When Tyler Bardfeld moved from West Windsor, NJ, to Fairless Hills, Pa., he decided to reenergize the BBYO AZA Acheem chapter as part of his quest to make new friends.
That was summer of 2014. Ever since, he has been trying to spread the word, talking to people at school and advertising at his synagogue and more widely. His effort is paying off.
What he went to his first Acheem event, having heard about it from his older brother, Eric, about five people showed up at every event, but now they get 10 to 15. He would ultimately like to draw 30 or 40, as happens in Harrisburg and Allentown, two of the youth group’s bigger chapters.
Bardfeld is a little worried that if the chapter does not expand it will have to merge with a chapter that is farther away.
A member of Congregation Beth El in Yardley, Pa., and a sophomore at Pennsbury High School, Bardfeld, who has also taken part in United Synagogue Youth and Young Judaea, is especially committed to BBYO.
“It is run mostly by teenagers more than adults,” he said. “It feels like there is more freedom and it’s more social.” Recalling that someone came up and introduced himself to Bardfeld at his first BBYO event, he added, “it feels like at BBYO you make really good friends, friendships that last.”
Chapters are open to eighth- through 12th-graders, although conventions are for just ninth-graders and up.
The Acheem chapter plans both educational and social events, at people’s homes or in public venues, often combining an event with a meal together. Events have included bowling, a pizza party, a movie, and a swimming party. The group, which usually meets Saturday evenings or Sunday afternoons, also holds occasional services and Havdala.
Jews from any of the different streams are welcome at BBYO. Bardfeld said, “BBYO has all types of Jews. It doesn’t matter what type you are as long as you are part Jewish.”
About half of Acheem’s events are run jointly with Leviticeem, the BBG chapter for teenage girls. It has been stronger than Acheem, pulling in about 30 young women at every event.
As mazkir, or secretary, of his chapter Bardfeld is responsible for spreading awareness about the chapter’s events. He sends regular event e-mails and has a Facebook members-only group for the guys in his chapter.
Bardfeld, who before last year didn’t know much about BBYO, said, “It means a lot to me. In one year the bonds I made with people got me so inspired that I wanted to be on the board. I want to help other people experience the same thing.”