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Face It

Posted on 11/22/2013 @ 12:13 PM

Say you’re in Starbucks getting a Pumpkin Spice Latte, and the barista notices the Jewish star on your necklace and asks: “So you’re Jewish, huh? What’s Judaism about?” What do you say?

Here is one answer: Judaism is about facing it – facing other human beings, facing G-d, and facing the most serious and pressing social and moral issues in our world. BBYO’s Educational Framework highlights “Improve: Change the World” as one of the three core outcomes of a BBYO experience.

In last week's parsha, Parshat Vayishlach, Jacob is renamed Israel only after he comes face to face with the angel and faces his greatest anxieties. Moses is eulogized at the end of the Torah for being the only person from among the children of Israel to come face to face with G-d. To confront, struggle with, and be meaningfully involved in the important social and moral issues in our world – these are key components of what it means to be Jewish.

Here’s the good news: We’re excelling at this in BBYO. Last week 75 teen leaders from across North America met in Detroit to come face to face with hunger issues. This week, communities across North America are having advanced screenings of The Hunger Games to raise awareness around hunger issues.

Earlier this week, 125 students from 8 different Orthodox and Pluralistic Jewish Day Schools around North America came to Washington DC for BBYO’s Fall Panim el Panim Seminar. Panim el Panim means “face to face” in Hebrew, and the seminar’s main objective is to bring teen leaders face to face with pressing social issues, people experiencing homelessness, the Jewish values that inspire our commitment to improving our world, and their elected officials who they lobby on the issues they care most passionately about.

How can we continue to “face it” in BBYO? 1. Bring a Panim program to your regional convention or chapter meeting. Here are two “values conflicts” that teen leaders can use in programming that highlight difficult decisions and the Jewish values that can inspire intentional and thoughtful decision making. There are also many other great Panim programs – please reach out to Rachel Meytin to explore the possibilities. 2. Attend and encourage your teens and advisors to attend the JEST webinars on Local BBYO Stand UP Campaigns on December 4 (1pm and 9pm EST) and December 5 (6:30pm EST). 3. Suggest that some of your teen leaders attend the Jewish Enrichment Institute (JEI), February 12-13 in Dallas before IC.

Sometimes the social and moral issues of the world can be very difficult to face. In BBYO, as Jacob and Moses did before us, we have the platform to face the world together. Our Jewish heritage asks this of us – and it can be one of the greatest gifts to our teen leaders that we can provide.

(This Shabbat Message was written by Ira J. Dounn, Director of Jewish Enrichment of BBYO’s Northeast Hub)

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