A common thread

For some young adults, it can be hard finding a friend, let alone a group of friends, who share a common interest. For those who belong to a small part of the community, such as Judaism, it can be even harder. That’s where BAYA (Beth Am Young Adults), located in Carrollwood, comes in. Laura Rehbein founded the group last October, thanks to the coaxing of Temple Beth Am’s Rabbi Sam.

“A couple of the organizing members just wanted to create a way to meet other Jewish adults,” said Rehbein. “We didn’t want to join a group where we would be the youngest members by many years. So we decided to start a young adults group. There are

groups for children, groups for seniors, groups for men, groups for women – but no group specifically for young adults.”

The group is akin to a youth group but for the adult set. With 15-20 members, the group is still growing. It is geared toward individuals ages 22 and over, and although honorary member Rabbi Sam is in his mid-50s, the oldest official member is 38. The intent of the group is to bring young people – or those who feel young at heart – together as a community. BAYA offers various events in which members can participate, including visits to local plays, evenings of miniature golf and pizza nights. Every month, the group hosts social hour at Tank’s Tap Room on Dale Mabry, where members of the group have the opportunity to share dinner after work. “We recently celebrated Passover at another member’s home,” said Lisa Pollock, a gerontology major who is part of BAYA and runs its MySpace page. “I really, really like the group. It’s a community.”

Rehbein echoes this sentiment.

“The atmosphere of the group is very casual and inviting. Since the activities, for the most part, are very informal, they lend themselves to a casual group,” she said.

Although some people may be put off thinking this group is exclusively for those of the Jewish faith, Rehbein reassures that is not the case. While it consists primarily of Jewish members, BAYA also includes converts and spouses or significant others of its Jewish members.

“Religion is a big part of the group and, at the same time, a very small part of the group,” said Rehbein. “The common thread with members is religion. At the same time, there is no religious component to our activities.” Pollock, who is on the verge of converting to Judaism, says the group made the transition easier for her. She said she felt comfortable asking any questions she had without apprehension. Since many of the group’s members are also a part of Torah classes at their temples, they are able to establish a strong connection with one another. Although studying the Torah necessitates a more diligent atmosphere, BAYA provides the students a chance to unwind and let loose.

While both Rehbein and Pollock had high expectations upon initially joining the group, they have found the experience deeply satisfying.

“My main personal goal for the group was to meet other Jewish adults and increase my base of friends; this goal has definitely been met,” said Rehbein. “Now the goal has become to increase the group itself so that others can increase their base of Jewish friends.”

While Pollock adds that she hopes BAYA will collaborate with other local Jewish groups, Rehbein asserts that right now the focus is on developing BAYA’s membership roster and getting existing members more involved.

For people interested in joining BAYA, visit their MySpace page at Myspace.com/bethamyoungadults for a list of upcoming events. Prospective members should provide their age and location for proper regulation. There is also an e-mail list that people can join by sending their information to Laura Rehbein at bethamyoungadults@hotmail.com.