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Together as One, Forever United

Read this story in Baltimore Jewish Times 

By Alyssa Weiss

“Together as one, forever united.” The importance of these words has recently, in the face of constant anti-Semitism, stood out to the global Jewish community. During Presidents Day weekend, more than 2,000 Jewish teens from around the world gathered in Atlanta for BBYO’s annual International Convention to demonstrate how, when taken to heart, these words have the ability to shape a movement. Participants had the opportunity not only to listen to a variety of speakers, attend leadership seminars and learn about the future of the Jewish community, but also to form connections with teens from around the world and to advocate for the future of the Jewish people.

For me, as well as many of the other teens present at the convention, the most unique opportunity that this convention gave us was the chance to meet and bond with teens from countries around the globe. Speaking with teens from countries where anti-Semitism is predominant, such as Turkey, it was shocking to hear some of the precautions individuals must take to hide their Jewish identity. While I proudly advertise my involvement in Jewish youth organizations, many of my peers are forced to hide their participation in BBYO, unable to tell even their closest friend about their attendance at the International Convention in fear of a violent response.

As important as it always is to learn about the effects of anti-Semitism around the world, having a connection to someone who experiences this anti-Semitism really allows an individual to understand these effects. At this International Convention, teens from around the world were drawn together by their similarities: age, religion, involvement in BBYO. While talking, teens would discover that, despite the thousands of miles between their home countries, they watched the same TV shows, listened to the same music and even shopped at the same store chains. In the span of a few days, these individuals can become some of your closes friends, and this is when their stories of their Jewish identity stand out. You can finally understand how the life of someone, who is in many ways so similar to you, can be affected so greatly by anti-Semitism.

It is these experiences that make international BBYO events so unique and meaningful. As a teenager, it is often difficult to feel your connection to the global Jewish community, but personally, BBYO has given me the experiences to ensure that I feel this connection. The five days I spent at BBYO’s International Convention provided an opportunity for me to attend programs that have given me a new perspective on my Jewish identity, so that I know I will do my best to ensure that the global Jewish community is truly together as one and forever united.

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