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David Brooks at BBYO

Read this story in the Jewish Insider

SCENE YESTERDAY: BBYO kicked off their annual International Convention at the Baltimore Hilton with over 2,400 teenagers from 700 communities worldwide in attendance (we’re told a 182% increase from 2012) as well as 2,000 adults, including philanthropists, alumni, thought leaders and educators, providing plenty of supervision and guidance. In conjunction with the BBYO Conference, supporters and friends of the Jewish community also attended the Summit on Jewish Teens at the Hilton. Hosted by The Jim Joseph Foundation, The Marcus Foundation, the Joseph and Harvey Meyerhoff Family Charitable Funds and The Schusterman Family Foundation, it has become the premier opportunity for the Jewish community’s most influential leaders to converse with each other and teens themselves about engaging the teen audience in Jewish life. This year’s featured speaker was New York Times Op-Ed Columnist David Brooks.

David Brooks: ”Sometime your identity is formed under challenging circumstances. I went to a christian school, Grace Church Episcopal School in Lower Manhattan. I was part of the all Jewish boys davening choir at Grace (laughter). We were about 40% Jewish in the choir and, to square with our religion, we wouldn’t sing the word ‘Jesus’ and so the volume would drop down dramatically (laughter). And so we’re in complex circumstances and our identity is formed. What you see here is like a Woodstock of Jewish identity. You see all these people coming together and their identity as Jews is inflamed by the presence of each other.”

“A lot of us are actually related by blood. We’re also related by heritage, the Passover Seder, by Moses, by Maimonides, by Adam Sandler (laughter). We’re related by rituals, the Shabbat meals, the global Shabbat. These are the things we’ve inherited. The challenge for us going forward is to take what we’ve inherited and to build something out of it. What do we do with this legacy we’ve been handed? How do we advance righteousness? Let’s face it these kids, 2,400 of them, will grow up in an atmosphere of a darkening world. Authoritarians rising around the world, the Middle East as divided by Sunni and Shia, and these are only some of the threats around the world… but there’s also Ted Cruz (laughter).”

“Judaism is a people, we have these common roots, we have these common genes but we also have our faith. We’re a religion. We’re Abraham ready to sacrifice Isaac, we’re Moses arguing with God, we’re Sarah being blessed with a child, we’re David seeking forgiveness, we’re the joy Rabbis feel when they study Torah. We would not survive as a people if we were not a faith. And so while we celebrate our community, while we celebrate our rituals, we will not survive — especially in a darkening world — unless we take Torah study seriously, unless we take prayer seriously, theology seriously, study seriously. That’s the substance behind what we do and why we survive. Getting together is just the start. Education and content and study and faith is the advancement.” [YouTube]

Fun Fact: David Brooks and Alan Dershowitz are third cousins.

SPOTTED: Lynn Schusterman, Lisa Eisen, BBYO Executive Director Matt Grossman, Tina & Steven Price, Jay & Shira Ruderman, Dorothy Tananbaum, Eric Fingerhut, Tamar Remz, Andrés Spokoiny, David Rittberg, Amy Holtz, Jerry Silverman, Sandy Cardin, Seth Cohen, Kate Belza, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, Rabbi Steven Wernick, Marc Terrill, Linda Hurwitz, Mark Neumann, Bruce Sholk, Howard Friedman, Scott Shay, Rafi Rone, David Cygielman, Ami Eden, Deborah Kolben, Hadara Ishak, Ethan Feuer, Rachel Hazan, Max Heller, Elyse Goldberg, Dan Brown, Jeremy Fingerman.

Happening this weekend at BBYO: Among the many panels and sessions, there are at least two with a strong (bipartisan) political focus. Ami Eden will interview Noam Neusner and Matt Nosanchukabout how they got their start in politics and what they learned from their experiences at the White House and on Capitol Hill. Later, the RJC’s Matt Brooks and the NJDC’s Greg Rosenbaum will explain “How to Be a Political Jewish Operative — teaching what you will need to enter the political world as a young, smart Jewish dynamo while also discussing the strategy, issues and personalities involved in the 2016 elections.”

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