Parent Pulse

Parent Pulse is a bi-monthly newsletter for BBYO member parents to help keep up to date with goings on across the Order. For nearly a century, parents have trusted us to provide a safe space in which their teens can thrive, and Parent Pulse offers an insider’s glimpse into those spaces every other month. Take a look through our past issues here!

Issue 5 | May 2020

Welcome Note | Around the Order | Wellness Corner | Trending Now | Coming Up Soon | Jewishly Speaking


Dear Parents,

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and I cannot imagine a more critical time to talk about the mental health and wellness of our teens and community.

Our teens are keenly aware of all that is happening around them. Their emotions and feelings range from boredom to anger to fear and anxiety to grief and loss, and many more. It is important to note that feeling and showing these emotions is, for the most part, healthy. As psychologist Lisa Damour notes in her most recent article for The New York Times, mental health includes the ability to feel emotions which match one’s situation and being able to handle the unpleasant emotions.

As parents, it is critical that we support our teens in this process. This is how they learn, build resilience, and ultimately grow. As difficult as it may be to watch and support teens through these emotions, it is essential for their long-term development that they are given the space and permission to feel and process in their own time and way. Parents can help teens build positive coping skills by encouraging them to continue to develop and maintain healthy habits: sleep, exercise, healthy eating, and consistent routines.

Most importantly, while our teens remain physically distanced from their peers, they can still build connection. It has been uplifting to watch the BBYO community grow and find ways to continue to come together during these challenging times. The key role that communities like ours plays in teen development and identity formation remains critical in the virtual world. Accessing and building connection in isolation allows our teens to continue to participate in Jewish traditions, fosters a sense of belonging, provides a safe and supportive environment, and helps them to continue to form their own sense of identity.

This is a month dedicated to raising awareness of mental health issues, breaking the stigma of mental illness, challenging assumptions, and building safe environments. I hope you will join us in this important conversation as we all work together to ensure that our teens are healthy, safe, and thriving.

Drew Fidler
Director of BBYO’s Center for Adolescent Wellness



BBYO On Demand is Where It’s At | During this time, our motto is “it’s not canceled, it’s just online.” We hope by this time you’ve seen our digital platform and that you and your teen have enjoyed some of our extraordinary programming. We’ve had some amazing special sessions, including a Q&A with entrepreneur and AZA alumnus Mark Cuban, a private concert with singer/songwriter Justin Jesso, and a hangout with Broadway superstars Benj Pasek and Adam Kantor. In addition to that, we hold meaningful weekly Shabbat services, we’ve moved regional and chapter programming to the platform, and teens from all over the world have submitted and run their own events, keeping teens around the world connected and united. Since its launch in March, the platform has had over 169,000 total visits, more than 53,000 individual users, and close to 3,000 unique programs scheduled. Check it out today!

Join the BBYO On Demand FAN Club | As we work to continue providing powerful social connections and community to teens worldwide, we’re asking you to consider lending your support. Help us power the BBYO On Demand platform with a recurring or one-time gift and make a difference in the lives of tens of thousands of Jewish teens today. Plus, FAN Club members gain access to exclusive updates, product discounts, raffle giveaways, and special “bonus content.” Learn more and join now!

Watch Our Latest BBYO Parent Education Webinar | In case you missed it, we're making the recording of "Supporting Your Teen’s Mental Health in Uncertain Times" available. Dr. Victor Schwartz from the Jed Foundation, the nation's leading nonprofit working to protect emotional health and prevent suicide for teens and young adults, led a discussion about mental health issues among young people and talked about how you can identify warning signs, offer support, and effectively help your teen.



Recognizing Red Flags and Resources for Response

Teen wellness statistics can often be jarring. We know that one in five youth will struggle with a mental health challenge, that 50 percent of all lifetime mental illness begins by age 14, and that suicide is the second-leading cause of death among young people ages 15 to 24. How do we know when a teen is going through something bigger than the routine challenge of processing emotions? It is critical that parents learn to identify red flags, understand how to respond, and know what resources are available to help them and their teenagers.

The criteria for a mental health issue is the following: does the behavior have a significant or pervasive negative impact on the youth’s ability to function daily and engage in their world? You do not have to be a mental health professional to recognize behavioral shifts or that something might be wrong. Some red flag behaviors to keep an eye out for are:

  • Signs of sadness and/or withdrawal from social situations (in person or virtual)

  • Difficulty with or neglect of basic self-care, personal hygiene, etc.

  • Significant changes in sleeping habits

  • Not eating, throwing up, or using laxatives to lose weight

  • Sudden, overwhelming fear and/or avoiding certain environments or situations

  • Extreme mood swings or irritability

  • Expressions of hopelessness or worthlessness

  • Self-harming behaviors or threatening to hurt or kill themselves or others

Once you notice something might be amiss, here are a few key things to keep in mind when responding:

  • Use open-ended questions:These questions allow teens to tell you how they are feeling and do not assume information or limit them to a yes/no response. Ask a teen how they are feeling and express any concerns you have.

  • Describe what you’ve seen: Tell the teen the behaviors or actions you have observed using “I” statements that are neither judgmental nor accusatory but rather are compassionate and understanding.

  • Don’t initially focus on changing the teen’s behavior, perspective, or symptom: You cannot force them to change or problem solve; instead, focus on understanding what they are feeling and thinking.

Finally, seek help. You do not need to have all the answers, and there are many professionals and organizations out there that can help (even in a pandemic). Here are just a few places you can turn to:

  • The National Crisis Text Line is a 24/7 hotline that allows you or your teen to connect with a crisis counselor for free. Text “Home” to 741741 in the U.S. and Canada.

  • Teletherapy is rapidly becoming more available in many places across the country. This article provides information on teletherapy, the benefits, and recommends some possible sites. Additionally, Talkspace for Teens has online therapy with counselors who understand the challenges that teens face.

  • Your local Jewish Family Services can tell you what therapy, support groups, and other services might be available in your community. Also, the National Alliance on Mental Illness Helpline can help you to find resources in your local community.

Looking for more resources to recognize, respond, and help your teens with mental health challenges? We invite you to visit our newly revamped Safety, Wellness & Inclusion portal and join us throughout the month for mental health programming on BBYO On Demand to learn more.



This month, we’re sharing the latest updates on Gen Z content consumption, why parents and teens are dancing on TikTok, and how music marketing is transforming in a COVID world, from YPulse, a leading provider of news, commentary, and research on tweens, teens, and young adults.


  1. A surge of parents is joining TikTok to dance with their kids | One of the biggest quarantine trends on the ever-popular TikTok app is the large number of parents joining it to dance with their children. One particular video that has been blowing up the Internet (with 9.3 million views) features a dad from Kentucky dancing with his two sons to the “Blinding Lights Challenge”—which many have flocked to the app to do. As parents work from home and kids have to do their schooling remotely, being together at home has become the new normal during this time, and many families are attempting to adjust while finding different ways to keep themselves occupied.

  2. Four predictions for post-quarantine content consumption | When quarantines began, we saw Gen Z’s media usage impacted immediately, with streaming services and YouTube getting major boosts in views. According to E-Poll Market Research, 21% of young consumers said they will continue watching this content even when “things return to normal.” There are indications that young consumers’ entertainment viewing has not shifted just during quarantine, but also long-term. Here are four predictions on what their media consumption and behavior will look like in the future:

    1. Netflix will officially be their “must-watch TV”

    2. Social media content could start cannibalizing their time on streaming services

    3. Viewers will want movies to be available in theaters and at home

    4. Teens will continue to rely on media to moderate their moods

  3. Music marketing was already transforming—COVID pushed it forward | With concerts and music festivals canceled and postponed, musicians have been finding ways to keep their fans entertained. From live streaming charity concerts to jumping on TikTok, celebrities have been joining some of the most popular apps among the Gen Z audience to reach their younger fan base. Around 30% of 13 to 39-year-olds are regularly live streaming content in their free time, and, thanks to COVID, artists have scrambled to come up with creative ways to reach their fans, including:

    • Virtual music festivals. Pre-pandemic, virtual music festivals and other music events in video games were a rising trend. Quarantine has likely made them an industry staple.

    • (Re) tours. While livestreams have become common, re-airing concert footage from past tours for a live stream is unique—and it’s clearly been a success.

    • Instagram Live. With a 70% increase in the usage of the live feature in the last month, some artists are turning to Instagram for live album promotion.  



Virtual Campus Tours | Do you have a teen who is thinking about university? We’ve partnered with Hillel to let families connect with college campuses all over America. Admitted seniors, undecided seniors, prospective applicants, curious parents, and more are invited as dozens of campus Hillels offer live, behind-the-scenes access to their schools. See the full schedule of upcoming sessions here.

Esports Tournaments | We've teamed up with our friends at Lost Tribe Esports to keep teens entertained and connected with their friends. They can play on dedicated Discord or Minecraft servers, as well as join in scheduled tournaments. Here’s what’s coming up:

  • NBA 2K20 (XB1) | May 11 | 7–11 PM ET

  • ‍NHL 20 (XB1) | May 17 | 2–6 PM ET

  • ‍Super Smash Bros. | May 25 | 7–11 PM ET

  • Mario Kart 8 Deluxe | May 31 | 2–6 PM ET

Shavuot | The holiday of Shavuot is a time that often brings us together and gives us the opportunity to appreciate our unique heritage of Torah study and community. This year, our regional communities will each learn one of the 54 Parshiot, letting us as a Movement cover the full Torah in the lead up to the holiday. Then, we will gather together virtually for a Global Siyum Celebration of our learning and of the strength of the global Jewish community. Stay tuned for details for your teen’s assignment and celebrations for all!



Jewishly Speaking features a thought from a member of our Jewish Enrichment team. This issue’s message comes from Liron Lipinsky, Associate Vice President of Jewish Enrichment.

The following article is dedicated to the memory of Ed Frim, a Jewish Education Consultant for BBYO. A passionate educator and mentor, Ed was an advocate and consultant for disabilities inclusion. May his memory be for a blessing.

"For my house shall be a house of prayer for all people." (Isaiah 56:5)

That visceral reaction you have when you witness something beautiful—maybe your ears perk up, eyes widen, and your breathing stops for a moment—that’s the feeling I get every time a BBYO Shabbat service draws near to conclusion and the entire congregation of teens sings the Mi Shebeirach, a prayer for healing. During this prayer, we plea for a refuah shelaimah, a complete recovery, of both the soul (ha’nefesh) and of the body (ha’guf). Our tradition recognizes that people need both mind and body to be healthy, and that we as a community can and should come together to pray for this holistic healing.

Though some may describe the relationship between Judaism and mental health as “complicated,” the traditional texts pave the foundation for much of how Judaism and Jewish values are practiced daily. There are many examples of Judaism’s concern with a person’s overall well-being that can be found in our sages. Maimonides, cited as one of the most prolific and influential Torah scholars of the Middle Ages by Jewish leaders across the denominational spectrum, indicated that before a physician addresses the physical needs or ailments of a person they are treating, they should first address their mental well-being and emotional needs. He wrote, "When one is overpowered by imagination, prolonged meditation, and avoidance of social contact which he never exhibited before, or when one avoids pleasant experiences which were in him before, the physician should do nothing before he improves the soul by removing the extreme emotions."

An unhealthy mental state is described as an act of “an evil spirit” in the Talmud. Specifically, it is when a person is driven to “act against his own will” or “act against the will of his Creator” (Eruvin 41b). However, the same text concludes that people should request mercy, compassion, and inclusion of those who are suffering. Perhaps this is what lays the foundation for the Jewish values we see in action.

When practicing our Jewish values, we are wholly concerned with looking out for one another. In fact, not only are we obligated to be inclusive of all and in Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers, 4:3), Ben Azzai says that we should “treat no one lightly, for everyone has a moment and everything has a place,” we are also obligated to "speak up for those who cannot speak…speak up, judge righteously, champion the poor and the needy" (Proverbs 31:8).

It is therefore no surprise at all that in BBYO, regardless of our diverse level of observance and our many brands of Judaism, our teens are all one community, continuously coming together for one another.