Posted on 02/13/2015 @ 03:30 PM
This morning was the BBYO Leads Plenary. The program featured 19 different speakers, ranging anywhere from BBYO teens to famous actresses to Holocaust survivors. Each speaker stood up in front of over 2,000 people to talk about their personal beliefs and to inspire Jewish teens to create their own Jewish identity.
For example, Juliette Hochberg, President of BBYO France, and Julia Kovalova, member of BBYO Ukraine, told the audience about the hard times they face at home, but it is comforting to know they have support from the BBYO community.
Bobby Dishell, Student Government President at University of Michigan and BBYO alum, shared a poignant story about how he received hateful remarks on campus because he is Jewish. However, Dishell was proud of his Jewish identity, so he spoke up on behalf of the Jewish community. In the end, he ended up winning his election as Student Government President by the largest margin in history.
Michael Steinhardt, one of the founders of Birthright, spoke about how and why he invested in that venture. He believes that every Jew deserves a chance to visit his/her homeland as a way to explore his/her Jewish identity. Steinhardt also believes that Jewish teens should stand up for what they believe in—making his achievement of winning the 2015 BBYO Stand UP Award for inspirational leadership.
Kat Graham, a Jewish actress on The Vampire Diaries, definitely received the loudest cheer. Along with acting, she spends her time advocating for LGBTQ rights, volunteering as a personality for the United Nations and DoSomething.org and a leading voice for Syrian refuges, AIDS research and clean water. Graham spoke about the importance of acceptance and tolerance and how fortunate she is to work in such a diverse, accepting environment. She said to us, “I have no doubt looking our at you that the world is going to change.” I know we’re empowered to be the leaders she sees in us.
One of the most heartwarming parts was at the end of the plenary, when Holocaust Survivor Trudy Album took the stage. She spoke about how she sees us, BBYO members, as a blessing and that we bring pride and inspire the whole world with what we do every day. Hearing that from someone who experienced the most trying time in Jewish history left us uplifted and ready to take on the world.
- Rebecca Newman, Westchester Region, IC 2015 Press Corps