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Jewish teens got into 'Spirit' with BBYO

Read this story in The Community Press & Recorder

The dictionary defines “spirit” as a particular mood or an emotional state characterized by vigor and animation, but after last month’s Spirit Convention at Camp Campbell Gard in Hamilton, nearly 200 Jewish teenagers would say that BBYO is their definition of spirit and fun.

This program gave high school students from Cincinnati, Columbus, Dayton, Indianapolis and Louisville a chance to come together for a weekend of competition and camaraderie to show their pride in their cities. Chapters faced-off in an Olympic-style contest with the coveted “Spirit Stick” being awarded as the grand prize to the victors.

“Spirit Convention is just one of many opportunities Jewish teens from around the region have to share fun and meaningful experiences with one another throughout the school year,” explains KIO BBYO regional director Josh Rothstein.

“I was one of the coordinators of a BBYO regional convention back in the ‘70s,” said Marsha Robbins. It taught me early on how to manage people and gave me hands-on experience running committee meetings, planning budgets and creating programs. I went on to become the president of Hillel at my university and was active in student government on campus. I credit BBYO for giving me the experience and confidence I needed to be a leader, something that continues to serve me well to this day.”

This year’s Spirit Convention was coordinated by Zach Samuelson from Cincinnati and Halle Herman from Columbus, who along with their steering committee put lots of creativity and thought into every detail of the weekend, from the menus to the activities and everything in between.

“This year’s theme was the KIOlympics,” Samuelson said. “Everyone showed their utmost dedication and loyalty to their chapters by competing and cheering their hearts out”

Spirit Convention is just one example of the numerous activities and programs that BBYO puts on throughout the year. With more than 30,000 members and 250,000 alumni, BBYO is the leading pluralistic Jewish youth organization in the world, giving teens across the globe a chance to strengthen their Jewish identity and connections to Jewish life through local, regional, national and international programs, conventions, leadership training, summer camp, travel to other countries and Israel and more.

BBYO’s broad program menu enables teens to explore areas of leadership, service and civic engagement, Israel education, and Jewish values with the expectation that they will exhibit positive attitudes and behaviors about being Jewish while maintaining the values and relationships that strengthen the Jewish people.

In Cincinnati, city director Matt Steinberg helps teens plan events like the Reality TV Mash Up, which took place in partnership with Adath Israel’s USY chapter, as well as Shabbat dinners, sleepovers, weekly meetings and more.

“While BBYO puts on lots of fun social events, we also stress the importance of social action and social justice programs, such as Cincinnati BBYO’s annual Occupy the JCC event. Last year for example, about 80 teens spent the night at the Mayerson JCC to raise awareness for anti-bullying and we anticipate even more will ‘Occupy the JCC` when we host this event again this coming January,” Steinberg said.

Next up for BBYO is the KIO Regional Convention in Cincinnati in December, where the new 2013 Regional Board will be elected. Hundreds of Jewish teens are expected to attend.

To learn more about the upcoming Regional Convention and BBYO in general, contact Steinberg at (513) 722-7244 or msteinberg@mayersonjcc.org. BBYO is open to those currently in eighth- through 12th-grade.

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