When I first started BBYO, the idea of a Jewish youth group sounded boring to me and quite honestly, I wasn’t a fan of Judaism. What first drew me in was the BBYO community – I felt welcomed by people I had never met before. As my years in BBYO continued, programs like International Convention (IC), immersive experiences like International Leadership Training Conference (ILTC), and eventually being elected regional n’siah (president), led me to choose political communication and Judaic studies as my major in college, engrained the importance of my Jewish community and significantly changed my life. BBYO created a Jewish community that I found myself a home in, one that is welcoming to all and taught me how to be a leader.
Throughout my time in BBYO, I have always loved IC. There is nothing in the world like walking into a hotel that has been transformed into a home for one of the largest gathering of Jewish people in the world. And not just people, but Jewish teens. Watching teens come together, to celebrate Judaism and learn about social justice or lifeguarding or food sustainability – or anything they’re interested in as Jewish citizens – is a uniquely incredible experience.
Like so many opportunities with BBYO, IC gave me a voice. I helped planned this past year’s convention and together with my peers, we organized experiences for 4,000 Jewish teens and professionals from around the world. Alongside the international S’ganit, I was the lead coordinator of an hour-long empowerment program for my fellow BBGs. I created a program that, for one hour, held the attention of 1,500 teens, showing me the power of my words, planning and leadership. That is what BBYO does: help teens build and lead Jewish communities so they will continue to thrive and grow.
Without BBYO, I wouldn’t have found my passion for social justice and protecting those in need or my curiosity and interest in Judaic studies. Perhaps most importantly, without BBYO I would not have found my voice – my commitment to inspiring others, to helping them find their connection to Judaism and their ability to be a leader.
Dara is one of nearly 20,000 BBYO members who has the opportunity to continue to build her Jewish community thanks to supporters like you. An anonymous donor pledged to match all gifts up to $50,000 between now and June 30. This week your gift will go twice as far, helping make our network of Jewish teens a richer place. Will you help share these experiences with more Jewish teens?