JCC Chicago and BBYO Great Midwest Region forge partnership to engage Chicagoland Jewish teens


Debbie Shemony, BBYO, [email protected]
Megan Abraham, JCC Chicago, [email protected]

JCC Chicago and BBYO are proud to announce a new partnership poised to re-engage and re-connect more Chicago area Jewish teens after an unprecedented period of isolation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The past 18 months have been really challenging, especially for teens who have now spent a good portion of their adolescent years at home. In anticipation of a return to full-time, in-person school, JCC Chicago and BBYO Great Midwest Region (GMR) have joined forces to provide teens with the type of physical space and programming experiences they seek.

Together, JCC Chicago and BBYO GMR are two of Chicagoland’s largest providers of activities to the Jewish teen audience. This collaboration will leverage the strengths of both organizations, applying BBYO’s time-tested approach to teen leadership and year-round engagement to JCC Chicago’s broad engagement with thousands of teens through camp, community service, employment, and an array of skill and leadership development activities. Additional philanthropic support will be sought to bring to life creative, new initiatives and opportunities that only a partnership of this magnitude can provide.

JCC Chicago, the largest JCC on the continent, engages over 3,000 teens annually through Apachi Day Camps, Camp Chi overnight camp, Jewish Student Connection (JSC), Maccabi Games and numerous other programs and opportunities. From Lake County to Lakeview, the north shore to the south side and beyond, JCC Chicago serves as an anchor for emerging Jewish journeys. The multitude of programs serves to engage teens year-round and help hone a deeper connection to Jewish values, Jewish identity, and Jewish community.

BBYO is the leading pluralistic Jewish teen movement aspiring to involve more Jewish teens in more meaningful Jewish experiences. BBYO Great Midwest Region (GMR) has over 600 members and engages 1,000+ teens annually across Illinois, primarily in and around the Chicagoland area including Chicago, Buffalo Grove, Deerfield, Northbrook, Skokie, Wilmette, Naperville, Homewood/Flossmoor, and Champaign. Through youth-led and staff-supported programs, BBYO offers members opportunities to develop leadership skills and positively affect their communities, the world, and themselves.

In connection with JCC Chicago’s scenario planning work and related focus on Jewish teen engagement and programming, JCC Chicago conducted its first teen community survey in early 2021, which revealed findings that helped inform the partnership with BBYO:

  • 79% of teens are interested in a hangout/program space with dedicated teen hours
  • 83% of teens are interested in monthly programming
  • 59% of teens are interested in proactively addressing mental health for both themselves and their peers

In response to many of these findings, the JCC Chicago-BBYO partnership seeks to address the teen community’s pressing needs as they emerge from the pandemic. Highlights of the partnership include:

  • Co-hosted office space at the Bernard Weinger JCC in Northbrook
  • On-site BBYO meetings for seven suburban chapters at the Bernard Weinger JCC
  • Multiple co-hosted events engaging teens involved in each of the organizations
  • Cross-promotion of events focused on engaging the Chicagoland Jewish teen community
  • Support and collaboration among staff serving the teen community from both organizations

To learn more about JCC Chicago, please visit jccchicago.org or contact Megan Abraham at [email protected]. To learn more about BBYO Great Midwest Region, please visit BBYO’s website or contact the local team at [email protected].