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2012 in Review

By Logan Miller and Sarah Minion

Last February, as we stood before almost 900 of our peers, we committed ourselves to devoting the next year of our lives to working for the Jewish people and building a strong Jewish future. Elected at BBYO’s annual International Convention 2012 to serve as BBYO’s International Presidents, we are proud to be serving the world’s largest pluralistic Jewish teen movement, engaging and empowering nearly 40,000 Jewish teens around the globe.

As Presidents, we collaborate with teens and community members across North America, Europe, South America, South Africa, the Middle East, Australia and Israel; we manage an International Board of our peers, work with the teen presidents in BBYO’s regions and councils, serve on the BBYO International Board of Directors, connect with the teen leadership of our fellow Jewish youth movements, NFTY, USY, NCSY and Young Judaea and travel to all of BBYO’s communities to support BBYO and the Jewish people. Our mission is to provide more Jewish teens with more meaningful Jewish experiences, and we execute programming and develop curricula to aid the development of Jewish teen leaders, promote the building of Jewish identities and strengthen the teen voice in the Jewish community.

After our inauguration in August, we spent the next five months visiting dozens of Jewish communities worldwide. Although the Jewish teens we met along the way have different accents, come from very different Jewish communities and face different challenges in their everyday lives, they all have one thing in common: BBYO has played an integral role in defining their Jewish identities.

This year, we have had the opportunity to participate in some remarkable experiences because of BBYO.

In September, we saw record-breaking BBYO back-to-school events, with some communities engaging over 500 Jewish teens at any given event. As membership numbers continue to grow, it is inspiring to see that more Jewish teens are deciding to become involved with Jewish life.

In October, we were a part of BBYO’s largest delegation to the AIPAC Schusterman Advocacy Institute High School Summit. We were able to learn even more about how we could be involved with local support for Israel and how to effectively advocate for the U.S.-Israel relationship.

Leading up to the 2012 US Presidential Election, BBYO hosted “Voice Your Vote,” an Issue Summit on the Presidential Election and civic responsibility. Nearly 100 teens traveled to Ohio to learn about the most relevant issues and explore both candidates’ party platforms. On Election Day, participants helped “get out the vote” for the candidate of their choice by canvassing in Ohio communities. The teens working on the Romney Ryan campaign even got to meet Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney and Vice-Presidential Candidate Paul Ryan at a campaign site. With our peers, we not only learned about the democratic process, but were also active members of our national community by exercising our rights as citizens through a pluralistic Jewish lens.

In November, BBYO teens acted as advocates, putting into action what we learned at High School Summit, as our minds and hearts turned to Israel. When she was under constant threat of attack BBYO teens launched “Speak UP Week” – five days dedicated to building awareness and sharing advocacy tools to support Israel. In addition to contacting their representatives in Congress, teens took to Facebook and Twitter to #SpeakUPforIsrael. We are so proud of the momentum garnered across the Movement especially during a pivotal time for our homeland.

In December and the beginning of January, we had the opportunity to visit some of our European chapters in England, France, Switzerland, Estonia, Latvia and Bulgaria. We have seen first-hand the impact BBYO has on Jewish teens on the other side of the world. Sometimes it is hard for the average Jewish teenager growing up in North America to grasp how different Jewish life is for teens in countries where they cannot walk around with a Magen David around their necks or wear a BBYO t-shirt for fear of anti-Semitism. It has been eye opening for us. Later this year, we will return to Europe leading North America’s largest March of the Living delegation, and gather with hundreds of BBYO teens from around the world in Israel to celebrate Israel’s 65th birthday.

We are lucky to be serving on BBYO’s most international of International Boards, with members from three countries: the United States, Canada and England. The connection and bond with the global Jewish community extends beyond our board: teens in Chicago are lighting the menorah with teens in the Ukraine; BBYO chapters in Texas have brother chapters in Ireland; we went on our own international tour.

Now that we have returned from Europe, we will continue to visit chapters across North America. We will meet teens to hear their innovative ideas about how to engage in meaningful community service, talented voices that will change the way we sing and lead Shabbat and participate in chapter programming that strengthens Jewish brotherhood and sisterhood. This experience, the vastness of our travels and the many amazing and inspiring Jewish teen leaders we have met along the way will culminate for us at BBYO’s International Convention 2013 - the largest in our history. Almost 2,000 Jewish teens will attend, representing 500 chapters and 18 countries from around the world.

While we have had this amazing experience this year, there has been no shortage of remarkable accomplishments by Jewish teens across the world in 2012. Through our travels and meetings it is clear that the pride young Jews across the world are feeling for Israel and their Jewish identity is constantly growing, and that the future of our People is bright. We are honored that we’ve gotten to experience this at the grassroots level around the world, and cannot wait to see where 2013 takes us.

Logan Miller, 18 years old from Bayside, NY, is currently serving as Grand Aleph Godol and Sarah Minion, 18 years old from Cherry Hill, NJ, is currently serving as International N'siah on BBYO's International Board.

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