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End of an Era.: BBYO CRE Celebrates the Silver Anniversary Retirement of Beloved Advisors

A few moths ago we shared a story of a committed couple who had given almost half of their lives to CRE BBYO and Jewish teens. At our Spring Fling convention, prior to Saturday morning Shabbat Services, we bid farewell to Myron and Karen Kabakoff as a tearful thank you was shared in the most fitting way. The Reading BBYO teens took turns reading the book, The Giving Tree, by Shel Silversteing, to the 2230 plus people in attendance. While we all listened we understood that nobody has ever given as much to CRE BBYO as the Kabakoffs and this was a small token of our appreciation.

We would like to update the story that we presented at the beginning of the program year and let you share in getting to know who the Kabakoffs are and why they hold a special place in our hearts

1987, 25 years ago. Ronald Reagan was our President, the State of Israel was a mere 39 years old, gas was only $0.95 per gallon, CRE's Senior Regional Director had just graduated high school and was heading off to college, and Myron and Karen Kabakoff were beginning their first year as volunteer advisors for our Reading BBYO chapter!

The year is now 2012. Our country grew to elect our first African American President, Israel has celebrated 63 years of Statehood, gas is a whopping $3.75 per gallon and that teen who had just graduated high school is in his 14th year as a BBYO professional. With all that has changed in the world, CRE and Reading BBYO have been able to count on the one constant of having Myron and Karen Kabakoff continuing their amazing commitment and love as volunteer advisors. Yes, volunteers! 25 years without asking for a penny to devote their time to Jewish teens and their growth. Impacting hundreds of Reading,PA. Jewish teens and thousands of teens throughout CRE and doing it with a smile every step of the way.. The teens can all share stories about how the Kabakoffs helped impact and shape their lives in such a meaningful, positive way.

In 1987 the Kabakoffs moved to Reading, PA. They had two sons, (Sam -5, Ralph-3) and their daughter Serena was a blessing to join them a few years later. They were new to the area and a friend of Myron's, who happened to be a CRE advisor in a different town, suggested he look into becoming a volunteer for BBYO. Myron and Karen looked at this as being a wonderful way to meet people in the community as well as a way to give back and impact other Jewish families.

Myron was an alumni of BBYO but not very active in his initial time with the organization but something grabbed him as soon as he and Karen began their CRE/Reading BBYO journey. So what happened over these past 25 years?? To begin, their children, Sam, Ralph and Serena all took their paths through BBYO, becoming leaders through local and Regional programming as well as attending International Leadership programs. The Kabakoffs have also watched their BBYO family of teens graduate and move on to college and become strong professionals and family men/women thanks to their mentoring. Myron recently commented on how many of his teen alums have returned to CRE to serve their time as volunteer advisors. Proud parents of not only their biological children but also their BBYO children, the Kabakoffs have completed each of their 25 years saying that they wanted to continue and impact yet another generation of teens.

Who are the Kabakoffs? Myron was born in New Haven Connecticut and earned a degrees from two schools. He graduated from Franklin & Marshall with a B.A. in Physics and continued to obtain his B.A. in Animal Science from Penn State University, where he and Karen met. Myron has been a Hebrew School teacher, a board member of the JCC and his synagogue, President of the Berks Ballet Theater all while being professionally self-employed for the past 18 years.

Karen, born in Landsdale, PA., earned her B.A. .in Special Education From Penn State and went on to earn her Masters Degree as a Reading Specialist at Bloomsburg University. Karen has been a special education teacher for 26 years as well as being a Hebrew School teacher and has taught every age level from 18 months through 21 years old. Karen also made her commitment to Judaism prior to the birth of their children as she converted to enjoy the traditions of being Jewish with Myron and their three children.

The Kabakoffs have watched like proud parents as their BBYO teens traveled the journey with them from a young age as Hebrew School students all the way through BBYO. Watching them all grow were some of their most memorable and proud moments.They even opened their homes for more than six months to a teen who had been homeless and helped him find his way through his four years of BBYO. When speaking of how BBYO impacted them as BBYO parents and what it did for their own children, the Kabakoffs seemed to be overwhelmed by the amount of ways it helped their family. BBYO helped them connect Jewishly in an area that does not have a large Jewish community. Their kids were very busy with school and other extra curricular activities and yet BBYO was the magnet to make them want to grow as Jews and as leaders. "It has always been and continues to be family", Myron said with pride. "We watched our children also grow academically", added Karen. Karen spoke about how she once used BBYO as a way to challenge Ralph in school and when he saw the prize, he came home with straight A's! Ralph is now a successful entrepreneur.

Myron and Karen also talk about how their BBYO advisor experience has helped them grow both personally and professionally. They boasted that their time on other boards for which they served was greatly enhanced due to the knowledge they gained as BBYO volunteers.

Myron wanted to make sure that everyone understands his philosophy when working with our teens. "Teens learn by doing", said Myron. "I have always made sure to mentor from the background and allow the teens to learn through both their failures and their successes." Karen quickly added again that to her, " BBYO equals Family. There is nothing like arriving at a CRE BBYO convention and watching hundreds of teens hug, laugh, sing, pray and learn together. CRE BBYO has been as much a part of our family as anything in our lives." On behalf of CRE BBYO, we would like to thank Myron and Karen Kabakoff for the 25 years they have devoted to BBYO and we hope that their story inspires you to get involved too and impact the Jewish teens in your communities.Enjoy retirement and know that we will truly miss you! The Jewish community is a better place because of you. Thank you Myron and Karen!

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