 

To be honest, this past year, I’d been struggling with my relationship with BBYO in comparison to other after-school activities and issues I was facing. By the time May rolled around, I was over it. I was so tired, and even though school was barely over, I was non-stop thinking about the struggles that my junior year would hold. 

As I boarded my flight to the lovely Newark Airport, I was full of haste. I mean, I couldn't understand why I had chosen six more weeks of early mornings and late nights, six weeks away from proper air conditioning without my bed, six weeks of camp food, and six weeks of isolation from the “real world.”  I had a lot of time to be anxious and overthink as a baby was screaming the whole flight, and I couldn't get any sleep. But, as soon as I saw my IC and summer program friends waving to me from the corner of terminal A, I knew I’d made the right choice. 

From the moment I stepped foot on the grounds of Perlman camp, everyone would not stop talking about how amazing this summer was going to be, how it was going to be life-changing, and create relationships that would last a lifetime. I was bombarded with more Jewish teens and more meaningful Jewish experiences than I ever had before. It was a pluralistic fantasy of the International Order, full of all the most ambitious, driven leaders in the community, around the world, and then some. It was… interesting, to say the least. 

Every day at ILTC consisted of something called Blueprint. I could try and explain it to you, but you just need to be there to understand. For now, think of it as BBYO school. But if you want a sneak peek, make sure to check your toolbox and study up (there will be a test). The Kallah equivalent to Blueprint is Limmud. Every week, you were assigned two Limmuds, I was incredibly lucky with my Kallah Limmuds: two weeks in the kitchen learning about how to make everything from cheese to pickles, to blintzes, to latkes, and three weeks studying Israel from THE Ian Kandel, who is a pro at exploring Israel with a whopping 52 trips under his belt!!!! 

ILTC pretty much flew by way too fast, and before I knew it, transition day hit. Transition day was the day I knew Kallah was going to be a COMPLETE 180 from ILTC. We spent our first day relaxing in Katz, eating kosher sushi, and singing our hearts out during karaoke. We made guacamole, played outdoor laser tag, had a spa day, watched Hamilton, and said goodbye to our leadership staff.

There were three different staff groups at Perlman: The Leadership Staff, Madrichim, and the Jewish Educator Staff. The Leadership staff was the ILTC equivalent to the Jewish Educator Staff of Kallah, and the Madrichim were the counselors. I have to say we had some pretty outstanding staff members. Some of my best Perlman memories were having long, meaningful conversations with the madrichim and the Jewish Educator staff members. If I can give anyone going to Perlman one piece of advice, get to know your staff members. They do so much more than you will ever know (on so little sleep). They will give you the best advice and the best laughs.  I was lucky enough to have the same counselor living in my bunk for ILTC and Kallah, Lauren Berkowitz, Lerk for short. I can’t even begin to describe how much I miss our nightly bunk debriefs in her room. 

By the time Kallah rolled around, I felt like a Perlman pro. I could show you around camp with a blindfold on, and I memorized all the best bathrooms, Wi-Fi spots, and overall camp do’s and don’ts. Since I was more comfortable at camp, I came out of my shell more than I even knew I could. I felt like I was finally becoming myself again. A person I hadn’t seen for a really long time, at least since mid-school year. 

At Kallah, you get to explore Judaism in every category you could ever think of. From Jewish food, Israeli culture and history, Jewish values, sects, life cycle events, community, commentary, and observance. You hear from once-in-a-lifetime speakers and participate in interactive group discussions where you can feel safe to ask any question that could ever pop into your brain, express your opinions, and hear differing opinions from your own, all in a respectful way. 

You never really know how good isolation from the “real world” can be until you’re in the middle of nowhere and you have little to no wifi. I was able to put down my phone for hours, even forget it across the camp because of how much fun I was having. I got to learn about so many different things, in so many interesting ways, that changed me so drastically in so little time. Perlman was truly unlike anything I’d ever done before. Everything I did there was so important and reshaped my values, my Judaism, and most of all, my perspective. All of these things added even more to a conclusion I’d come to many times before I was very wrong. 

Perlman is THE place. It's our legacy, the legacy of 100 years worth of Jewish history. It’s a home for everyone, and you’re not going to understand until you’re standing under that tree, with your best friends surrounding you, singing the Shema (refer to the picture above of me screaming around the Perlman tree). It’s hard to believe that everyone in BBYO right now is lucky enough to be witnessing such a monumental moment for our movement. 100 years! BBYO has seen wars, pandemics, and the creation of the State of Israel! And here we are, better than ever, with only more to come! 

By the time those six weeks came to a close, I felt like a new person. ILTC left me ready to go back to my home region to take on a board position and help work to fully revive a chapter. I also found myself coming home with a newfound confidence in my leadership skills and my knowledge of BBYO. Kallah led me to a new level of understanding and love for my Judaism. I was able to express my own kind of Judaism while exploring and admiring thousands of different ways to be Jewish. 

Don’t get me wrong, my time at Perlman camp was not all sunshine and roses, in fact, there was quite a bit of pouring rain… But for all of those moments, bad, good, and in between, I had a group of incredible people surrounding me and providing me with endless love and support. I am so thankful for all the incredible memories and friendships I made at Perlman. Every single person there made an incredible impact on me, and to all my wonderful Perlman friends, thank you for preparing me for the rest of my life.

Alexandra is a BBG from North, Texas, Oklahoma Region and Perlman is her happy place!

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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