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Top Teen Leaders Gather From Around the World for BBYO's Largest International Convention In Its History

February 17, 2009


Washington, DC — (February 17) More than 750 of the world's leading Jewish communal thinkers – all 18 years of age or younger – gathered in Long Branch, New Jersey from Feb. 12-16 for BBYO's largest International Convention (IC) in its 85-year history. IC set the course for the upcoming year, determining strategies for strengthening BBYO as a youth-led movement and connecting teens to the Jewish community at large.

With a convention theme entitled, "The Future is Now," participants set their focus on making a difference in the world immediately as a movement of 26,000 teens. They participated in social justice programming and community service learning centered on launching "Stand Up: A Campaign to End Poverty"—a BBYO initiative focused on social and economic injustice. Teens also participated in skill-building sessions on creating social change through community organizing, coalition building, philanthropy and community service that were followed by regional meetings so teens could continue to develop on-the-ground implementation plans. At the end of the program, 750 teens signed the BBYO "Stand Up" Pledge, committing to stand up for people in need.

Additional highlights of IC 2009, which drew teens from North America, Bulgaria, Israel and the United Kingdom, include:

  • The presentation of a $115,000 check to the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC). Raised over the course of two years, all of the funds were teen-raised in BBYO's 60+ communities across North America as a part of the Lynn Schusterman Campaign for Service and Justice.
  • A pre-IC "Chapter Execs Conference" focused on educating chapter leaders on a number of key issues including housing, healthcare, education and hunger as a precursor to announcing "Stand Up." Participants prepared a letter to be sent to President Obama letting the Administration know of BBYO's efforts in response to President Obama's call to action.
  • The collection of toiletries and other items from the 750 teens and 100 staff at the convention to be donated to the Northern New Jersey Jewish Family and Children's Service Center – an effort that will be continued by the local BBYO region – Greater Jersey Hudson River Region.
  • Several award presentations including: AZA Alumnus of the Year Award to Mark Charendoff, President of the Jewish Funders Network (JFN), an association of Jewish philanthropists and community leaders; BBG Alumna of the Year Award to attorney, Rachel Gebaide, the Vice President of the Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando and Trustee of the Tampa-Orlando-Pinellas Jewish Foundation; and the David L. Bittker Unsung Hero Award, which is given out annually to an outstanding volunteer advisor, to Chuck Marcus from Wilmington, Delaware with 42 years of dedication to BBYO.
  • A Day of Learning on Shabbat, with 26 learning sessions and multiple prayer service options for teens to choose from so they could connect more personally with their Shabbat experience.
  • The presentation of BBYO Excellence in Programming awards to the 100 winners of the more than 400 applicants from BBYO chapters and individual teens.
  • A performance by 6-piece Eastern European folk-punk band, "Golem" (of the not-for-profit JDub Records label).

Finally, the 10 teens who will serve at the helm of the world's leading pluralistic Jewish teen movement as members of the International Boards were elected at IC and include:

President (Grand Aleph Godol): Adam Bloom of Wilmington, DE
VP of Programming (Grand Aleph S'gan): Evan Kline of Memphis, TN
VP of Membership (Grand Aleph Moreh): Jason Steinberg of Oceanside, NY
Secretary and Treasurer (Grand Aleph Mazkir): Josh Harendorf of Ontario, Canada
Jewish and Israel Education, Community Service and Social Action VP (Grand Aleph Shaliach): Saul Brodsky of Norfolk, VA

President (International N'siah): Emily Trotz of Memphis, TN
VP of Programming (International S'ganit): Jeni Willenzik of Charlotte, NC
VP of Membership (International Aym Ha-Chaverot): Ilana Avergun of Potomac, MD
Secretary and Treasurer (International Mazkirah): Mara Hahn of Knoxville, TN
Jewish and Israel Education, Community Service and Social Action VP (International Sh'licha): Happie Hoffman of Memphis, TN

"This year's IC was incredibly empowering," said Lauren Shenfeld, BBYO's International Teen President (International N'siah). "Having 750 teens in one room exploring the Jewish value of tikkun olam and our place in the Jewish future is truly something we will never forget, and BBYO is ready and mobilized to make a difference."

Visit to see BBYO's 2009 International Convention Live Blog, featuring videos, photos and teen-written testimonials that were updated each and every day!

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