By Andrew Goldberg
Fulfilling several aspirations of mine – and with parental support – I enrolled in BBYO’s 2019 Ambassadors to Argentina Summer Program.
Leading up to the trip, I had not met any of my fellow travelers, which is how I embarked on previous summer travel programs as well. Yet, this trip felt different before I even set foot into Miami International Airport, where the group flight participants were meeting. I knew the trip was planned by BBYO, the Jewish teen-led organization I have passionately been involved in since my sophomore year of high school. I knew everyone on the trip was Jewish, whether they were Reform, Orthodox, culturally-associated or somewhere in between. Knowing that they were all interested in furthering their leadership skills and global presence, though, was what intrigued me the most.
Along the path towards achieving these goals, there were obstacles to overcome. And overcome them we did through collaboration and encouragement.
We overcame a flight cancellation on the first day of the trip by engaging in ice-breaker games and introductions before we even left the United States – and continuing them until we arrived at our hotel 24 hours later, to the unexpected welcoming posters, smiles and cheers of our other half: the Argentinian, Latvian, and Lithiuanian staff and teens.
We departed our hotel the following morning for a day touring the capital city. Our Argentinian friends had seen most of these sites before, but that did not stop them from having a positive experience. Instead, they were able to turn the situation into cultural collaboration. We exchanged our perspectives of their monuments and landmarks, while they got to be honorary tour guides. The balance of this exchange was perfect and it enabled us to bond remarkably fast.
A day filled with visits to Jewish sites and history sessions was a reminder to be proud of our shared heritage. We learned about the tragic AMIA bombing, and the impact it has left on the Jewish community of Argentina as a whole. While some of the materials presented to us were in Spanish without English subtitles, we were guided by our Argentinian peers who were pleased to have us learn about the tragedies of their Jewish community. A shared understanding of the need for Jews around the world to unite in the force against antisemitism was strengthened.
A highlight of this experience was our time spent in Iguazu, where we toured this wonder of the world, filled with diverse plants, animal species and of course, the waterfalls. This was a reminder for us to respect our environment and collaborate to protect it. The views were breathtaking and the memories from this leg of the trip will certainly be cherished. From the sudden stop in our walking tour to watch a monkey right above our heads, to rushing through the waterfalls on a boat, we stepped out of our comfort zones and expanded our horizons, making this trip one that I would certainly recommend to all Jewish teenagers.
BBYO member Andrew Goldberg lives in Stamford, where is a senior at the Academy of Information Technology and Engineering. His family is a member of Stamford’s Temple Beth El.
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Main Photo: Teens taking part in BBYO’s 2019 Ambassadors to Argentina Summer Program on the road in Argentina.