Each year, the Jewish community of the metropolitan area of Washington, D.C., gathers together to celebrate the not-so-small group of Jewish teens from DC, Maryland and Northern Virginia who participate in BBYO locally. To many, that group is known as BBYO Northern Region East (NRE). To me, it’s home.
A few weeks ago, I had the honor of attending BBYO NRE’s new member weekend, a convention solely for freshmen members of the organization to introduce them to the traditions and culture of BBYO. As international n’siah (president of B’nai B’rith Girls, BBYO’s high school leadership program for young Jewish women), I travel to such events regularly in Jewish communities around the world to help expand BBYO’s reach globally. This weekend was different, though, because I was in my region. I came home.
It wasn’t until I attended new member weekend, not as a participant, but rather in my new role, that I have begun to piece together just what NRE means to me.
Back in the comfort of NRE, the traditions came flooding back. During a late-night sisterhood program, I didn’t hesitate to dawn my bright blue, duck-patterned “onesie” (the duck is my home chapter’s mascot). Whereas this may not be the norm in other communities I visit — each has their own traditions — I was reminded about the inherent connection this simple piece of clothing offered us. Teens and staff alike asked where to get one of their own. It may be silly, but it’s culture.
My continued connection to the region does not just lie in the routines I am most used to. NRE, at its core, is about the family it creates for its members, alumni and staff. During the new member weekend, I had the opportunity to get to know many of the new advisers and staff that had joined NRE since I had graduated high school a few months ago. All of the new professionals are alumni of the region, which really speaks to how much our region means to those who have called it home. Upon first meeting with the new professionals and advisers, I immediately felt their care and appreciation for one another and the well-being of the region, something I have felt since the very beginning of my time with BBYO in NRE. It’s a feeling that cannot be explained, but rather has to be experienced to be fully understood.
My real “aha!” moment during my time back in NRE came when I was talking with a sophomore and younger brother of one of my BBYO brothers from Maryland. Something he said really stuck with me. Although I am a B’nai B’rith Girl from Northern Virginia and, now, the international president, he said, without hesitation, “Michaela, you’re one of us. Of course we love you.” That’s when I realized that, although life may take me to different corners of the world, I will always be part of the NRE family. I can’t think of a better place to call home.
It is with this that I wish NRE a successful and meaningful celebration of BBYO on Dec. 5. I am honored to be part of the NRE family as the ninth annual celebration of the region approaches. It is open to all members of the community and I hope you join me in experiencing and supporting a community that has given me — and continues to give Jewish teens locally and internationally — so much.
Michaela Brown, a resident of Sterling, is currently serving as the international n’siah, or international teen president, of B’nai B’rith Girls (BBG, BBYO’s high school leadership program and sorority for young women).