To demonstrate the diversity and similarities of Jewish communities around the world, members of the Global Networking committee came together to create a map comprised of images and words in the physical location of each community, while the words are scattered throughout the map, as all communities have at least one characteristic or asset in common.
Looking back on this year’s accomplishments as a globalizing movement, BBYO has a lot to be proud of. We have strengthened and created partnerships with several communities and Jewish youth organizations such as Hebraica in Argentina, Hagoschrim in Switzerland, Maccabi Tzair in Israel, the Jewish communities of Ukraine, Turkey and many others.
At BBYO Eastern Region’s Regional Convention in December 2011, two hundred attendees gathered into one room and Skyped with a girl in BBYO Bulgaria. It was around 7:00 at night for us and almost 2:00 in the morning for her. I remember thinking about how much passion she must have had to be up at 2:00 a.m. just so that these Alephs and BBGs in America whom she barely knew could ask her a few questions about life as a Jewish teen in Bulgaria. One Aleph asked her about the international events that she's attended and then followed up with a comment about how it must have been so expensive considering the overseas flight that she had to pay for in addition to the actual event. She answered by telling him about how the International Service Fund (ISF) played a large role in helping her get here and she was very thankful for it.
Whenever someone brings up Ambassadors to Bulgaria, one scene always flashes to my mind. I just sat down to lead a discussion on Judaism with Tony, the token Jew from his hometown near Sofia; Moni, the president of his local Jewish youth group chapter in Plovdiv; Predrag, the three-year-veteran of the program from Serbia; Jacob, the world traveler from New York; and Mark, the lead singer of a Latvian band. Of course, the first words out of my mouth are not one of the dialogue questions but, “How did we even get here?”
I was driving home from school on Monday, April 15, in the pouring rain (characteristic of April in Miami, but difficult to maneuver nonetheless) with my best friend when a breaking news notification popped up on her phone: Explosions at finish line of Boston Marathon. 2 dead. 22 wounded. More details to come.
There are about 600 Jews in Croatia, but most are not active in the Jewish community. Where I am from, Osijek, although we do not have a formal synagogue and pulpit, we do come together as a community to celebrate major Jewish holidays with cultural significance like Hanukah, Purim and Rosh Hashanah. In the capital, Zagreb, the synagogue is active, but there are few participants. For example, most teens do not have a bar or bat mitzvah.
I owe my leadership skills and my commitment to global Jewish people to the Jewish youth group I grew up in as well as my summers spent at Jewish camp. From a young age, I was engaged by leaders in my communities that I would look up to and say, “one day I want to be like him.” This year, I have taken time to explore the Jewish world with the Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) as a JDC-BBYO Global Service Fellow in Kharkov, Ukraine. I have traveled and visited other communities with hopes to engage teenagers and develop their leadership skills and Jewish commitment.
From April 3rd-17th, BBYO sent a National delegation of 120 teens on the March of the Living, a two-week journey in Poland and Israel where participants retrace the plight of the Jewish people during the Holocaust, and celebrate the revival and strength of the Jewish people in the Jewish Homeland.
During this year on the International Board of BBYO, I have had the privilege to connect with Jewish people from all over the world. Yet I would never have imagined that my outreach to the international Jewish community would span as far as Asia – more specifically, the Bene Israeli Jews of Mumbai, India.
On March 17, 1992, a terrorist attack targeted the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires, Argentina. It was a shock for everyone, as nothing like this had happened before. There were no warnings, and it took all the citizens by surprise.
My name is Rebeka Mucheva, I’m 18 and I live in Macedonia, BBYO Balkans region. I come from a small Jewish community in the capita of Macedonia, Skopje. We have a large community of kids of teens with many activities such as a kids club, which I run, women’s club, youth club etc. All of us come from mixed marriages, so the Jewish atmosphere is not very present in our homes. We celebrate the holidays in our Jewish community, and since we don’t have a rabbi, a rabbi from Bulgaria comes for the big holidays like Passover, Hanukkah and Rosh Hashanah.
BBYO France is made up of 150 people, 11 different cities and 3 parts of France - the southwest, the southeast and the north. We are a friendly group and everyone knows each other. It is an incredible experience bringing together teens from the four corners of France to celebrate their Judaism and cerate friendships that last a lifetime.
BBYO Balkans currently consists of five countries: Albania, Bosnia, Croatia, Macedonia and Serbia. In pursuit of strengthening our program and engaging more Jewish teens we are always looking to add to our region, including Montenegro currently.
Nervous, excited, scared and spirited – just a few of the feelings that rushed through the minds of the 70-person International Delegation as they made their way to center stage to be inducted into the BBYO family in front of the largest gathering of Alephs and BBGs in BBYO’s history.
We, the members of the Global Fundraising Committee (GFC), are writing to you after just returning from AZA BBG IC 2013 in Washington, DC. We have been hard at work promoting ISF this year! ISF stands for the International Service Fund, and throughout the year we help BBYO raise funds for ISF. This allows more Jewish teens from all over the world to have more meaningful Jewish experiences.
Happy 4th of July from Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria! We’ve had some extraordinary experiences since our last email. We traveled from Veliko Turnovo to Plovdiv, Bulgaria’s second largest city and the home of one of the two Bulgaria BBYO chapters. After getting dressed into our finest Shabbat attire and taking some pictures, some of which you can find on our Smugmug Album, We had the unique opportunity to attend Friday night Kabbalat Shabbat services at Plovdiv’s synagogue. The community, which is primarily Sephardi, welcomed us with open arms and was overjoyed that we joined them. We ate Shabbat dinner back at the hotel, ran meaningful Shabbat programs including sharing stories and an open forum during which trip participants were able to ask each other questions and make comments that were on their mind, and celebrated the birthday of Alex Meyer (chestit rojden den! – that’s how one says “happy birthday!” in Bulgarian…we had celebrated the birthday of Kevin Sloan earlier in the week).
We just completed our third day of the Ambassadors to Bulgaria program. Our days have been filled with new friendships, cross-cultural lessons, and laughter. As usual I wanted to share a particularly meaningful update with all of you. Right before the opening of the trip, we received exciting news that our community would include teens from not just three but from five different countries. We have teens from America, Bulgaria, Serbia, Macedonia, and Albania.
After a successful journey from Ne w York to London to Sofia to Varna, we have arrived in Bulgaria excited for the experiences ahead! Our group of 38 teens from all over the USA was met by Vitalyia, Polly, and Alina – the Bulgaria and Serbia BBYO staff – and about 25 teens from Bulgaria, Serbia, Macedonia, and Albania at the airport off the Black Sea with cheers, banners, and song.