BBYO’S International Convention at Its Largest in Texas
February 13, 2007
Nearly 600 Jewish Teen Leaders to Set Organizational Agenda, Elect 2007-08 Leadership and Honor State Senator Florence Shapiro; February 15 – 19, 2007
Hundreds of future doctors, rabbis, politicians, business executives and Jewish community leaders will gather at Greene Family Camp in Bruceville, Texas, February 15-19, for the largest-ever International Convention (IC) of BBYO, the world's leading pluralistic Jewish teen movement. With BBYO's Lonestar (Houston) and North Texas-Oklahoma (Dallas and Tulsa) Regions hosting the event, nearly 600 of the Jewish community's "best and brightest" – hailing from all over North America, Europe and Israel – will convene to elect their new international leaders, address critical issues impacting Israel and their Jewish future, participate in a series of intensive Jewish study sessions and celebrate BBYO's largest Shabbat of the year.
"Keeping teenagers involved in Jewish life is a foremost priority in our community today," said Houston Jewish Federation CEO Lee Wunsch, a BBYO alumnus and former BBYO Regional Director. "BBYO does a great job of programming for teens and inspiring in them a sense of leadership and responsibility."
"We are so excited that IC is going to be in our home state this year and that more than 50 members from Texas will be there," said local BBYO member Alex Raynor. "It's the perfect place to host IC because BBYO has meant so much to so many people here – including my entire family!" said Alex's twin sister, Callie. Both young women have just been elected to serve on their regional BBYO board in Houston – following in their parents' footsteps as active BBYO leaders. Stuart and Barbara Raynor met through BBYO and have established successful careers in the Jewish community, Barbara as the Director of Marketing and Communications at the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston and Stuart as the Senior Associate Executive Director at the JCC of Houston.
"As the Executive-Vice President of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas, I am delighted that IC will be held in Texas," said Gary Weinstein, an alumnus of BBYO and former Regional Director. "Texas has a long and valued history with BBYO, and we as a community count hundreds of BBYO alumni as donors, community leaders and Jewish professionals. My greatest Jewish experiences growing up were as a member of BBYO – attending conventions, traveling to Israel, having a chapter named in memory of my mother Ginny Weinstein. I am a Jewish professional because of the positive influence of BBYO."
IC follows two days of "Execs," the annual meetings of teen presidents from BBYO's 40 international regions who will define the agenda on which the convention body will act. Last year, an IC vote led to the designation of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) as the beneficiary of BBYO's teen philanthropy; a widespread fundraising and educational campaign ensued, sparking a new level of activism among BBYO's extensive international teen network and raising consciousness about the needs of Jewish communities around the world. The teens have already raised over $35,000 through local efforts to support the JDC's critical mission.
Teens will also discuss strengthening relations with overseas affiliates; enhancing ties and programming with Israel; developing strategies to raise more charitable dollars for the JDC; and creating resources for more consistent and widespread Jewish education throughout the BBYO system. Teens will participate in two Shabbat afternoon study sessions on topics ranging from Jewish humor to leadership models to social action and community service.
"IC is a monumental event, bringing together Jewish teens from all over the world to discuss and set into motion strategies for making the future of the Jewish community stronger," said Sheryl Eskowitz, Regional Director of Lonestar BBYO. "The teens we see at IC today will no doubt be seen again assuming important roles in society," added Sherrie Stalarow, Senior Executive Regional Director of North Texas-Oklahoma BBYO.
In addition to the formal business that will be conducted at IC 2007, other highlights will include:
- The presentation of the BBYO Distinguished Alumna Award to State Senator Florence Shapiro (R-Plano). A child of Holocaust survivors, Ms. Shapiro chairs the State of Texas Senate Education Committee and made the first-ever Shabbat in the Governor's Mansion in Austin as "Governor for a Day" in 2005.
- The presentation of The David Bittker Advisor of the Year award to Ann Rubin of Dallas, who has been involved as a volunteer advisor since 1975.
- Story-telling and oratory competitions, a young men's sporting event/Israeli military simulation, a young women's "Mind, Body, Attitude" program about healthy lifestyle choices and political empowerment; and a dynamic, musical Shabbat celebration.
- Live performances by the Boston-based Jewish rock band, the Josh Nelson Project, and Seattle-based teen band, Left at the Castle.
"For the past six months, I've met with teens around the world who prove to me that we are capable of remarkable things," said Dina Finer of Tulsa, BBYO's International Teen President. "We are excited to preside over the largest IC in BBYO's 80+-year history," added Finer's counterpart, Jeremy Gelman of Denver. "It proves that teens want to play an important role in shaping the Jewish future."
BBYO is the leading pluralistic Jewish teen movement aspiring to involve more Jewish teens in more meaningful Jewish experiences. For more than 80 years, AZA and BBG chapters in communities around the world have been providing exceptional leadership programs and identity enrichment experiences, shaping the lives of 250,000 alumni who are among the most prominent figures in business, politics, academia, the arts and Jewish communal life. Now, more than ever, BBYO offers unique opportunities for teens to connect with one another, serve their communities, navigate the college admissions process and travel the world, providing each participant with a network of lifelong friends, a perspective which adds value and meaning to life and a shared commitment to strengthening the Jewish future.