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A Turning Point for Area’s Jewish Community

Read this story in the Baltimore Jewish Times

By Bob Hallock

When my son, Charlie, now a sophomore at Friends School of Baltimore, asked to join BBYO last year, I swelled with pride. As an alum myself some 50 years ago in Hibbing, Minn. — a town of only 17,000 people and fewer than 10 Jewish teens — BBYO was my lifeblood in connecting with Jewish teens outside our area.

As soon as Charlie joined, he immediately valued the teen-driven focus and the social connections he developed throughout the Baltimore area and beyond. He is vice president of membership of his local BBYO chapter and is also working on his leadership role for BBYO International Convention (IC) 2016, a five-day convention that will be hosted in Baltimore over Presidents Day weekend, Feb. 11-15.

More than 4,000 of the Jewish community’s top teen leaders, educators, professionals and philanthropists from around the world are coming to the Inner Harbor for IC 2016 to experience the community that BBYO creates. And this is just a taste of the BBYO experience. This year, BBYO will reach more than 80,000 teens in 35 countries with an AZA and BBG membership that will surpass 19,000 leaders. These teens plus more than 400,000 alumni make up the BBYO family. Playing host to this powerful movement is a turning point for BBYO in Baltimore.

While BBYO is supporting Charlie in developing leadership skills, social responsibility and connections throughout the world, I am working with fellow Baltimore community members Robb Cohen and Laurel Freedman to support IC and the BBYO experience in Baltimore. Robb and Laurel have also seen the value of BBYO through their teens’ involvement.

Robb’s daughters, Lizzie and Alex, a junior and freshman at Roland Park School in Baltimore respectively, are members of BBYO in Baltimore. It’s clear every day: BBYO has helped strengthen their Jewish identity, given them leadership skills and made them part of a global network of Jewish teens. Lizzie particularly loves being on BBYO’s Global Networking Committee, a group of Jewish teens from around the world who meet regularly online to work together through a unique partnership between BBYO and the JDC.

Laurel’s twins, Alanna and Rebecca, are juniors also at Roland Park School. The twins found BBYO as they were transitioning out of a Jewish day school and into a secular high school. Today, Alanna and Rebecca hold multiple leadership roles at both the chapter and regional levels, and, like Lizzie, Rebecca is on the IC 2016 Teen Steering Committee. BBYO has helped them find their voices — as teens, as Jews, as young women and as members of the Baltimore and worldwide Jewish communities.

Seeing the impact BBYO has had on Charlie, Lizzie, Alex, Alanna and Rebecca has brought me back full circle and inspired me to get involved in supporting the BBYO experience here in Baltimore — most immediately by helping to host IC. As Robb often shares, having IC in Baltimore is an invaluable opportunity to unite Jewish teens and give them leadership skills, Jewish community and connections for life. We can leverage IC to build long-term Jewish community engagement in Baltimore and beyond.

Join us online in following the pre-IC excitement at bbyo.org/azabbgic/host and on social media through @BBYOInsider and #AZABBGIC2016.

Bob Hallock, a BBYO alum from Hibbing, Minn., and a Baltimore community member for the past 35 years, is a consultant who helps companies and organizations grow their businesses.

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