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BBYO teen leaders re-commit to gender inclusivity

View this story in the Sun Sentinel

Close to 100 Jewish teen leaders of BBYO, the pluralistic Jewish youth movement, recently gathered for an annual conference where they worked together to set the BBYO Movement's priorities for the coming year. One motion that came out of the meeting was to re-commit to gender inclusivity.

Two local BBYO teen leaders, Jackie Schatzman from Miami and Weston resident Amanda Iserson participated. The South Florida regions are called BBYO Miami Region (Miami Dade County) and BBYO Gold Coast Region (Broward County and Palm Beach Counties) — and each region is comprised of several chapters. All of the regions and chapters are teen led and staff supported.

At the Aug. 14 convention, the executive leaders of the Aleph Zadik Aleph (AZA) and the B'nai B'rith Girls (BBG), the high school leadership fraternity and sorority of BBYO, passed a motion to ensure BBYO continues to be fully gender inclusive and pluralistic.

The motion from teens across the BBYO International Order asserts:

Young people who genuinely identify as Jewish — male, female or gender neutral — are given full eligibility to join and afforded full status as members of the Grand Order of the Aleph Zadik Aleph and the International Order of the B'nai B'rith Girls in any matter, business, or forum.

"BBYO members have stood up for each other and the entire Jewish community for more than 90 years," Matthew Grossman, BBYO's CEO said. "This motion is a testament to BBYO's commitment to inclusivity and just one example of how BBYO is a welcoming place for every Jewish teen."

BBYO Area Field Director Jennifer Polito, who overseas South Florida programs said South Florida's teens are "ecstatic" about this recommitment to gender inclusivity.

"BBYO in South Florida has a history of teens speaking out in support of the LGBTQA community and we're excited to continue this momentum," Polito noted.

"We recently had teen president, Shelby Curran, who had the opportunity to address nearly 3,000 people at our International Convention about her experience as a young out lesbian in the Jewish community," she said. "As the legislation is brand new, BBYO is looking into what policies may need to be changed to support the initiative, and will implement these changes in South Florida as well as across the movement." Miami teen leader Jackie Schatzman said she is "extremely proud" to have taken part in the passing of this motion.

"BBYO is an organization that thrives on the idea of maintaining an open and pluralistic environment for Jewish teens to prosper. Therefore, this legislation is a perfect example of how we continuously strive to adapt to the rapidly changing society that surrounds us in order to ensure that no discrimination is present in our community," she said.

"The importance of accepting people for who they are, including who they identify as, is something that the members of the Aleph Zadik Aleph and the B'nai B'rith Girls fully understand, and have exemplified through the passing of this powerful motion," she said.

Weston teen Amanda Iserson said that passing the motion to make BBYO more gender inclusive "excites and motivates" her.

"As BBYO is constantly at the forefront of social issues, I knew the gender movement would soon come to our attention. I'm so lucky to be a part of a movement that as accepting as the BBYO community," she said.

Iserson noted that even though BBYO, a pluralistic movement, is already inclusive of all sects of Judaism, "It was so integral to pass this motion because not only does this broaden our voice as a movement, but broadens the experiences of the member.

"As a teen involved in the movement, I'll get the opportunity to meet and learn about the gender inclusivity movement — something not every 17 year old can say," she said. "Education is the first step to advocacy, and by educating our members and getting gender equality on the forefront of their minds, we set the precedent to advocate for even more social change in the near future."

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