Posted on 04/29/2012 @ 10:23 AM
By now, you've likely heard about TUNED IN 2: Be the Voice that Rocks the World, the BBYO Northern Region East event that partnered BBYO with a large public high school in Rockville, MD for two-weeks of civic engagement and political awareness followed by a concert by Timeflies and Third Eye Blind? If not, we wanted to make sure to share some photos with you and a video recap of the event. If you want to bring an event like this to your community, let us know in the comments!
Watch the video clip below to learn more about TUNED IN:
Posted on 04/19/2012 @ 10:23 PM
Finding a Voice Through Remembrance
By: Jessica Markowitz, 16, Seattle, WA, Garfield High School
"The most horrible and systematic human massacre we have had occasion to witness since the extermination of the Jews by the Nazis." -British Philosopher Bertrand Russell in 1964, as quoted in A People Betrayed: The Role of the West in Rwanda's Genocide by Linda Melvern, 2000.
Both the Rwandan and Jewish people share an unfortunate similarity bonding them through their terrible suffering. However because of these atrocities, an incredible connection of two different peoples formed.
This April, we mark Yom Hashoah and also Genocide Awareness Month as a time not only to remember, but to commemorate and pay tribute to those who lost their lives in every genocide that has ever occurred. After hearing many stories of the vulnerable children and girls that lost not only their family, but their opportunity to become educated, I felt inspired to begin a movement.
When I was 16 years old, I founded an organization called Richards Rwanda IMPUHWE, a youth led organization, raising money for girl’s education in Rwanda, creating friendships across the world, and raising awareness about the Rwandan Genocide. The organization is named after Richard Kangana, a human rights activist from Rwanda, who lost all of his family to the 1994 Genocide. IMPUHWE means compassion in Kinyarwanda and is an acronym for our mission: Inspire, Motivate, Powerful, Undiscovered, Hopeful, Women (with), Education. This month marks the 18th anniversary of the genocide, which started on April 7th, lasting 100 days, and killing almost one million people. Every year Richards Rwanda puts on an event open for all ages to come together, hear from a survivor, take a moment of silence, and remember.
This year Richards Rwanda was honored to have a Holocaust survivor join us and share his story and his thoughts on genocide and the strong connection between Rwandans and the Jewish people. As a Jewish young woman myself I am deeply impacted and touched by this bond. My great uncle, Adam, was a survivor of Auschwitz and was one of my main inspirations in my life, showing me that regardless of the pain and struggle, you must pursue and continue and spread the message of peace and never again. This inspiration encouraged me to get involved with BBYO, a Jewish teen movement. Last spring the Evergreen Region of BBYO voted to support girl’s education in Rwanda as the main focus of our Stand UP Campaign (BBYO’s local grassroots philanthropy efforts). The enthusiasm and momentum throughout the region has been incredible and truly shows the power of Jewish youth coming together to make change. The power of collaboration is immense and is the strongest force of advocacy. As young Jewish teens we can take our history of the Holocaust and the connected suffering and understand each and every other genocide that has occurred -- sharing one similar message of Never Again.
Today the Jewish community marks Yom HaShoah, the day Jewish people across the world come together to remember the Holocaust and the lives and heroism of those who died. Through the history of our people and the Holocaust, we as Jewish teens must take this event and make sure nothing like it ever occurs again. BBYO allows youth to have a space to speak our minds, relate to each other, and create incredible platforms for change together. To continue learning about the Rwandan Genocide and how you as a Jewish teen can make a difference, I invite you to join me this June in Washington, DC, for a unique seminar called the Human Rights and Genocide Summit. Dozens of teens from across North America will come together to explore the intersection of Jewish values and putting an end to Genocide around the world. When such a powerful, intelligent, and active group of Jewish teens come together the only outcome we can expect is change.
To learn more about the Human Rights and Genocide Summit, please visit panim.bbyo.org/hrgsummit2012/.
Posted on 04/19/2012 @ 10:23 AM
Has your Facebook page been blowing up with teens posting signs of Never Again? Today, April 19, marks Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. As a part of Stand UP Week 2012, BBYO is asking all teens to print out a Never Again - Stand UP flyer that you can customize to publicly declare your commitment to the world! What is that you will commit to?
Posted on 04/11/2012 @ 10:23 AM
How's this for an awesome BBYO story? Bessart (known to BBYO teens by his nickname, Besos) is the only Jewish teen living in Albania! He attended IC in Atlanta this year and is discovering his Jewish identity through BBYO. In fact, Besos led a Passover Seder this year with more than 40 in attendance!
"Thanks to everyone that helped me grow my Jewish identity , starting with my mom and going through BBYO, JDC and Szarvas, and thanks to all my friends who helped me realize how amazing being Jewish is," said Besos. "Leading a Seder is an experience that I won’t ever forget. I had 40 people all older than me and I was leading, and they were all smiling and giving me hope. Its an experience that gives your life meaning."
Due to religious bans in the former Soviet Union, it is unknown when was the last time the Jewish community in Albania held a seder. A JDC official that works with the community asked Besos to help translate the Hagaddah into the Albanian language and to prepare the booklet for each participant at the Seder. The entire community is only about 35 people and they were so excited for the opportunity to finally celebrate Passover together.
"I am so proud of Bessart, the way I am proud of my own son," said Robert Djerassi (the JDC director for the Balkans)." On the night of Seder he was trembling before we started and I strongly supported him during the event. At the end everything was perfect and all our guests were very excited. I gave him the honor to go on 15 steps of the Seder and I spoke mainly about Exodus, the meaning of the Freedom, some jokes and stories. During the Seder I asked the people to tell some personal stories about freedom connected with their life. Besart also spoke about his story in front of everybody. He said that as the only Jewish child in his school, everybody in the school called him "chiffut". This is very offending word for a Jew and also in Bulgaria it was used very much in the past. So, all this years he was very much shamed from this word and at the end he start to hate the fact that he is a Jew. But miracles happened, and after three years being in Szarvas and a being a part of BBYO, now he feels so proud to be Jewish and do not scare more from his identity."
Congratulations, Besos, on your accomplishment!
BBYOers, have you met Besos? Leave your congratulatory notes to him below!
Posted on 04/09/2012 @ 10:23 AM
If you haven't yet heard about BBYO's work with the BULLY movie, you're missing out on some really cool initiatives. You can learn more about BBYO's private screenings at bbyo.org/bully.
Daniel Roth of Pacific Coast Region wrote a summary of his experience at the Los Angeles premiere of the film on April 1 and it was published in Fresh Ink for Teens!
Also, enjoy this video testimonial from Daniel on what he thought of the film:
Great work, Daniel! Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this very important topic.
Posted on 04/09/2012 @ 10:23 AM
by Sophie Needleman, 18, Connecticut Valley Region
In the hallowed halls of high schools across the country, it’s not uncommon to see students facing adversity. Maybe it’s an F on that big science exam. Maybe it’s an uncommon amount of cuts made during soccer tryouts. Maybe it’s that one prom date that never quite worked out. But that happens when students become cut off, disillusioned, and lost? Maybe it’s the girl in your science class whose fashion sense is, in your opinion, really odd. Maybe it’s the group of boys wearing black who sit together at a far-off lunch table and listen to grunge music through shared headphones. Across the country, students are cast off as “outcasts” and “weirdos”, are laughed at and called names, pushed into lockers and bullied on the school bus. But what happens when the bullying leaves the confines of school and appears in cyberspace? Two months ago, this question became a chilling reality at one high school in Ridgefield, CT.
Ridgefield High School is, by most standards, normal. 1900 students travel through the hallways and eat lunch together, play sports and sing in musicals. Phrases like “you’re such a faggot” and “that’s so gay” are commonplace. Two months ago, however, these words were immortalized on Twitter with @RHSfagoftheday, an account created by an RHS student. The account, which was aimed at naming students who fit the definition of an RHSfag, appeared one afternoon and quickly requested hundreds of followers from students within the school. That’s where I come into the story.
Hi! I’m Sophie Needleman, and I’m the founder of Students Against Internet Discrimination, or SAID, a new organization aimed at raising awareness and increasing education about cyber-bullying. On the day of RHSfagoftheday’s creation, a friend sent me the link in disgust. Upon seeing the account live on Twitter, upon seeing students targeted by its horrible premise, I knew something had to be done. I changed my status on Facebook and implored students to raise their voices against the account. Within minutes, the entire Ridgefield High School population was abuzz with disgust and students were speaking out. SAID originated when I, along with a few friends, formed a group on Facebook where students could join together as a voice against cyber-bullying. Within 48 hours, the group had over 1000 members and had reached students, parents, and educators from more than 15 states. Since SAID began, we have created a website, been written about in more than 20 newspaper articles, appeared on NBC CT and CT News Channel 12, and have begun to write a piece of legislation aimed at increasing education about the dangers of bullying. We’ve done many things, but there is one thing we will always need: the support of students across the country who are willing to be a voice for change.
SAID is student run. We aren’t a group of adults asking students to stop cyber-bullying. We are the ones trying to make a change. If you are a victim of bullying, if you are a bystander, you have a voice, the power to stand up against bullying in all its forms. The more voices speak against online bullying, the louder our call will be. This is SAID’s mission.
Since that time in January, we have continued growing both within CT and nationally as well. Every day, we receive emails from students in schools across the country asking us how they can bring SAID to their school. Jim Himes, CT Representative, spoke about SAID on the floor of Congress and urged his fellow politicians to help prevent bullying in their states. Currently, we are writing a bill, called The CYBER Bill, which focuses on creating educational mandates and programs for schools centered around anti-bullying education, something which is conspicuously absent from many states' anti-bullying legislation. The bill is being referred to Senator Richard Blumenthal and more than 25 other Senators, Governors, and Representatives from around the country.
SAID wants to meet you!
Join us on Facebook at “Students Against Internet Discrimination: An End to Cyber-Bullying” Follow us on Twitter @nohatemovement and use the hashtag #enoughSAID
Visit our website: www.saidnow.org
Interested in learning more? Let me know what you think below and we can begin a conversation!
Posted on 03/27/2012 @ 10:23 AM
In honor of Advisor Appreciation Month, Grant Hansell of KIO, reflects on how every advisor experience can be different, but advisors are ultimately the thread that ties a chapter together.
Reflecting on Advisor Appreciation Month -- and Why I Appreciate my Unique Experience
by Grant Hansell, KIO
Up until a couple of months ago, when I talked to people about my chapter advisors I told them one of two things. I would either tell them that I had never had an advisor, or that I had had 12 since joining the organization three years ago. In the end though, really both are true. For some reason, where I’m from in Columbus Ohio, advisors come and go in just a few weeks time and I never really feel as though they are there. From businessmen, to rabbis, to sports radio talk show hosts, I’ve had them all. And although I knew having an advisor was a part of the BBYO experience I was never getting, I never really thought an advisor could change my BBYO career. But a few months ago when my chapter got two new advisors, I realized how much of an influence they could have.
My chapter was struggling, especially with fraternity. We all come from one school (with very few exceptions) so we use that to connect with each other instead of the order. One of our advisors came in with no BBYO knowledge and the other a lot, but in the end it didn’t matter. They were both there for us and that turned out to be all we needed. Neither of them owned a car and their lack of transportation turned into a running joke in our chapter and we even started a change jar in order to fundraise for a car. Of course, we all knew the philanthropic effort weren’t going anywhere, but its mere presence brought us so much closer together as a chapter, and we have our advisor to thank for that.
So maybe I haven’t had the typical advisor experience where a piece of advice he gave me changed the way I think about life. But that’s okay with me! They did the most important thing they could; they brought my chapter together and made us a brotherhood again. The role of a chapter advisor is so pivotal yet it is one of the most overlooked aspects of our youth movement. This article isn’t going to do much; it doesn’t even scratch the surface on the gratitude we as teens have but fail to express towards our advisors. But it’s a start, so on behalf of all the teens in this order; I would just like to say, “Thank you for all that you do, and even if we don’t show it, we appreciate all that you do.”