Posted on 03/07/2013 @ 12:14 PM
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We ran our first BBYO Stand UP campaign! We are Standing UP for animal rights and our campaign is steadily building momentum.
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:
Neta Milenkovic, Serbia
Besart Dollma, Albania