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BBYO Lonestar Region’s first sold-out Regional Kallah

Read this story in The Jewish Herald-Voice

During March 28-30, 190 Jewish teens came together from Houston, San Antonio and Austin, Texas, at the Houston Marriott Westchase to celebrate their Judaism at a sold-out Mishpacha Means Family: Lonestar Regional Kallah 2014.

Original, teen-led Shabbat services were held throughout the weekend with the assistance of song leaders, Eric Hunker and Happie Hoffman. In an AZA (boys) only service, participants looked at Jews throughout sports history and integrated it with messages about the importance of religious tradition and faith.

“The way the service used basketball really grabbed my attention and made me think about how my Judaism went along with the sport I play,” said Ashton Normand of Cyrus Adler AZA.

One of the largest programs was the Equality Fair. This event brought together the local advocacy groups of the Paralyzed Veterans of America, National Council of Jewish Woman, Hatch Youth and Celebration Company, along with carnival-style games, like “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes,” where men walked in women’s heels, and “Shoot out the Hate,” where water guns were used to shoot pingpong balls with the word hate on them, connecting teens to each cause. Teens had the opportunity to learn from each organization about their work and how they can get involved and advocate for an issue they care about.

“It was very cool to hear from the paralyzed veterans, then see the carnival booth (It Could Be You), where I had to try to tie my shoe with one hand,” said Becca Stetzer of Tikvah BBG.

To strengthen the leadership of Lonestar Region, a Leadership Training Institute was held where the teens attended one of four programs to advance their skills as BBYO leaders. A journalism program was led by the convention’s amazing keynote speaker Rachel Shukert, pop-culture writer for the online Jewish periodical, Tablet Magazine. Shukert also spoke to the entire group about the Jewish tradition in show business, as well. Lonestar and the convention later were featured in Rachel Shukert’s article, “Drake is the Ultimate Teenage Boy,” in the April 2 Tablet publication.

“I like how she had a sense of humor and her wittiness. It was really cool to hear how the Jewish community got into show business,” stated Ellie Sondock of BBG #63.

The other programs such as “Closing the Conversation” taught members how to recruit other Jewish teens and “Program Excellence” taught teens how to bring their chapter’s programming to the next level. The last training session, “Stand Up Week Program,” prepared chapter members for the week of advocacy, leading up to Jserve and how to create their own social-advocacy campaigns.

Other fun programs were themed around the BBYO Teen Priorities: Globalization, Stand Up (community service) and Speak Up (Israel advocacy). Teens had the opportunity to see how Jewish teens from around the world live. The scripts were inspired by real teens in the International Order of BBYO from countries such as France, Croatia, Switzerland and Israel and explored unique challenges and traditions found in those Jewish communities. This program received recognition for BBYO International and will be featured in a collection of Globalization programs shared throughout the International BBYO Order.

“I never knew there was such a wide range of different traditions for the Jewish teens around the world. The Jewish music from around the world really inspired me,” stated Jordan Argamany of Randy Reisbord AZA.

During the Stand Up Scavenger Hunt, groups of teens followed clues and learned facts about homelessness along the way. At each station, groups picked up items to make toiletry kits, to be given to SEARCH Homeless Shelter, and given facts about homelessness in Houston. The final rotation was a Speak Up program, in which teens explored the challenging issues facing the Israeli government, such as captive prisoners and conscientious military objectors.

This sold-out convention was a success, thanks to the hard work of all the teens that made these amazing services and programs successful for their friends and fellow members to have memorable and meaningful Jewish experiences. BBYO Lonestar Region is grateful to the Jerry and Gloria Ribnick Regional Kallah Fund for its generous support of Regional Kallah 2014.

For more information about BBYO, contact Josh Sandler at jsandler@bbyo.orga10rotenberg@gmail.com.

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