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Reflections on the BJ Teen Retreat

A week ago I attended the BJ Teen Retreat, which took place at Berkshire Hills Eisenberg Camp—an unknown place to most of the people on the trip. However, my friend has been there multiple times and had informed me about the turtles that live in the lake, which the camp allows people to feed. My Shabbat afternoon was set.

My friends and I made our way to the lake after we stocked up on apples, bananas, chickpeas, and corn at lunch. I threw in pieces of apple, patiently waiting for the turtles to emerge. After much anticipation, a few small painted turtles appeared.

For the next few minutes, we continued to throw food into the water. Eventually, a large, rock-shaped animal moved towards uneaten pieces of banana. I glanced over and realized how big it was, and immediately jumped back in fear of being bitten by the snapping turtles. But as my friends kept on throwing more food in for the turtles, I realized that even though the turtles looked scary, they wouldn’t hurt me. I was safe to throw the rest of my corn into the water. 

The afternoon I spent with the turtles was one of the best experiences I have ever had. Feeding the turtles and laughing with my friends on a BJ Teen Retreat while isolated from the rest of the world was peaceful, exciting, and amusing. I feel so grateful that I can experience such moments of bliss—the stress of regular life melts away and I worry about much simpler things (like whether or not I packed enough food to feed turtles). When I think about yet another day in high school, I simply return to that moment and I feel at ease again.


Written by Natan Hockenstein, Co-9th Grade Membership Chair