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The Impact of BBYO

BBYO is commonly referred to as “the leading pluralistic Jewish teen movement” but to members and alumni of the organization—it represents something significantly more.

Asking local community leaders about their Jewish teenage years may lead to one common answer: involvement in BBYO. The Orlando community boasts some of the most committed communal workers who got their start in the Aleph Zadik Aleph (AZA) and B’nai B’rith Girls (BBG). Presently, the local and global BBYO program serves the same purpose, providing one of the strongest outlets for leadership development and identity-enriching experiences.

It is estimated that 75 percent of teenage Jews celebrate their bar or bat mitzvah; yet, by the time these individuals reach their last two years of high school, at best about half continue to be involved in Jewish life. North Florida Region BBYO commits to reversing this statistic in the communities it engages.

But it is impossible for the local Orlando program or greater organization to do it alone. Community members and local Jewish centers need to embrace and support the program, because as a teen leader, I believe that turning the statistic around in any capacity is vital for the Jewish future locally and abroad.

The greater Orlando community proves that there is a platform for Jewish teens in whichever space they prefer. Orlando Rebels AZA 442 and Waldflowers BBG 326 make up the Orlando BBYO chapter structure. Yearly, almost 100 teens are engaged in the Orlando BBYO program, with the greater North Florida Region having chapters throughout South Orlando, Oviedo, Sarasota and Tampa. AZA and BBG have celebrated more than 75 years in Orlando, showing the continued success and growth the chapters exhibit. Marc Blattner, an alumnus of the Orlando BBYO program, says, “AZA was my best learning experience. Orlando BBYO taught me what it means to make friends for a lifetime and develop skills I never knew existed. I learned about myself, my skills and my leadership capabilities.” Today, Blattner serves as the CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland, owing much of his professional and personal successes to Orlando Rebels AZA 442. Other prominent Jewish community leaders, who are alumnus of the organization include Pam Kancher, executive director of the Holocaust Center; Tayler Gold, president of Jewish Family Services of Greater Orlando; and Jodi Krinker, board member and former president of the Jewish Community Center of Greater Orlando.

I have seen firsthand the value of the 90-year old organization that I have dedicated myself fully to for my high school years. Teens that normally would not have become involved in Judaism connect at our annual Regional Kallah, a Judaic self-discovery convention. My peers that would normally become less engaged in any form of work grapple with how to recruit and retain members in North Florida’s flourishing chapters. The dedication, passion and initiative that chapter officers possess in the only Jewish teen-led organization are an inspiration for what the Jewish future and greater Orlando community has to offer. Though none of this is possible without the support of other Orlando Jewish community leaders, members and friends of BBYO. Our local alumni and the continued successes are evidence of an organization that works; a leading pluralistic Jewish teen movement that is the foundation of the Jewish community’s future.

I challenge everyone in our community to believe in the Jewish future supplemented by BBYO, because my North Florida Region friends are building it.

Andrew Greenberg currently serves as the BBYO North Florida Region President. To learn more about BBYO North Florida Region or to make a gift, contact the regional office at 407-765-9234, via email at nfr@bbyo.org, or visit bbyo.org.

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