A Norfolk Academy senior, Shelby Brown is an active member of BBYO’s Kruger chapter. She has held several offices both locally and regionally, and has participated in leadership conferences such as CLTC and Kallah.
Still, for Shelby, something was missing in her Jewish experience. She had never been to Israel. “I went to the Hebrew Academy when I was younger, and we learned about Israel, but I wanted to see and learn about it in person.”
This summer, with help from a Simon Family Passport to Israel Grant, Shelby travelled to Israel for three weeks with BBYO.
Shelby says she likes the BBYO environment because it focuses on teen leadership. “The teens lead the activities,” she says. While in Israel, along with learning about the country and experiencing the sites, she “led a program on body image and organized a dance party and a video for the talent show.” She says that her confidence has gone up from this experience, and her advice to other Jewish teens who are considering a similar program, is to “Do it! Get out of your comfort zone because it’s the only way to grow as a person. It’s a supportive environment that helps you be your best self.”
While in Israel, Shelby also enjoyed experiencing many different types of services. “This has helped me understand that I can make Judaism my own,” she says. “Havdallah at the Kotel was really cool. Wherever you pray in the world, you always face the Kotel, but this time, we were AT the Kotel. It’s serious, but fun. Everyone comes together, and we sing, with our arms around each other.”
Through her experience, Shelby made friends from across the United States, and the world, including from Serbia, Croatia, Argentina, and France.
Shelby says she believes the trip will impact her future in wanting to go to temple more often, trying new traditions, and even wanting her “own kids to do this when the time comes.”