Since March 2020, a lot of SJR BBYO’s Voice articles have talked about how SJR connects despite the difficulties of a pandemic, how chapters held virtual events and services and programmed through Zoom, and how the region held its first ever, fully virtual convention, Conclave 2020. Times were a bit rough as we adjusted to seeing each other’s faces through little rectangles on a screen; we adapted because it was the only option we had. Then, we transitioned to masked events and seeing each other in person, but from a distance. The journey we’ve taken has been special and has brought a whole new meaning to not only our friendships and community but to our Judaism. While we have had multiple in-person conventions as we have recovered from Covid as a region, that spark never fully returned until Conclave 2022.
Held from Dec. 9-11, this weekend was one for the record books. As we all gathered at URJ Camp Harlam, our community seemed to grow. Not a physical growth, per se, but a growth together. With over 100 new members who have joined this year, many people got to experience a BBYO convention for the first time ever. Along with the seniors and everyone in between, the community interaction made it feel like a pandemic never separated us in the first place.
Conclave Coordinators Frannie Merlino (Chevrah BBG N’siah) and Emily Mashman (Shemesh BBG S’ganit) worked incredibly hard on making this weekend the best it could possibly be. Along with their committee, the programming was stellar, including some fun events like SJR’s very own Shark Tank! In this program, attendees were split into groups and were given bags, each with the same items within. They then had to create a product with their group and present it to the “sharks” who would decide a winner at the end. Members also participated in our Global Shabbat service and had the opportunity to hit a piñata. Friday night also included BBG, AZA, and BBYO separates, or more serious programming. There are BBG and AZA separates at every convention for Alephs and BBGs to have meaningful conversations, learn more about each other, and participate in meaningful programming. For the first time ever, SJR offered a BBYO separates option, or coed. This allows for a different experience, one with different perspectives and themes, but also for a more inclusive space for gender-nonconfroming members. What was amazing is we had over 20 members at each separates program!
Song session and Havdalah are always essential parts of convention, along with being very powerful. Conclave’s Havdalah was no exception. With the theme of the weekend being “Everyone, Everywhere,” as is the International Global Shabbat theme, pictures of members around the world at summer experiences and other events were everywhere. These photos played on a slideshow while every participant at the convention sang prayers together as one voice. Going right into a song session, singing songs together and adding some classic BBYO twists, created a bubble of sorts. This “bubble” represents our community, and inside is the powerful connection created when we’re together. This space creates a lot of emotions, and as many older members said, was a moment that made them forget Covid ever happened.
The connection created a feeling of belonging within the members, and this particular moment is when this convention became something more. With the privilege of being together, a random group of Jewish teens from South Jersey gathering at a camp in the mountains, SJR is very grateful for the opportunities we have. We are so excited for our next convention
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