|Listening to participants presenting at ILTC 2012|
As a participant, I first spent a month in 1998, spending three weeks in BBYO's International Leadership Training Conference (ILTC) and a week at BBYO's International Convention (IC). The following summer, I enjoyed a month at BBYO's International Kallah, going home for a few weeks and coming back for another week at IC. In 2000, during my summer of graduation, I came for IC.
I did not stay away for long, as I came back two summers later, staying for seven weeks, staffing the whole summer as a cabin counselor (we were called "ad[ministrative] staff" back then (nowadays, the position is called "madrich"), for both Kallah and ILTC. I returned the following year in 2003 in the same capacity. I had decided to return these years while I was in college, yearning not only to pass along ideas, tips, and other such wisdom from my BBYO time as a participant to these up-and-coming BBYO members, but also to serve as a positive role model who was an observant Jew, which was quite uncommon around BBYO. I finally came back for a third consecutive summer, although - due to not liking the director of Kallah (we did not get along well) - I served as an ad staff for two consecutive Chapter Leadership Training Conference (CLTC) sessions and then ILTC.
When I finished that summer ten years ago, I then headed off to New York City to begin my studies at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School and was ready to move on. And, indeed, I really had pretty much nothing further to do with BBYO (it also was in the pre-Facebook era, so people did not stay in touch the same way we do nowadays).
However, a friend's status update on Facebook a few years ago put out the word that BBYO was looking for Judaic Educators for their summer programs and I decided it would be nice to re-connect with my BBYO roots. Having two children, I decided not to stay the whole summer and only work as one of two Judaic Educators for ILTC. It was good, although not without its challenges. I then decided to return in 2012 and it was good, with a good team of people committed to the Judaic curriculum. In addition to sharing our Jewish heritage with these young Jewish leaders, it was also really great to share some morsels of my BBYO experience (which surprised many of the participants there that I had been in BBYO) with these up-and-coming BBYO leaders.
By last summer, with a third child on the way, and two at home, I realized I should remain with my wife and children, rather than going away for nearly three weeks in the middle of the summer. So, I don't know if I will return to spend time at a BBYO summer leadership program, but I enjoyed my time not only with the people and the programs, but also the place. There is just something special in the air and it will retain a special place in my mind when it comes to the summer.