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A great year at SJR BBYO is capped off with tremendous growth

Read this story in Jewish Community Voice.

By Ben Curwin and Bonnie Doogan, Regional Mazkirim

The BBYO and school year are ending and the South Jersey Region (SJR BBYO) has had a tremendous year. It has been a year of changes and growth for the members and families of SJR BBYO, and everyone is excited to be heading into SJR’s 55th year this fall.

During this 2014-2015 school year, the goal of every chapter and regional leader was growing the member population. The goal was to reach 500 members this year. SJR BBYO is very proud to announce that they have reached 503 members and have achieved 15% growth this year (an unheard of percentage in membership organizations). SJR BBYO has not seen 500 members in 15 years, and SJR BBYO wants to thank every member and family who joined us this year as well as every member and family who helped bring in new teens all year long.

In addition to growth this year, the goal of the 54th Regional Board of SJR BBYO, led by Godol Michael Rosenthal and N’siah Jess Sklar was to bring new and innovative programming to South Jersey. They succeeded admirably.

The year started with Kickoff at the beach where over 150 teens attended and had tons of fun in the sun. This event was a great time to see friends and an amazing way to begin the year.

Following Kickoff was the first convention of the year, RLTI. Regional Leadership Training Institute was a three-day event centered on leadership development and our weekend’s theme of “From RLT-I To We.” Participants learned how to recruit new members, attended elective sessions centered on different board positions, budgeting and more. There also was a great social event themed “A night in Tel Aviv.” Members left RLTI inspired to take charge and work hard for their chapters.

Next, the region held Winter Retreat, a brand new convention for SJR BBYO. Winter Retreat was an incredible weekend which contained not one, but three fantastic conventions, Kallah, Sisterhood and Brotherhood! The first of these was Kallah, which centered its impactful programming on Judaic themes and Israeli advocacy. During Kallah, members explored the phrase “I am Jewish” and what it means to them, enjoyed a Renewal Shabbat Service and learned about many different types of Jewish families in Israel. This was the first Kallah SJR BBYO has held in several years, and the teens left feeling more connected to their Judaism than before.

Directly following Kallah, the Alephs and BBGs separated and moved into Brotherhood and Sisterhood, respectively. Brotherhood was an energetic overnight planned around countless brother and best friend movies and TV shows. The programs were filled with laughter, excitement, and most importantly, bonding between Alephs that was so strong that it was almost tangible. Simultaneously, Sisterhood was being run with the BBGs. The BBGs had an incredible experience with new big sisters and little sisters, explored being sisters through Mind, Body, Attitude programming and learned from the seniors in programs that brought every girl closer than we could have even imagined.

The year continued with Spring Kickoff, held at Dave & Busters for the second year in a row. With over 175 teens in attendance, the region was treated to a night of fun and games with new and old friends.

Shortly after was the Battle of the Chapters Tournies. This year’s Tournies was one of the best, enjoyed and lauded by all who attended. Members enjoyed the stronger emphasis on chapter competitions and the new games that were played. As always, dodgeball and spirit competitions were the highlight of the evening. And Chevrah BBG and Marlcrest AZA were the very proud and tired winners of the night.

In early spring, SJR BBYO introduced another new convention, IT (in-training). IT is an overnight designed for 8th and 9th graders in which they learn about BBYO and what makes it so special in the lives of all of its members. Over 80 younger members joined older members in mock chapters in which they named and learned about BBYO summer programs, created the best Jewish leaders, and created programs for all of the teens in attendance to enjoy. At the end of the Shabbaton, each and every attendee had been equipped with the skills to grow and develop in the region.

After IT, SJR BBYO was excited and a little sad to come to our final convention of the year, Spring Thing. At this convention, SJR BBYO saw its members come together to say goodbye to the seniors, induct new members, participate in meaningful Shabbat electives and elect a new Regional Board. With over 140 participants, Spring Thing was a time for SJR BBYO to celebrate, say goodbye and build excitement for next year.

All in all, this year was a phenomenal, resounding, and impactful journey for all members. All of SJR BBYO is excited about their 55th year and to see what new records they can break. One thing’s for sure, this upcoming year is looking to be just as incredible as the last one!

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