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GNC 2013 Map

Posted on 06/20/2013 @ 02:30 PM

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A Year in Review: The 2012-2013 Global Networking Committee

Posted on 06/06/2013 @ 02:30 PM

Tags: A Year in Review: The 2012-2013 Global Networking Committee

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.

Although these partnerships are, without a doubt, very important and exciting for BBYO, this year we’ve discovered that there’s much more to globalization than simply “reaching out” to communities in countries outside of our own. With the hard work of the Global Networking Committee (GNC), and the help of every single region, chapter and member, we’ve proven that globalization is tangible to everyone, everywhere.

Many of us have benefited from one of the global chapter partnerships, engaging chapters from the USA, Canada, the UK, Ireland and Bulgaria. Countless others have led or participated in globally focused programs in our communities. For the first time in BBYO’s history, we’ve started to take globalization to the grassroots level.

On Sunday, May 26, 2013, the GNC had their last group discussion of the year. GNC discussions have taken place twice a month throughout the year, where approximately 40 members from 15 different countries have come together to discuss mutually significant topics such as Israel, Holocaust remembrance, membership, programming and profiled our respective communities.

We used our final discussion as an opportunity to reflect on our work over the past year and brainstorm ways to improve our network for the next generation. To give you a better understanding of the impact the GNC can make on communities and individuals, here are some direct quotes from our discussion:

Why do you think the GNC is important for Jewish youth around the world?

“For us in Ireland, the GNC has created a connection that we have never had before. It really is amazing how many Jewish teens there are in the world and it is so important that we utilize today's technology to forge these connections. The GNC is the best device for this job and we really have accomplished a lot in our first year.” – Cian Milofsky, BBYO UK & Ireland

“In my opinion, the coolest part of the GNC is realizing there's teens like us everywhere. It really helps make tangible the idea that when we say "global Jewry" we do mean Jews who support and love the same things as us all over the world.” - Sofie Jacobs, Northern Region East: DC Council

“I think that it really shows how being Jewish connects you to others, no matter where they're from. No matter where you live or what situation you're in, there are people out there who share something so special with you and can help you out.” - Allie Cohen, Eastern Canada Region

“It is important because there are things that are said in the media or perhaps things you hear at school about Jewish organisations around the world, but it is not until you speak to someone and hear about the way in which they live their lives that you know the truth. I have found it so interesting to read about everybody's different lifestyles and I think its so important to understand the way that different Jews live all around the world so that we can enhance our Jewish identity and speak with people with whom we have common ground! - Alana Barnett, BBYO UK & Ireland

“I think it's important for people to have a better understanding of Jews around the world. For example, when the events in Israel and Gaza occurred earlier in the year, it was good for us to discuss what was happening and how we can stand up for ourselves in everyday life.” – Nick Phillips, BBYO UK & Ireland

“It connects Jews to Jews! It's comforting to know that there are other people in the world who do the same stuff you do!” - Sam Dolen, Kentucky Indiana Ohio Region

What can we improve upon in the coming years?

“I think that we could make it better by sharing our resources collectively as a team. For example, I think the amazing programmes we all created should have been seen and used by more chapters. Plus, we should be proud of each other's GNC blog posts and share them around more because we've all done such great jobs!” – Nick Phillips, BBYO UK & Ireland

“I think it would be great if people from different parts of the world could join the G+ chats Hebraica and BBYO have so the kids in Hebraica can learn from many different Jewish communities.” – Melu Faez, Hebraica Argentina

So what’s next? Although we’re about to complete our inaugural year of the GNC, there are still countless opportunities to strengthen BBYO as a global movement. As I mentioned earlier, each and every one of you, regardless of where you’re from, can and will play an important role in BBYO’s globalization efforts. BBYO is unlike any other Jewish youth movement in the world because when we say we’re an international organization, we can prove it at the grassroots level.

If you’re lucky enough to have more time as a teen member of BBYO, take advantage of opportunities and immerse yourself in the global aspects of BBYO. Partner with a chapter outside of your community. Educate others by planning a program involving global Jewry. Fundraise for the International Service Fund and witness the impact of the money raised by utilizing social media to connect with the community receiving the funds. When we unite globally, our local impact becomes that much more powerful.

For me, it’s been an honor to work with and learn from such an incredible team of global leaders this past year and I’m excited to see the global impact of our Order in the years to come. I am confident we will only grow larger and stronger from here.

Jessie Gordon (Chair to the Global Networking Committee),BBYO Great Midwest Region

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I See a Future with ISF

Posted on 05/30/2013 @ 02:00 PM

Tags: I See a Future with ISF globalization

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.

After the convention was over, I started looking more into ISF. This fund that we all raise money for during the year has given so many teens beyond North America the opportunity to be a part of our movement. Since then, I've become extremely passionate about not only fundraising for ISF, but also educating members about it. The thought that we have the ability to strengthen Jewish communities all over the world drives me to advocate for our globalization efforts as much as I can.

ISF isn’t something that only teens living outside of North America benefit from - it’s something that is changing our entire movement. We are the ONLY international, pluralistic Jewish youth movement. ISF plays a large role in making that happen, which is why it’s so important for us to work hard towards strengthening this fund!

Being a member of the Global Fundraising Committee (GFC) this past year has helped me in my ISF advocacy efforts. Every time that I hear about a region that has passed their ISF goal, I get excited because they’re making more of a difference in our order than they know. They’re showing their passion for globalizing our movement and it’s most definitely paying off!!

This year, we had almost 70 delegates attend International Convention from outside North America. I can’t wait until we have 700.

Roni Rose- BBYO Eastern Region: North Carolina Council

Interested in fundraising for ISF? Click here to learn about some great fundraising ideas or talk to your chapter or council/regional Mazkir or Gizbor, the international Mazkirim or Joey Eisman, JEisman@BBYO.org.

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Experiencing Bulgaria through my own eyes

Posted on 05/23/2013 @ 11:58 AM

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?”

The answer is simple, but the journey was long. I got on a plane and arrived in a country which I knew nothing about. I can vividly remember walking up to the gated community center in Bulgaria. While I had hoped to find a welcoming entrance, once inside I felt uneasy behind the gate. I realized that I was witnessing something I was not used to, anti-Semitism. Swastikas that defaced the outside walls made me anxious, but, in contrast, joyous faces lit the space around me. In spite of all of the issues the community deals with, their resilience eclipsed the darkness and concern that had crept over me.

Some may ask how these people could be so optimistic even when they were forced into a corner in their own community. As I said before, the answer is simple.

These people were Jewish and, because of that, they were strong.

They were passionate about what they believed in and they wanted to make sure that future generations could have the opportunity to share the same ideals. So how did we all get there? At this point the answer should be crystal clear.

Max Goldstein, Regional Aleph Godol, BBYO Evergreen Region

Since the day I joined BBYO, the term “globalization” has become a part of my everyday speech. I learned the importance of raising money for the International Service Fund (ISF). This money helps provide international teens the opportunity to attend BBYO programming and explore their Judaism. They get to experience what I have come to love in BBYO!

At International Convention this past February, and at International Kallah this past summer, I had the unique privilege of meeting, interacting with, programming alongside and creating relationships with these special teens from overseas. The insight that each and every one of them brings is eye opening. Hearing all about the countries and Jewish communities they come from is incredible. However, I could not be more thrilled to be traveling to Bulgaria on Ambassadors to Bulgaria and to experience everything that my friends have told me. I can’t wait to explore my friends’ communities and gain a better understanding of Jewish life outside of the US. I have learned how different from, and sometimes similar to, the Jewish communities of Eastern Europe are in regard to my community. I cannot wait to discover where I fit within this large global Jewish community!

The teens I know and the teens I will meet have a perspective on Judaism that is unlike mine because of the gap of religion between them and their parent’s generation. Along with communicating about what makes each of our Jewish communities so special, I will get to explore the beautiful country of Bulgaria. Whether it is going to synagogues or the JCC, my eyes will be opened to what makes the country so special. However, I am most excited to bring back everything I learn to both my community and the International Order.

Maya Guthman, International S’ganit, 69th International Board of BBG

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Something’s Gotta Give

Posted on 05/17/2013 @ 02:00 PM

Tags: Something’s Gotta Give

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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.

I wish I could say I was shocked, but how could I be shocked?

Aurora. The Newtown shooting. The stories surface every few days of a shooting in this or that city, of a school aged child pointing his parents’ rifle at a playmate. These things that should shock me to my core - they should have left me a little desensitized – but they haven’t.

As I scrolled down my Twitter feed, I saw a lot of the same. “My thoughts and prayers are with those affected in Boston.” “Praying for Boston.” “Sending love and support to Boston.” A few had retweeted the Boston Globe’s updates on the situation. But then I saw one thing that stuck out:

“I hope we can be the generation that stops this hate.”

And I liked that. In fact, I liked it so much that I tweeted it myself. That was very beautiful to me. I know that tweeting “#prayforboston” and adorning ribbons and bracelets shows solidarity, which is beautiful too, but that won’t stop these kinds of things from happening. The only thing that will stop the hate is the determination of an entire generation to love, to coexist, to live respectfully and peacefully. We can be that generation. I believe we are that generation.

Wherever we are in the world, we share the value of a life. We teach our children and our neighbors to love peace more than power and, in return, they will teach others the same. Somewhere along the line, we will find ourselves in a world where we don’t hate or fear one another.

Maybe it’s more complicated than that. Maybe we can’t fix all the ills of the world so easily—maybe it’s all much heavier. But at its essence, the idea is simple and holds true in communities all around the world: love and teach others to love.

Alexandra Weiner, BBYO Miami Region

News about the two bombings during the Boston Marathon in which 3 people died and 264 were left injured swiftly moved to the UK and spread across the media like wildfire.

The reaction in the UK was overwhelming as we heard the news. There was an incredible number of shared pictures, statuses and threads across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social networking sites to raise awareness of the event. Additionally, there were fundraisers and events to raise money in order to help those who were injured, as well as their families, who may be in need of support and guidance. 

Alana Barnett, BBYO UK & Ireland

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JUDAISM IN CROATIA

Posted on 05/09/2013 @ 02:00 PM

Tags: JUDAISM IN CROATIA

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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.

In Osijek, we have about 5 teenagers and 10 younger kids engaged in our youth programming. Some of the exciting activities we have in our community are a dance group called Haverim Shel Israel and a Sunday school where smaller kids can learn about Israel and Judaism. It might be hard to imagine if you come from a larger community, but we like our small and intimate community. We all grew up together, so our Jewish community is like our second family.

You can probably tell there are not many opportunities to become involved in Jewish life in Croatia, so thankfully BBYO works to connect us to our Judaism, to develop and strengthen our Jewish identities and to learn about ourselves. It is through BBYO that I have met and made many of my Jewish friends. It is because of BBYO that I feel connected to the Jewish world and am becoming a better person.

Maja Vizentaner & Rebecca Beissman

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A Bright Future in Eastern Europe

Posted on 05/02/2013 @ 02:30 PM

Tags: A Bright Future in Eastern Europe

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.

Determining how many Jews there are in any city in the former Soviet Union (FSU) is difficult. The first question, generally, is “what is a Jew?” But, even if you take the most pluralistic route, it is still incredibly challenging to establish a number. Unfortunately, many people of previous generations never told their children that they were Jewish because they feared anti-Semitism. Even today, many people are still afraid to come out as a Jew. We estimate that there are 30,000 Jews in Kharkov, but the number can be as high as 50,000. This issue is replicated in every village, town and city throughout the FSU.

What age group is best to work with when creating Jewish leaders and educators of the future? It is, of course, teenagers. Teenagers throughout the world look for ways to be involved in a community, whether it is through sports or clubs. Cities that I had barely heard of, and towns that I had never heard of, have strong teen programs.

I have visited two communities in Moldova – Kishinev and Balti. In Kishinev, there is a youth group (ages 14-25) that meets for Shabbat every week and has a number of other programs. They average over 50 people for Shabbat every week. These are people that want to engage in their Jewish lives with other Jews and want to explore their heritage.

The city of Balti, much smaller than Kishinev, has its own Jewish teen program that meets often to engage in similar programs as ones in North America. They have programs on Jewish identity, social action, their relationship with Israel and many other topics. When I first arrived, I was amazed to have conversations in Hebrew, but – more than that – they were astonished to meet a North American who spoke Hebrew.

Recently, I visited the small Ukrainian city of Sumi. Sumi does not have more than a few thousand Jews. There, however, I met two Jewish youth groups. The first group was for 12-14 year-olds. They love listening to Israeli music so much that their ringtones are Israeli songs. We had a few programs in which we talked about B’nei Mitzvah and what it meant to them to become older and have more responsibilities. They told me they thought it meant charting the direction of education they will have, learning more about their Jewishness and visiting Israel (one of them is moving to Israel now).

The Fellow who was here last year created the teen program and I have developed it. We currently have six programs every month. Every second Sunday, we have a program that is based on the Jewish calendar or a social program, and every Friday night we have Shabbat services, a small program and a kiddish with all the Jewish rituals of Friday night. Our programs range in attendance between 15 to 25 participants. Some of the participants go to Jewish school but, for some, these programs are their only Jewish experiences. We’re developing them into the future leaders of the Jewish community of Kharkov and Ukraine.

I used to be surprised when I met people that spoke Hebrew fluently. I used to be surprised at the knowledge base of people that I met when it came to Jewish text. I used to be surprised when I heard people talking about Israel openly and with glee. None of these things surprise me anymore.

I am excited by the youth I work with and to see the future is bright for the Jewish people throughout the entire world.

Ezra Moses is serving as a 2012-2013 JDC-BBYO Global Service Fellow in Kharkov, Ukraine

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The March of the Living 2013

Posted on 04/25/2013 @ 02:00 PM

Tags: The March of the Living 2013

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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.

Here are a few experiences from the trip, documented by GNC members- Jessie Gordon and Genna Fudin.

Approximately 70 years ago, the Nazis sent 750,000 prisoners, nearly half of whom Jewish, on death marches across European terrain. This year on April 8th, which was Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day), 10,000 teens and adults from all over the world gathered at Auschwitz in Poland to silently march three kilometers to Birkenau- a 25-year tradition entitled the March of the Living (March) . For me, one of the most beautiful aspects of the March was the diversity of the participants. Christians, Buddhists, Muslims, and Hindus joined the Jewish delegations, majority being youth. Many of these people were participating in commemoration of other genocides, such as the Rwandan genocide. I remember interacting with a group of adults from the Netherlands, who called themselves “Christians for Israel”.

When I arrived at Auschwitz that day, I anticipated the same eerie, somber mood that dwelled upon the camp the day before, when our delegation had toured the grounds. I walked through the gates and I was overtaken by an air of pride, fervor amongst the crowd; a heavy contrast from the day before and 70 years prior when the prisoners at Auschwitz were forced to march to their deaths. On the day of the March, the camp had completely been transformed. The barracks, gates, etc. were all still intact as always, but the grounds were filled with delegations from dozens of countries around the world, draped in Israeli flags and chanting “Am Yisrael Chai!”. When the actual March began, we were told to walk in silence as we exited the gates of Auschwitz. Hand in hand, we marched- remembering our ancestors who perished on those very grounds, but moving forward with a sense of dignity and pride in the resilience and strength of our people.

At one point during the March, a Polish woman approached me and handed me a gold coin with the world “Zegota” inscribed on its surface. Her English wasn’t great, and my Polish was still limited to about 4 or 5 words, but I remember she said “This coin is very important. Jewish organization, saved many Jews”. That night, I did some research on the organization, and found that Zegota was a codename for the Polish Council to Aid Jews, which found places of safety for Jews in occupied Poland. Apparently, this was the only known organization of its kind in all of Nazi occupied Europe. Despite our communication barrier, the sentiment of our connection at that moment was incomparable to any dialogue we might have had otherwise. I thanked her with my broken Polish and through our faltering, yet meaningful interaction, I knew she had asked me to carry on the legacy of the coin and tell the story of the Zegota.

Jessie Gordon, Great Midwest Region

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Beyond participating in the March of the Living from Auschwitz to Birkenau, we had the opportunity to visit meaningful sites all over Poland, such as the Warsaw Ghetto, Treblinka and Mejdonic, and the Jewish Quarter in Krakow. We had the pleasure of meeting Jewish teens from Warsaw during our first Shabbat in Poland.

When the National BBYO delegation was in Warsaw, we met with five Polish Jews and their youth group director. We discussed how it feels to live in Poland today after being a prominent site of the Holocaust. I was surprised with how natural it was for them to talk about the Holocaust and how it does not affect them too much. They said they will never forget what happened, and will continue to push for educating more individuals about the Holocaust, but for them Poland is their home and they do not hope to live their whole life in the shadow of the Holocaust. Therefore, they live their own lives and believe that by being proud Jews keeps the memories alive of those we lost in the Holocaust. As grandchildren of survivors, these teens feel compelled to learn and retell the stories of their family. They see themselves as ‘survivors’ who are responsible for continuing the stories, dialogue and education to ensure that we never forget the travesties of the Holocaust.

One of the teens I spoke with mentioned that although the Warsaw Ghetto hasn't survived (except for a few walls and original buildings), she is proud to live in Warsaw to look outside her window every day live her normal life.

The Polish teens we interacted with are involved in a Jewish youth group and have wonderful aspirations. Although a very small Jewish community living in Warsaw today, they are not confronted with much anti-semitism, and they feel safe where they live. They are proud of their Jewish identities and are inspired when they meet other Jewish teens from around the world. Meeting the Polish Jews was a significant part of the dense week in Poland because it gave me reassurance and a smile to know that there is still a strong, small, and happy Jewish community here today.

Genna Fudin, Connecticut Valley Region

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The Jews of India: An Interview with Hannah Grossman, Former JDC Fellow

Posted on 04/18/2013 @ 03:30 PM

Tags: The Jews of India, An Interview with Hannah Grossman, Former JDC Fellow

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.

I had the chance to interview Hannah Grossman, a former JDC Jewish Service Corps Fellow who served in Mumbai.

Can you provide some basic background of the history, geography and demographics of the Bene Israel community?

There is no concrete historical evidence for the narratives of how the Bene Israeli Jews arrived in India. However, the most commonly accepted narrative is that after the 2nd Temple destruction, Jews fled via ship—a ship holding seven couples landed on the Konkan coast (a little south of Mumbai). While all of their texts were lost in the voyage, they remembered the Shema, kept Shabbat and continued circumcision.

At its peak, I believe the Bene Israeli community numbered around 60,000. In 1948, most of them migrated to Israel, not because of persecution (which there was little to none of), but because of their Jewish connection to the land of Israel. Today, there are between 3,000 and 4,000 Jews living in India- most have migrated from the villages along the Konkan coast to Mumbai.

What obstacles has the community faced? What affect did the Holocaust have on the Bene Israel community?

I would say that it has become difficult to follow halachic Judaism in India. Many are traditional Jews and strongly identify with their religion (most people identify strongly with their respective religion in India), but circumstances, like not being able to travel to synagogue and not work on Shabbat, make it difficult.

Because of the high population and competition in the country, many Bene Israeli who do value Jewish education prioritize their formal schooling and work ambitions over Jewish education. It is a matter of fact for many people. (It is hard to make time for formal Jewish education while studying for exams…)

In some ways, the Holocaust and Hitler are far from being understood in India. Many people admire Hitler because he seemed to exemplify a story of someone rising to power. (Mein Kampf is sold in many Indian bookstores and, in recent years, there was a restaurant opened named, ‘Hitler’- through efforts of the Jewish community and Israeli consulate, the restaurant did change its name). While many Bene Israeli Jews connect with this part of Jewish history and Jewish peoplehood, many have not been exposed to strong education about the Holocaust. Indian Jews are in many ways very disconnected from the European experience and it is difficult to relate although efforts have been made to bridge the two (i.e. March of the Living and the Israeli Consulate have encouraged Holocaust education).

What is the community's connection to Israel?

Most, if not all, Bene Israeli Jews in India have family in Israel. There is a very strong connection to Israel through these familial connections.

What are the most prominent similarities and differences between the Bene Israel community and the Jewish community you grew up in?

Differences:
There is no such thing as a denomination (Orthodox, Conservative, Reform) in India. This is something that seems to dominate Jewish communities where I grew up (NJ) and the conversations about Jewish life.

The food! There are special Bene Israeli dishes and snacks for Jewish holidays. For example, they don’t have Hamantashen, but eat something called puran poli on Purim. They break fasts of Yom Kippur and Tisha B’Av with special beans and a unique juice. There are stories that accompany these customs.

There are also unique Bene Israeli Jewish customs. For example, they hold a malida ceremony (kind of a thanksgiving to Elijah) whenever good things happen. Speaking of Elijah, they believe that he ascended off a rock in the Konkan coast and have a very strong connection to him.

Unlike many Jews in my community, the Bene Israeli community does not physically stand out. (They dress in clothing like other Indians, i.e. saaris.)

Similarities:
“Two Jews, three opinions!”

Close family bonds and community relations.

Jewish/Hebrew names.

How does the community interact with the rest of India? Does the fact they are Jewish affect them in any way?

Many of the Bene Israeli Jews are assimilated and spend most of their days with non-Jews (at school and work). Hinduism is very tolerant of other religions and the Bene Israelis have not experienced anti-Semitism making it possible for both groups to get along civilly with each other.

Their Judaism often makes them stand out (i.e Hebrew names) and the simple fact that in a country of over one billion people with only 3,000 - 4,000 Jews, the average person has never met or even heard of Jews.

So, in some cases they go unnoticed because they are such a small group, but when they are noticed their distinctness is evident. Like most Indians who connect strongly to their religion, the Indian Jews are proud and close to their own.



Nick Phillips, 88 Grand Aleph Mazkir
Hannah Grossman was a 2011-2012 JDC JSC Fellow. She is currently studying at the Pardes institute in Jerusalem, Israel.

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The Global Jewish Youth Movement

Posted on 04/11/2013 @ 03:30 PM

Tags: The Global Jewish Youth Movement

From the teachers who educate us to the teen leaders who inspire us, it’s been said a thousand times: “BBYO is not a Jewish youth group. It is a global Jewish youth movement.” This passion for the global BBYO community, coupled with new technology to make these connections possible, inspires chapters the world over to push globalization forward.

However, when chapters and regions are already committing time and money to scholarships, their BBYO Stand UP causes and chapter savings, it’s understandable to be apprehensive about another commitment. Across the continent, BBYO asks its regions for pledges to the International Service Fund (ISF), the fund that allows BBYO to provide Jewish teens around the world with these incredible leadership development and Judaic enrichment opportunities. At present, not everyone on the chapter level or the council/regional level understands how that money impacts the lives of Jews worldwide… but it does. Globalization, in terms of BBYO, is the advancement of global Jewish peoplehood; it is the furthering of world Jewry; it is the future of Judaism worldwide. ISF provides enriching Judaic experiences to teens deprived of their culture on a global scale.

As an American, I (Dan Widasky) take my right to be Jewish for granted; elsewhere in the world, it is by no means a right. In some places, it is dangerous to be Jewish. ISF and global efforts combat the attempts of European governments and local anti-Semitics to stifle Judaism; they bring a forgotten heritage to teens that are otherwise not in touch with their Judaism; they allow for a universal Jewish people.

I (Sofie Jacobs) understood the universality of the Jewish people at my JCC the Monday before IC. The teens attending IC from countries outside of North America had gathered there that night with NRE: DC Council for “Operation Host City,” for a welcome and kick-off event. That night, the JCC was peppered with accents and languages from all over the world. The sounds stood out against the bland walls I have seen every Monday night for the past three years, yet the accents and languages blended into the American teens’ dialect as teens talked. We bonded over a shared passion for advocacy, Israel, sisterhood and brotherhood and being a part of BBYO, no matter where we were from.

When we realize we are all part of one global Jewish community – when we connect with teens no matter what continent they live in – we are part of a movement that is creating Jewish community around the world. We are advancing Jewish peoplehood.

Dan Widasky and Sofie Jacobs
Incoming International Mazkirim

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Argentine Jewish Youth Discuss Commemoration of Terrorist Attacks

Posted on 04/04/2013 @ 05:30 PM

Tags: Argentine Jewish Youth Discuss Commemoration of Terrorist Attacks

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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. 29 people were killed in the attack and fear started to grow in the Jewish community. As the attack was an isolated event, the Jewish community continued to live their lives as usual.

However, two years later, another car full of explosives hit the Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina (AMIA), the most important Jewish association in Argentina. 85 people were killed and 300 were injured.

Today, 19 years later, there are still no guilty parties and many feel the absence of justice.

After this attack, which was the worst attack on Argentinian soil to date, fear ran rampant among the people. New security measures were taken and the Jewish community in Argentina never returned to the sense of comfort it had before the first attack.

Now, every Jewish building, synagogue, school, high school or club not only has a doorman like before 1992, but also dozens of security guards that stand at the doors as long as the buildings are open.

As young people, we believe it is really important to stand up for ourselves and ask for justice because, if we don’t, who else will? That’s why we get together every year to commemorate these attacks and host strikes against the injustice.

Melu Faez and Mai Stamati, Argentina

The terrorist attacks impacted the whole country: not just the people who were there, but also the new generations like ours. Even if I wasn’t alive when this happened, it affects my everyday life.

The strikes weren’t just against the Jewish community - they took the lives of PEOPLE. It doesn’t matter if they were Jews, Catholics, Arabs, Argentinians, Uruguayans or people from any other country - they were PEOPLE. That’s what makes me think more about what the strikes mean. The memorials are an important way for me, as a Jew, to remember the attacks.

There are always two ceremonies. The first one is for everyone who wants to participate. The second one is specifically for the youth. We, the youth, organize it and almost everyone who speaks belongs to a Jewish movement such as Hebraica, which is my movement. In a couple of months, there will be another commemoration for the attack against the AMIA and, again, there will be ceremonies. I’ll participate in both of them as I always try to do because I think that it is my duty as not just an Argentinian person, but also as a Jewish person to go there and honor those lost through a moment of silence or even just lighting a candle. No matter what it is, it’s important to me to do my part.

Tomás Brander, Argentina

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The Jewish Community of Macedonia

Posted on 03/21/2013 @ 03:30 PM

Tags: The Jewish Community of Macedonia

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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.

I have been working as a Madricha, counselor, in my community for a year now. Every Sunday I meet with my kids aged 2-12, for a fun and educational rich experience. When there is a holiday coming up, we have a workshop where they learn more about it and occasionally, on the day of the celebration in the community, we show our members what the kids club has made/learned.

On March 10th, we took our kids to the Memorial Center for the Jews of Macedonia. It was a day before the commemoration of the deportation of 7,144 Jews from Macedonia, 70 years ago. They had a tour in the museum and they showed interest in our people’s history; why and how the Holocaust happened, what is it like to be Jewish these days etc. For me, it was amazing to see little kids asking all of these questions and begging me to teach them more every week.

BBYO has definitely played a huge part in developing my Jewish identity and making Jewish friends near and far. It has given me the sense of sisterhood, acceptance and belonging. That is the main reason why I do what I do, to try to give these kids, the future of my Jewish community, a place where they can be Jewish in their home city and share it with their peers.

Rebeka Mucheva, Macedonia, BBYO Balkans region

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Traditions in BBYO France and Canada

Posted on 03/14/2013 @ 04:30 PM

Tags: Traditions in BBYO France and Canada

Hello! Bonjour!

My name is Illana Guedj. I’m 18 years old and I’m the National President of BBYO FRANCE! 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.

I love our conventions! The best part is the opening ceremonies. I get to call members up one by one to light the menorah, the symbol of our movement. From the moment that the candles are lit, I think about how the younger Jewish children in France just need to wait until they’re old enough for BBYO. The flame also symbolizes the light we see in each Jewish person. Never forget how important BBYO is! The BBYO atmosphere, friendships and traditions transcend through our International Order and are ubiquitous in chapters, councils, regions and communities all over the world.

Illana Guedj, BBYO France

My name is Allie Cohen. I’m from Montreal and I’m Eastern Canada Region’s S’ganit. BBYO in Canada is very similar to BBYO in the States as far as structure and conventions go, but we have some unique traditions of our own. Most importantly, there’s the pronunciation of AZA - come on, it’s obviously A-ZED-A!

One tradition that I love is called Secret brother/Secret sister. When members arrive our conventions they are secretly assigned a member of the opposite sex. Over the course of Friday and Saturday, they must anonymously send a minimum of two notes to this person. We encourage people to be creative. During the Saturday night dance that we always have, there are designated times to go dance with your secret person. It’s a unique and fun way get to know someone.

One of the major lessons that BBYO has taught me is the importance of tradition. It is very exciting and awe inspiring to know that, all around the world, there are people like you who know every word to Identity or Up You Men, have the same elections and parliamentary procedures (even in French!) or simply share in the rich Jewish culture and our common values. Even though it’s the little things that make each chapter, council, region and community uniquely its own, the global BBYO traditions are what bring us together as one, forever united.

Allie Cohen, BBYO Eastern Canada Region

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BBYO Balkans

Posted on 03/07/2013 @ 12:14 PM

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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.

February, 2012
After IC in Atlanta, we had become familiar with BBYO and how it works, and realized that this movement provides life changing opportunities and the knowledge to become the new leaders of our respective communities. As we started to breathe new life into BBYO Balkans, the amount of work ahead of us was immense and has continued as such. Yet, we have remained just as ambitious and inspired by our work as we were at the very beginning.

March, 2012
The first program we put on was J-Serve. 20 teens gathered in Belgrade, Serbia to clean the local synagogue. Tikkun olam, repairing the world, gimulut hasadim, acts of loving kindness, and tzedakah, rightousness (charity) are central themes to BBYO and we loved participating in service that allowed us the chance to practice these values. The Jewish professionals, lay leaders and community volunteers loved that we, a group of teenagers, engaged in this meaningful program which enhanced our love for our Jewish community and our Jewish identities.

April 7, 2012
Besos Dollma, from Albania, put on another community engagement project. He led a community Passover Seder for 40 people, the first Seder in his community in 20 years. He credits BBYO with helping him build his Jewish identity and making him the leader in his community that he is today.

June, 2012
Our next step was Ambassadors to Bulgaria 2012. The Balkan Region was represented by 9 teens. This trip provided them with leadership skills and forged lasting bonds with North American teens which helped them become more internationally involved.

September, 2012
The first and only chapter in the Balkans in Belgrade, Serbia was established. We are hoping to start another chapter in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina soon.

November, 2012
In our regional Limmud seminar in Struga, Macedonia we had our first regional program. For the first time ever, three of our teens led Shabbat services which was an incredible experience. We brought this idea home after attending BBYO Summer Experiences where we were surprised that Shabbat services were held by teens every weekend.

January, 2013
We ran our first BBYO Stand UP campaign! We are Standing UP for animal rights and our campaign is steadily building momentum.

February, 2013
At International Convention 2013 in DC, the Balkan delegation had 7 teens from all of our countries: Albania, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Macedonia. This event was a life changing experience for all of us.

‘’This is incredible. I really want to be a part of this, it is one of the best things I’ve ever been involved in!” said one of the Balkan teens the moment we got out of the plane.

BBYO gave us a chance to concentrate our energy on more important things in life. It gave us an opportunity to start shaping our personalities and work on our goals and dreams – both communal and personal.

All of our initiatives, programs and work thus far is a result of the support we receive from BBYO Bulgaria, the GNC, the International office and all of our North American friends who spend hours talking to us on Skype and Google+ explaining everything to us, giving us instructions and being patient.

We asked our teens to describe what BBYO means to them in one sentence:

Maja Vizentaner, Croatia:
‘’For me, BBYO is way to find myself in this world.’’

David Afar, Serbia: ‘
After my first BBYO event, my perspectives completely changed. I met so many people, got so much experience, I became a totally different person.’’

Dimitrije Savic, Serbia:
 ‘’BBYO is absolutely the greatest organization ever! BBYO showed me how Jews from all over the world are living and I cannot be more grateful and happier that I'm part of this Global community.’’

Iris Skundric, Bosnia and Herzegovina:
 ‘’We couldn’t even have asked for a better thing to happen to us. BBYO gives us all the resources we need to develop ourselves and our communities.’’

You can learn more about BBYO Balkans at:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/bbyobalkans
Twitter: https://twitter.com/BBYOBalkan

Neta Milenkovic, Serbia

Besart Dollma, Albania

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International Inductions

Posted on 02/28/2013 @ 09:30 AM

Welcoming our Brothers and Sisters from Nation to Nation, Generation after Generation

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International Inductions at AZA/BBG International Convention in Washington DC on Saturday, February 16, 2013

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.

Watching the International Delegates faces light up as they received their small pins was an experience all in its own. Ruach and pride spread throughout the entire room while everyone began chanting “INT-ER-NATIONAL, INT-ER-NATIONAL”. This gave us a small glimpse into the bright future for the globalization of our movement.

Cian Milofsky, BBYO UK/Irealand:

For me personally, it was so touching to have the honor of inducting these fine young men and women from all over the world into the International Order. The fact that they travelled from far and wide to join the largest Jewish youth organization at IC showed their passion and dedication to the future of our movement, religion and people. I am confident that every one of these teens is worthy and deserving of their AZA or BBG pin. As excited as I was to formally welcome the International Delegates into the Order, it also saddened me because it meant that I am one step closer to graduating BBYO.

“I didn't know what was going on until I looked down the stage and saw Renee (JDC Staff from Argentina) crying. That was when I realized what the induction really meant. I was excited to get my first pin. I really enjoyed the ceremony and I'm so glad that I had the chance to experience it.” – Melu Faez, Argentina.

Sam Dolen, BBYO KIO:

I can't believe it's close to a year since I was inducted into the International Order. At CLTC 7, 2012, I, along with around 60 other Alephs, took part in a moving separates. We were united. We became brothers. After the coordinator of our CLTC inducted us, we ran outside to engage in what would be the most memorable spirit circle of our lives. After the circle had ended, we all lay down in the grass and looked up at the night sky.

We looked up, and at that moment, a shooting star graced the sky in a luminous blaze. It burnt out and deteriorated in the atmosphere above us. It was an emotionally rich experience as we all saw witnessed that rare spectacle. We all knew that it was meant to be.

After this, inductions have become incredibly important to me. It is the time when girls and boys from all over become part of the most supreme brotherhood and sisterhood that exists. It was very meaningful to me to be able to induct the international teens - to see them experiencing the same feeling that I did is the next best thing to actually experiencing it.

Having brothers and sisters around the world is something that few others can say they have, and we are proud to know that we are some of the few.

Sam Dolen, Kentucky Indiana Ohio Region

Cian Milofsky, BBYO UK & Ireland

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The Global Fundraising Committee: On the Tail of AZA/BBG IC 2013!

Posted on 02/21/2013 @ 10:30 AM

Tags: Global Networking Committee Global Fundraising Committee GNC GFC IC 2013

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. ISF has made it possible for international teens to attend regional conventions, summer experiences, Passport trips, International Convention and so much more! It's thanks to ISF that IC 2013 had 70 delegates in attendance from countries outside North America! These teens are from the UK/Ireland, Argentina, France, Switzerland, Israel, Serbia, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Latvia, Estonia, Ukraine, Switzerland and Turkey! This year, our committee has been working hard to motivate and energize all ISF fundraising. We kicked off the year with our December Dollars campaign, encouraging the Mazkirim/Gizborim of every region/council to hold a fundraising event within the month of December. We are happy to report that this was an outstanding success! The GFC is currently working on new projects to boost excitement for ISF fundraising. To help spread awareness about ISF and make globalization fundraisers more accessible to teens and chapters, we created an ISF release which was distributed at February Execs. The release contains information about ISF as well as fundraising ideas and tips. Coming soon: ISF, the movie. The Global Fundraising Committee has been producing a short film explaining what ISF does and who it supports. We have recruited members from BBYO in communities all over the world to be a part of the movie. We will start filming in the coming week, and will then proceed to the editing process. According to GFC member, Sylvan Perlmutter, "[The video] is going to be dope." Every year, each region pledges a fundraising goal to ISF. To help with the fundraising, we are building an online fundraiser bank which features outlines of fundraisers that other chapters and regions have successfully used. Furthermore, we have reached out to organizations in hopes to receive additional grants. We look forward to hearing back and raising even MORE money for ISF! Remember, the more we raise for ISF, the more globalized our order will be! Reach out to us and let us know if we can help you amplify your ISF fundraising! Hope you have a rockin' day and that you had an amazing time at IC for those of you who attended! Sincerely, The Global Fundraising Committee (Roni Rose, Leah Janofsky, Melissa Bosem, Sylvan Perlmutter, and Hayley Siegel)

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Introduction to the Globalization Blog

Posted on 02/07/2013 @ 11:00 AM

23 teens, 13 countries

22 chapters, 4 countries

1,500 teens, 18 countries

These numbers alone give us a glimpse of the connections our Movement has created between Jewish communities all over the world, but what deeper meaning do these numbers hold?

These numbers demonstrate the potential that BBYO has to unite the Global Jewish peoplehood: the impact a Jewish community in Ukraine can have on a BBG chapter in Chicago; the knowledge shared between a network of 23 teens from 13 countries; the programs experienced through chapter partnerships between 22 chapters from 4 different nations; the impact created from an international convention of 1,500 Jewish teens from 18 different countries.

Welcome to BBYO’s first ever Globalization Blog, brought to you by the BBYO Global Networking Committee (GNC). My name is Jessie Gordon and I am serving as the Chair to the Global Networking Committee. This blog was created to take you beyond the numbers - to bring you deeper into the connections in our International Order.

The GNC is currently a network of 23 teens from 13 different countries including Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, France, Ireland, Macedonia, Spain, Turkey, United Kingdom and the United States of America. As a group, the committee has worked together to engage in bi-weekly group discussions on topics ranging from Israel, Jewish identity and even programming in our chapters. The GNC is excited to be creating accessible globalization resources for all of you, which will be shared through this blog upon their completion.

The Global Fundraising Committee (GFC) will contribute to this blog, as well. The GFC is a committee of five BBYO teens working to ensure that the International Service Fund (ISF) becomes a valued entity of our International Order. The ISF provides Jewish teens from around the world with incredible leadership development and Judaic enrichment opportunities that they would unavailable to them otherwise.

Every Thursday, this blog will be updated with a post from a member of the GNC or GFC. Stories covered will range from small-scale community events to large-scale initiatives, committee work, community partnerships and more.

We can’t wait to spend the rest of the year keeping you involved with our successes as a global Jewish Movement! Any comments, suggestions or points of discussion can be brought up in the comment thread below and, if you ever want to more information about the content, you’re always welcome to connect with a member of the GNC or GFC. Share this blog with your chapters, staff, advisors and community members, and remember to check back every Thursday for another blog post!

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