With Unparalleled Enthusiasm and Participation, Thousands of Jewish Teens Across 28 Countries Unite as One to Celebrate “Global Shabbat”


MEDIA CONTACT Debbie Shemony, 202.857.6691; mailto: [email protected]

December 13 & 14, Worldwide — From across North America, Latin America, Europe, Israel, the Former Soviet Union and everywhere in between, hundreds of local BBYO chapters in 175 communities across the world took part in BBYO’s Global Shabbat 2019. This unique initiative, an annual highlight in which Jewish teen leaders host simultaneous Friday night, Saturday morning, and Havdalah services and/or accompanying programs, demonstrates the power of teens to come together as one Movement in a truly global celebration of the joy of Shabbat.

This year's Global Shabbat theme, “With All Our Might,” draws inspiration from a line from one of the most important Jewish prayers, the Shema, andbrought teens together to reflect on the strength that Shabbat brings to their communities. Teens explored this theme through an assortment of thoughtful programming and by engaging with a variety of influential guests and gamechangers at their events, including cross-cultural activists, interfaith leaders, politicians, entrepreneurs, and Holocaust survivors. Additionally, this year BBYO partnered with UNICEF to participate in the World’s Big Sleep Out bringing awareness to the issue of global homelessness on Global Shabbat.

"The theme of this year's Global Shabbat truly permeated our worldwide celebration. It was inspiring to see the way each community personalized this theme, whether it was organizing programs to raise the issues that matter most, or listening to stories from Holocaust survivors about their strength and resilience,” said Jill Goldwasser and Glenn Randall, BBYO’s International Teen Vice Presidents of Jewish Heritage. “At a time when we are all concerned about a resurgence of anti-Semitism, seeing everyone celebrate “With All Our Might” was a powerful experience for the entire Movement."
Among the diverse array of Global Shabbat experiences offered this year, program highlights and speakers included:

  • An Israeli themed program in Lake Ontario Region, where teens hosted special guests from the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), offered an authentic Israeli falafel bar, and learned Israeli line dancing from professional instructors. Participants also made a “chapter Western Wall” where they wrote notes of hopes and fears and placed them in the cracks.
  • A first ever Global Shabbat Regional Convention in Izmir, Turkey, bringing teens from across Turkey together for the country's first multi-city BBYO Jewish enrichment retreat. Over 75 BBYO teens participated in a weekend filled with learning, singing, celebrating Shabbat, touring and strengthening their local chapters.
  • A conversation with Adam Klein, winner of the TV show Survivor in 2016, at Hudson Valley Region’s and Big Apple Region’s joint regional winter convention, who inspired guests with stories about his work raising money for cancer research.
  • A “Jewish culture through Jewish cooking” event in Estonia, where teens participated in a cooking class, and learned about the history of Jewish cuisine while enjoying a Shabbat meal alongside their peers.
  • A community-led event in Manhattan Region, in conjunction with UJA-Federation of New York and the Center for Youth Philanthropy and Leadership, featuring remarks by Billy Planer, Founder and Director of Etgar 36, a Jewish educational initiative that inspires teens to explore history, politics, and activism and find their voice.
  • A Havdallah program in Mountain Region where three Holocaust survivors were invited to speak, and then inducted as lifetime members of the B’nai B’rith Girls in a moving ceremony. Alephs and BBGs affirmed that they would live their teen years to the fullest, as proud young Jews, as tribute to the courage and resiliency these survivors displayed as young Jewish teens themselves.

The tradition of welcoming and inducting Holocaust survivors into AZA and BBG was first introduced in July 2015 at BBYO's International Kallah summer program, when eight Holocaust survivors joined an international community of hundreds of Jewish teens in learning, singing, and dancing. Throughout this special Shabbat celebration, participating teens had the opportunity to hear survivor stories and commit to sharing them with future generations. By the end of the weekend, the survivors were also inducted as honorary members of AZA and BBG, as a symbolic way for them to reclaim their stolen childhoods. This annual weekend, A Shabbat to Remember, continues every summer at camp. BBYO Global Shabbat celebrations this December incorporated this practice as well, serving as a continuation of this meaningful experience around the world.

This year’s celebrations reflected the power of our global teen movement to explore critical social issues, to feel empowered by a commitment to Judaism, and to be inspired to make a difference in their communities, said Debbie Shemony, BBYO’s Vice President of Marketing and Communications. “Now an established and celebrated anchor of BBYO’s annual program calendar, Global Shabbat offers a robust platform from which teens, families and guests can unite for a moment of rich Jewish tradition while embracing their role as a part of something bigger than themselves.”

About BBYO
BBYO is the leading pluralistic Jewish teen movement aspiring to involve more Jewish teens in more meaningful Jewish experiences. For more than 90 years, BBYO‘s leadership programs the Aleph Zadik Aleph (AZA, high school fraternity) and the B’nai B’rith Girls (BBG, high school sorority) have been providing exceptional leadership programs and identity enrichment experiences, shaping the confidence and character of more than 350,000 alumni who are among the most prominent figures in business, politics, academia, the arts, and Jewish communal life. Now, BBYO’s network of Jewish teens, alumni, parents, volunteers, and philanthropists serves as the Jewish community’s most valuable platform for delivering to the post Bar/Bat Mitzvah audience fun, meaningful, and affordable experiences. With year-round activities in hundreds of local communities and inspiring world-wide travel experiences, BBYO’s broad program menu enables teens to explore areas of leadership, service, civic engagement, Israel education, and Jewish values.
Please note that BBYO should not be referred to as the B’nai B’rith Youth Organization, but rather as “BBYO.”

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