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BBYO Lonestar Region inspires teens with its Kallah convention

Read this story in the Jewish Herald-Voice

From Friday, March 1, to Sunday, March 3, Jewish teens from Austin, Houston and San Antonio met in Houston for BBYO Lonestar Region’s annual spring convention, Regional Kallah: Open Your Eyes. The weekend explored themes of diversity and featured keynote speaker Arin Segall; the Confronting Anti-Semitism program with the Anti-Defamation League; a performance by The University of Texas a cappella group, The Ransom Notes; and a Havdalah service with teens from Interfaith Ministries’ iLead program.

The convention was coordinated by the regional vice presidents of Judaic programming, Nate Silverblatt and Gaby Aboulafia, as well as a 20-member steering committee. More than 160 teens participated in the convention, making this one of Lonestar’s largest regional kallahs in history.

The ADL’s Confronting Anti-Semitism program was a highlight of the weekend, as teens learned how to identify and respond to anti-Semitic jokes, comments and actions. Sixteen teen leaders participated in a daylong training course, in order to act as facilitators for the program and guide their peers through discussion and activities.

“At Kallah this year, we were able to focus in on dealing with anti-Semitism – something that, if we have the right tools, can be dealt with successfully,” said one of the teen facilitators, Ben Segall of Jack Lubel AZA. I really enjoyed facilitating the program with the ADL, and I know everyone who was at Kallah got something great out of it.”

On Saturday evening, BBYO members joined teens from Interfaith Ministries of Greater Houston’s iLead Program to celebrate Havdalah and participate in an interfaith dialogue. During the service, members from different chapters read aloud the “golden rule” of different faiths, including Buddhism, Jainism, Christianity and Sikhism. These bits of wisdom allowed BBYO teens to reflect on the other religions and gave them a unique opportunity to learn about other faiths.

Following the Havdalah service, the BBYO members joined with iLead teens to discuss the role and importance their religions play in their lives. The religions represented in the discussion were Judaism, Hinduism, Islam, Christianity and Jainism.

“At Kallah, we discussed anti-Semitism and how it plays a role in the world today,” said Evan Rauch, member of Stephen S. Wise. “The Havdalah service with teens from other faiths proved that, although anti-Semitism does exist, there are people who want to reach out and create equality between all religions.”

“At Kallah this year, I enjoyed Havdalah with the Interfaith Ministries group, because I learned about the many different religions and their customs,” said Matias Kopinsky, member of Randy Reisbord AZA. “The reason I enjoyed it so much was because my parents, being immigrants from Argentina, always taught me to accept all cultures. This is why I love to learn about different traditions and religions.”

This convention was a spectacular way to start off the spring term, as teens were able to engage more of their peers at this convention than they have in more than five years, by offering a unique and innovative experience for everyone. Other highlights of the weekend included interactive Friday night and Saturday morning Shabbat services; speaker Arin Segall, who shared her experience of being bullied; rotations on community service, Israel and global Jewry. This weekend allowed all members to look into their own Judaic values and beliefs, while learning about what is important to others, as well.

For anyone who would like to join BBYO or for questions about BBYO, contact Marty Shankle at mshankle@bbyo.org or call 832-374-8336. 

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