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BBYO convention attracts 230 teens

Read this story in Jewish Herald-Voice

From March 6-8, Jewish teens came together from Houston, Austin and San Antonio at the Houston Marriott Westchase for BBYO Lonestar Region's Kibbutz Lonestar Regional Kallah 2015. The convention gave teens an opportunity to learn how to strengthen their BBYO chapters, see their out-of-town friends and celebrate their Jewish identity. This was the largest Regional Kallah Lonestar has had, with 230 teens in attendance.

The convention kicked off with a Friday night Shabbat service, led by Austin-based song leaders Eric Hunker and Happie Hoffman, followed by a girls only program about personal identity, and boys-only program about the current anti-Semitism going on in Europe.

On Saturday, members of the convention's minyan committee offered three different services. The BBG-only service focused on feminism and independence. It taught girls the important lesson that they should not change themselves for society, and they should make their own decisions, not based on societal norms. Ariella Teller, a sophomore from BBG #63 said, "I was so empowered! I loved hearing all of the inspiring quotes and the connections they had with the prayers. I also loved the musical aspect to it."

At the AZA service, the boys focused on the seven cardinal principles of AZA and discussed the importance of respecting parents and elders. "I really enjoyed the AZA service. Filial love is an important part of AZA, and this service strongly conveyed the idea that one should respect his elders. Being surrounded by my brother alephs gave me the sense that everyone had mutual respect for one another, like we learned in the service," said Barrett Dover of Capital AZA.

A co-ed service was inspired by the poetry from the early pioneers, including Rachel Bluwstein and Chaim Nachim Bialik, who immigrated to Israel and founded the first kibbutzim.

Following services, BBYO members took part in a variety of programs: a Mock Knesset, where teens learned about the Israel parliament with the help of the community shaliach, Niv Prager; a scavenger hunt, where they learned about issues surrounding childhood cancer, and collected items to build a stuffed animal to be donated to children in hospitals; and a globalization speed-dating program, regarding Jewish life around the world.

Analia Salomon, a freshman from Malev BBG, was inspired by the Mock Knesset program. "It was refreshing to get a new perspective on the issues going on in Israel. It helped me understand the differences in government here and the Israeli government," she said.

Regional Kallah offered a Leadership Training Institute of four workshops to strengthen BBYO leadership skills. The JHV's Lisa Brooks taught a journalism workshop, and a recruitment program taught creative ways to welcome new members. Service Leading 101 taught how to write and run a successful service and, in a session on chapter programming, teens created their own programs within BBYO guidelines.

"I really enjoyed service leading, because I learned so many new skills to use during services. I learned that different melodies of song can create different moods, depending on what you want to convey during a service." explained Marisa Papell, a sophomore from Tikvah BBG. Kallah featured programs to educate participants on kibbutz life. Members were able to get a taste of life on the kibbutz and how to relate it back to their BBYO chapters through team building and goal setting.

On Saturday night, Jewish eighth graders were invited to the convention to get a taste of BBYO. Thirty eighth-graders joined in for Havdalah, Battle of the Noms and a dance party. At Battle of the Noms, chapters competed against each other in relay races. It gave chapters the opportunity to bond with their Noms for Beau and Sweetheart. After final competition, Cyrus Adler AZA was victorious.

For more information or to get involved with BBYO or the Taste of BBYO Program for eighth-graders, contact Sarah Yonas at

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