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BBYO teen president visits Portland

BBYO teen president visits Portland

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The Jewish Review of Portland

November 1, 2010

BBYO International Teen President Jeremy Sherman shared his message on the power of Jewish teens when he visited Portland and Seattle Oct. 15-20 to meet members of the pluralistic teen movement.

“Being Jewish is more than just a social thing,” said Sherman during an interview in Portland. “I want Jewish teens to understand how important they are, how influential they can be. When teens are passionate and support something, they can really make a difference in the world.”

For more than 85 years, BBYO’s AZA (boys) and BBG (girls) chapters in communities around the world have provided leadership programs and identity enrichment experiences, shaping the lives of 250,000 alumni, many of whom have gone on to hold prominent positions in Jewish communal programs including in Portland. The 1987-88 International presidents are now Jewish Federation of Greater Portland President and CEO Marc Blattner and B’nai B’rith Camp Development Director Michelle Caplan.

“It’s always so exciting when the International president visits a community,” said Caplan, noting that today’s presidents have more options for outreach. “It’s amazing how things have changed. I can’t believe how much the kids can do with the computer and phone now that we couldn’t 22 years ago.”

Sherman, of West Bloomfield, Mich., was elected by 750 of BBYO’s top teen leaders to serve at the helm of the organization and travel around the world, motivating Jewish teens to grow their local BBYO programs, strengthen their Jewish communities and make a difference in the world.

Over the course of his year-long term, Sherman, who deferred his first year of college to serve as BBYO’s top ambassador, will travel to more than 50 U.S. cities and at least six countries. Key to Sherman’s agenda is the promotion of BBYO’s international initiatives, including leading campaigns to increase AZA/BBG membership, supporting teen-led efforts to help those in need locally and globally through BBYO’s Stand Up Campaign and promoting BBYO’s broad menu of summer travel opportunities and premiere service learning through the PANIM Institute.

“As a teen, I’m able to provide information and share experiences I’ve gained during my years in BBYO,” said Sherman. “Teens want to hear from teens.”

Sherman said that for him, his most meaningful experience in BBYO was participating in a three-week International Leadership Seminar in Israel.

“Usually when teens visit Israel they are tourists,” said Sherman. “I felt like a student in Israel and I was able to learn a lot about myself and what it means to be Jewish. Israel, the need to be a Zionist, had been forced on me by my parents. Until I went to Israel, I did not understand how spiritual and meaningful a place it is.”

“I would not be the Jew I am today if I had not been to Israel,” he said. “Israel connected me with my Judaism. Before Israel I felt like a BBYO leader; after I felt like a Jewish BBYO leader.”

During Jeremy’s week in the Northwest, he attended BBYO’s Jewish Education Conference at Camp Solomon Schechter, visited regularly scheduled chapter meetings, and met with Federation and Jewish community center representatives in both Seattle and Portland.

“Jeremy is a dynamic leader with a real passion for the Jewish community, which makes him an excellent role model for Jewish teens here in the Northwest, as well as Jewish teens around the world,” said BBYO’s Northwest Executive Director Matt Lemchen in a press release.

Sherman said that the region including Portland and Seattle is the largest geographic region in BBYO. Evergreen Region comprises the states of Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Alaska, and British Columbia, Canada, though he said currently only Portland, Seattle and Eugene have active chapters, with others under development.

“The feeling I have about this region is they have immense potential,” said Sherman.

Regional President Ben Molloy, of Portland’s Sol Stern AZA Chapter, agreed with Sherman.

“We are tight knit, but we will welcome anyone,” said Molloy.

Portland BBYO meets every Tuesday night at the Mittleman Jewish Community Center from 7 to 8 p.m. throughout the school year. Portland has two AZA chapters and two BBG chapters, with consistently around 60 teens per week meeting and programming together. Any Jewish high school teen is welcome to visit a chapter meeting.

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