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BBYO’s Jeannie Spiegel is New Program Chief

Read this story in the Washington Jewish Week

At 16, Jeannie Spiegel already has set her sights on becoming a CEO.

The 11th grader at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School may be well on her way, following her election as BBYO’s international vice president of programming, during its convention in Baltimore last month.

Spiegel described her position as “in charge of overseeing programming and helping execute the programs” for 19,500 BBYO members, 10,500 who belong to BBG and 9,000 who belong to AZA.

In her new position, Spiegel is the lead person for all programming at next year’s convention in Dallas. In addition, throughout the year, she is the go-to person for any region that needs help or advice in planning events.

“It’s definitely a big position and will be very time consuming,” she said.

Spiegel will continue weekly get-togethers with her special needs buddy through Friendship Circle, a Chabad-affiliated program that aims to make children and teenagers who have special needs feel included.

“Everyone needs a friend,” Spiegel said.

Spiegel joined BBYO in eighth grade, partly because a friend at Congregation Beth El of Montgomery County in Bethesda invited her and partly because her sister had participated.

“I went to an event, and I was just hooked as soon as I got there,” she said. “The girls were so welcoming.”

She has attended Hebrew school and gone to Jewish overnight camp at Camp Tel Yehudah, a teen leadership camp of Young Judaea, in upstate New York. But it wasn’t until she joined BBYO that she realized “being Jewish can be fun and meaningful,” she said.

Spiegel said she wants to elevate chapter programming to include a social action component. While she stressed that there’s nothing wrong with just getting together to watch a movie, Spiegel would like members to build upon the time they spend together, working on causes they are “really passionate about.”

Since then, Spiegel has risen through BBYO’s leadership ranks, holding a number of chapter board positions. She particularly has been involved in programming, most recently creating an event for more than 3,000 people.

“I think I have always been a natural-born leader,” she said.

To become BBYO’s 67th International S’ganit, the official name of the lead programming position, Spiegel had to come out on top of a field of four. Although the names of the candidates were not revealed until the day before the election, Spiegel now knows her competitors hailed from Bulgaria, Texas and Baltimore.

To be permitted to compete for the position, Spiegel had to answer a 15-question self-awareness survey, be interviewed by the girl she sought to replace, meet with the international president and participate in a phone call between staff members and members of Spiegel’s family.

After that, she filled a page with information on her platform, goals and qualifications. It was then distributed to those attending the convention. She also prepared a two-minute video about herself, and finally, gave a five-minute speech at the convention.

Being with 2,400 young Jewish people from 48 states and 27 countries, for Spiegel, was “in a sense indescribable,” she said.

Her grandfather, who hid during the Holocaust in what was then Poland, joined AZA when he first came to America.

“This shows how we went from persecution” to a room packed with young people celebrating their Jewishness, she said.

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