South Jersey Region extends a welcome to teens of all abilities
This story was published in Jewish Community Voice.
By JESS BARR & NOAH NADELBACH | 56th Regional Mazkirim
South Jersey Region BBYO is a special place. We are a close-knit community of Jewish teens inclusive to all regardless of backgrounds and abilities. Furthermore, we are one of only a few regions to have a special needs inclusion chapter (Dubrow BBYO) in which teens with special needs and typical peers bond, participate in Jewish teen programs and enjoy each other’s company. Additionally, SJR is working towards special needs inclusion beyond Dubrow BBYO. While Dubrow BBYO is an amazing opportunity for our teens, we are also striving to make all of our BBYO, BBG and AZA chapters inclusive. Our peers with differing abilities are being invited to attend events of our other chapters and find a second home. For the first time, our Regional Conventions (overnights) will be an inclusive opportunity for all teens. Using the generous grant we receive from the Dubrow Family Foundation, we will be able to offer additional staff and/or modifications for teens at any and all BBYO programming.
One of our AZA chapters, Otzma AZA, has been a leader within SJR BBYO. Last year, they began to expand their programming and include friends with differing abilities. One teen was recruited by a friend from school and Otzma welcomed him with open arms. Many members introduced themselves, and treated him like they would treat any other Aleph in the chapter, and now he has a friend group that spans into the entire region of SJR. As he attended more events, he began to feel more comfortable, and now attends all regional and chapter events. He truly made his home within South Jersey Region.
Ben Forsman, Otzma president and senior, talked about this. “Honestly, I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. [Our new friend] is a great kid who literally always has a smile on his face. Personally, I’ve recruited him and with a few other kids, such as Jed Friedman and my brother Aaron, we’ve worked to make sure he always has a place in Otzma, but that was almost unnecessary. Immediately, everyone was so accepting and loving towards him. His excitement and enthusiasm at events really brings the best out in everyone in our chapter and in the region and is probably the most inspirational thing I’ve seen in my time in BBYO.
On Nov. 20, Dubrow hosted an event at the Katz JCC. There, Dubrow members (and typical peers) had a great day playing Ninja, eating bagels and making BBYO key chains from Shrinky-Dinks. Everyone who came out for the event had a great time. As we made our key chains, we bonded over all different sorts of things from college to what we do after school.
Additionally, each week, members from BBYO join the Katz JCC’s ACHaD Squadron on the basketball court. Weekly, our members join our friends with special needs to shoot some hoops and play a basketball game. It is always a great time.
For the future, SJR BBYO is working hard to include every Jewish teen into AZA and BBG chapters. All of our chapters are friendly and welcoming, and it would be an even greater experience for teens with special needs to be involved. As previously mentioned, it was a major success with Otzma AZA, and as other chapters follow, SJR will become fully inclusive. This year in SJR is one that you will not want to miss.
If you would like more information, please contact BBYO at firstname.lastname@example.org