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International S'ganit Discussees Her "Global Perspective"

Senior a leader in international Jewish group

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She's gaining a 'global perspective' through B'nai B'rith Youth Organization

By Caroline McMillan

Allie Michel's world just got a lot bigger.

A senior at Providence High School and a member of Temple Israel, Michel - pronounced "Michelle" - has been involved with the local and state chapters of the B'nai B'rith Youth Organization, the largest and oldest Jewish youth organization in the world, for more than three years.

Last weekend, the 17-year-old was installed as BBYO's International Vice President of Programming.

The elected position comes with a lot of responsibility. While getting to know the 45 other board members from around the world, Michel's biggest duty will be to plan the 2012 International BBYO Convention in Atlanta next February.

Organizers are expecting a crowd of 900.

Michel's mother, Jodi Michel, was active in BBYO and president of the N.C. chapter when she was a senior in high school, so Allie Michel grew up hearing stories of camaraderie and personal growth through the organization.

In ninth grade, she immersed herself in the group.

"She got involved from day one," said Ellen Goldstein, regional director of the BBYO chapters in North Carolina and southern Virginia.

"My mom would always tell me ... how this organization changed her life," said Michel. "She made her best friends, it made her more of a leader - the same things I'm feeling."

BBYO's roots go back to 1923, when a group of young-adult Jewish men in Omaha, Neb., who weren't allowed in a fraternity because of their heritage, established the Jewish group Aleph Zadik Aleph. They used Hebrew letters as a protest against the exclusive Greek societies.

A female Jewish society, B'nai B'rith Girls was founded in 1944, and the two groups combined under the BBYO name soon after.

The youth movements began to spread around the world: from Egypt to Israel, England to the U.S.

Now more than 25,000 teens are involved worldwide, and new chapters are still popping up, the most recent in Argentina, said Michel. Some are being founded where Jews still can't broadcast their religious roots for fear of persecution.

Last year, Michel was vice president of programming for the North Carolina chapter: She coordinated statewide events, including six weekend conventions every year.

The annual international convention she's currently planning will showcase the regional chapters' work and show how the movement is being globalized.

It's also an opportunity to serve the local community. BBYO members work at different sites in Charlotte throughout the week. In past years they've cleaned up parks, planted trees, painted murals and worked at special-needs camps.

The fourth female from the area to serve on the international board, Michel will be working with four other BBG members and five AZA members to plan the international convention.

Her male co-vice president of programming, Logan Miller, is from Bayside, N.Y.

Michel said the organization has taught her valuable leadership skills, broadened her horizons and intensified her pride in Israel.

Just last month, she toured Israel with BBYO, learning the history of sites that form the cornerstones of Jewish faith. She's done a lot of advocacy work with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference through BBYO.

Her new post will take her developing global perspective one step further.

"It's so important to teach the teenagers of today and the leaders of tomorrow how important this is," she said.

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