When Frank Weisberg and 19 other teen boys joined the Resnick AZA chapter of BBYO in the late 1950s, little did they know the foundation of love, trust and camaraderie they were building — a deep and abiding connection that still endures more than 65 years later.
Class of 1960 members traveled from all over the country to attend a special reunion in September. The event marked their 80th birthday year, and continued a ritual that Weisberg said is unique among BBYO chapters.
“I think it’s unheard of that no one has dropped out,” he said. “Everybody is still is so invested in this group after all these years. It’s really wonderful, and we all appreciate how special it is.”
In addition to traditional activities like dinner and drinks, a walk across the Big Four Bridge, an outing to the Speed Museum and, of course, a tour to show off the beautiful new Trager Family JCC, the weekend also included sincere and honest conversations during “circle” time, a tradition that began at the group’s first reunion in 1965.
While the men became close during their time in BBYO — they all knew everyone’s parents and grandparents, and spent a lot of time at each other’s houses — Weisberg said those friendships revolved mostly around school, sports and girls. The 1965 reunion is what opened the door to the profound connections they all have today. And that’s thanks to the very first “circle.”
This particular Resnick AZA class is a successful group of high-ranking executives, physicians, lawyers and more. At their first reunion, two members who were psychologists suggested that they change the layout of the room where they were meeting at the JCC from a classroom of desks to a circle of chairs, group-therapy style. They also advised that “what’s said in the room, stays in the room,” giving each man permission to share their deepest thoughts and feelings without judgment, Weisberg said.
And share, they did — about their families, their careers, their joys, hopes, pain and fears.
“We had a lot of laughs, and we had a lot of tears,” Weisberg said. The first session was scheduled for only a few hours, but it ended up taking the whole day. “Everyone wanted to participate. It really created a bond between us.”
The same has been true at every reunion since then.
As you might expect, the class has faced some losses over the years. Though seven of the original 20 members have passed away, Weisberg is quick to point out that they are still with the group in spirit. Eight-by-10-inch photos of those who died take space in the chairs where the men once sat. The other 13 wouldn’t miss the circle gatherings for anything the world.
Because of the pandemic, it has been about three years since the class of 1960 met in person, though they initiated monthly Zoom calls to keep in touch. But nothing can replace the magic that happens when they are all in the same room. This year’s event was a highly anticipated homecoming.
“Everybody that I’ve talked to about this over the years who were in other clubs, or other Resnick AZA years, they say, ‘I wish we had gotten together like that,’” said Weisberg. “And my answer to them is this: You can do it. All it takes is one person to coordinate it and get it started.”