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Drawing Strength from Numbers and from Spirit

Read this story in the Schusterman Family Foundation Blog

This story comes to us from BBYO, the leading pluralistic teen movement aspiring to involve more Jewish teens in more meaningful Jewish experiences. For over 90 years, BBYO has provided identity enrichment and leadership development experiences for hundreds of thousands of Jewish teens.

On November 7-8, teens of AZA and BBG (BBYO’s fraternity and sorority) celebrated Global Shabbat with peers all over the world. Below are two reflections from teen participants.

AZA and BBG Global Shabbat is a unique experience that unites Jewish teens from around the world to celebrate one of Judaism’s most important festivals together. It seems like an unreal possibility, though as the sun slipped away on Friday, November 7, our excitement grew because we knew that we could have pointed to anywhere on the globe, and there would soon be a BBYO Shabbat celebration somewhere nearby.

A little later, Jewish teens gathered to light the candles and welcome the Sabbath bride through their own traditions and some new rituals they heard about from other countries. From regional Havdalah services, to chapter challah making sessions, Skyping with international teens and family Friday night dinners, you name it, we did it!

We, Jewish teens, are a family living globally and through Global Shabbat, we found a way to overcome and connect across borders.

514 AZA and BBG chapters and 10 countries participated in this year’s AZA and BBG Global Shabbat celebration. We firmly believe that as one very large and enthusiastic family, we have the power to achieve anything we set our minds to, and this experience proved it. We could keep trying to explain what this event entails, but instead, we want to show you what it means to us through our own experiences.


Jonah Moore is the International Shaliach (Vice President of Jewish Heritage) of BBYO’s Aleph Zadik Aleph. He is 17 years old, studying economics, history and politics at the Jewish Free School (JFS), in London. He has a great passion for European football, shawarma and standup comedy.

I’m Jonah Moore, an Aleph living in London.

For the first time ever, BBYO UK and Ireland celebrated AZA and BBG Global Shabbat and I, for one, experienced the most special Shabbat that I’ve ever had. While lighting the candles, eating my chicken soup and singing the Havdalah songs, there was a much stronger meaning than usual because I knew I was doing this in unity with the Jewish youth of the world.

What this experience did for my local BBYO community was huge. Not only did it bring us together as a chapter, we also all felt connected to something much bigger. At my chapter Havdalah service, we all took turns reflecting on our most meaningful BBYO experiences. It was clear that whether younger or older, a new member or someone who had been involved for years, BBYO had had an astonishing effect on every one of us and we all agreed that, after conversations with our brother Alephs around the world, the stories we told about our BBYO journey are reflected in every other participating community.

I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to meet Jewish teens from around the world through BBYO experiences, but AZA and BBG Global Shabbat made it clear that it doesn’t take a flight or even a Skype call to connect with people on the other side of the world. As weird as it might sound, in many ways, while we were all spread out, spanning every corner of the globe, I felt more connected to my friends in Michigan, Miami or Macedonia, compared to the times I’ve spent with them in person. AZA and BBG Global Shabbat made its impact on the individual, on the community and on the world and I feel proud to have been a part of it.


Brittany Bruck is the International Sh’licha (Vice President of Jewish Heritage) of BBYO’s B’nai B’rith Girls. She is 18 years old and a senior at Northview High School in Duluth, Georgia. She loves to sing, dance, draw, bake and laugh with her friends, and does not go a day without at least doing one of her favorite things.

And, I’m Brittany, a B’nai B’rith Girl living in Atlanta.

For me, the word “global” does not even begin to describe the impact that AZA and BBG Global Shabbat makes on the BBYO International Order and the world. This is fourth year I have participated and, still, the tradition of lighting the candles and singing the hamotzi (quite loudly) never grows old.

There is a special feeling I get when I pray, surrounded by my friends. I can feel the energy flowing through us, through our words. There is an even greater sensation that tingles in my feet and up my spine when I rise to face the east, and I know there are thousands of other Jewish teens standing with me.

These are rare moments: when the global Jewish community unites to celebrate Shabbat, a weekly ritual that suddenly becomes a strong connection, tying us all together and reminding us of our supportive community. Somehow prayers, songs and celebrations hold the power to connect me to my history, my loved ones, my faith, everyone around me and thanks to AZA and BBG Global Shabbat, every Jew around the world. No matter how different we all are, we all come together by one language to celebrate the one thing that we believe in and cherish: Judaism.

It is incredible that, through BBYO, we are able to mobilize so many teens to participate in celebrating Shabbat together. I am so thankful I have had the opportunity to participate in such an incredible experience with my chapter, my region and even some special people from out of town.


AZA and BBG Global Shabbat has shown me the value and enthusiasm of our Jewish community, and I could not be more grateful to be a part of this community.

AZA and BBG Global Shabbat reaches so many people. It connects our hearts to our friends’ hearts on the other side of the world and strengthens our connection to our community and to Judaism. There is no other way to feel a sensation as strong as the one created by thousands of teens standing together to celebrate an ancient tradition. We encourage every Jewish teen, everywhere, to participate in next year’s AZA and BBG Global Shabbat.

We are stronger together.

The Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation is proud to empower emerging leaders to explore their values, identity and new ways to strengthen their communities. We believe that as we work together to repair the world, it is important to share our diverse experiences and perspectives along the way. We encourage the expression of personal thoughts and reflections here on the Schusterman blog. Each post reflects solely the opinion of its author and does not necessarily represent the views of the Foundation, its partner organizations or all program participants.

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