Advocating for Change
Read this story in the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA)
Rachel Mitchell is the winner of BBYO’s BBG Oratory Contest, the results of which were announced at BBYO’s International Convention 2014, which lasts through Monday, February 17 in Dallas, Texas. She addressed the prompt: “Jewish history boasts countless women who have made transformative and permanent impact on the traditions, priorities and practices of our community. As we, the Sisters of the B’nai B’rith Girls, emerge as the next Jewish women to lead our community, what should our legacy and lasting contributions be for future generations?”
“Identity, Identity. Who am I? A BBG. I am one, though only one, there’s so much I can do.” We sing this with our heart and souls at conventions with our Sister B’nai B’rith Girls. At the end of our BBYO careers, we look back in awe at the accuracy of these nineteen words.
The B’nai B’rith Girls (BBG) is more than just a movement that allows Jewish girls to bond and create everlasting friendships; it empowers each girl to make a difference – to constantly inspire and be inspired. It instills in us the determination to lead our communities into a future in which the world is a better place.
The influence of BBG does not cease with high school graduation. As Jewish women, it is our duty to take the leadership and passion we have developed throughout our time in BBYO and apply it to the world. This means advocating for change. Even if there is an overwhelming roar of opposition that may fight to oppress progress, we must stand up. Silence has never bred change. Speaking out against injustice is how we can ensure that we position future generations to continue what we start.
As B’nai B’rith Girls, we join the ranks of Jewish women at the forefront of instilling values of kindness and service to others in future generations. We look to strong Jewish women in history – from Miriam and Golda Meir to Sheryl Sandberg. They have helped pave the way for us, showing how a strong voice can challenge opposition and fill the needs of our communities. They are the role models we turn to as we strive to become the strong Jewish women of tomorrow.
Like them, we need to continue to invoke a passion in the Jewish people to help make the world a better place. BBYO Stand UP, BBYO’s grassroots service, advocacy and philanthropy initiative, allows members of BBYO chapters to support a cause they believe in while engaging their greater communities in the Jewish value of tikkun olam, repairing the world. By passing down values like these from our sacred texts, we are simultaneously creating a love for Judaism in our youth, as well as helping our future leaders associate community service and advocacy with their heritage.
As BBGs, we are constantly evolving as leaders through teen-led programming on local, regional and international levels. We learn these qualities through a hands-on approach designing programs to engage our peers in leadership development and relationship building. The tools we are gaining today will equip us to be the leaders of tomorrow, ensuring a continuous flow of Jewish female leaders for years to come. We are following in the footsteps of those who came before us, and we will continue to pave the way for new generations of empowered Jewish women. It is our turn to not only continue to make a difference, but to inspire others to rise up to the challenge and do the same. Through empowerment and inspiration, we will continue to change the world.
Rachel Mitchell, a member of the B’nai B’rith Girls in BBYO North Texas Oklahoma Region, is a high school junior from Dallas, Texas.