An Update on BBYO’s Pledge to Build and Sustain a Practice of Anti-Racism

July 17, 2020

On June 1, 2020, BBYO teen leaders issued a statement standing in solidarity with the Black community and all communities of color and made a series of commitments to move BBYO forward as an action-oriented network that believes Black Lives Matter.

While we knew our first step needed to be rooted in partnership and education, we also wanted to engage in a profound introspection, examining long-held traditions and practices to be sure they aligned with our inclusive and anti-racist values. We committed to identify and launch educational opportunities, to deepen our understanding of racial injustice, to welcome and celebrate the Jewish community’s diversity, including teens and adults of color, and to actively fight racism and prejudice as we work toward shaping a world that ensures compassion and justice for all.

We would like to be held accountable for the commitment we made to the larger BBYO community and as citizens of the world to do our part to fight against racism and prejudice. Below is a list of what we have enacted to date:

  • Launched New Racial Justice Teen Programs

    • We have hosted, and continue to host, civil rights activists, racial justice educators, and interfaith leaders via BBYO On Demand programs to offer opportunities for learning, listening, education, and relationship building

    • We held a series of Juneteenth programs and racial justice Shabbat-themed services

    • We established a weekly hangout for Members of Color supported by advisors and professional colleagues of color


  • Updated Regional Branding to Align with Anti-Racist Language

    • Teen leaders, in partnership with community members and alumni, voted to change the names of Cotton States Region (CSR) to Delta Region, and Eastern Region: Dixie Council to Eastern Region: Southeast Council

  • Formed Teen Leadership Committees and Incorporated Racial Justice in Summer Programming

    • BBYO’s International Leadership Network launched a teen-led Racial Justice Education Campaign committee to provide peer-led training, to expand BBYO’s engagement and welcoming of Jews of Color, and to mobilize, advocate and act against racism

    • BBYO’s national efforts to mobilize young voters ahead of November includes working with a coalition of partners to register more teens to vote, and recruit teens to serve as poll workers to ensure equitable access to voting sites for all

    • We launched a new virtual summer program focused on exploring racial justice through Jewish text

    • Racial justice education content, training, and/or guest speakers have been incorporated into all BBYO virtual summer programs

  • Created a BBYO Professional Task Force and Advisory Committee

    • BBYO professionals formed a 45+ person working group, and are partnering with teen leaders to continue to follow through on the commitments pledged in the AZA and BBG Solidarity Statement

    • We formed an Advisory Group comprised of alumni, former staff, clergy, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice (DEIJ) consultants, and others to advise on racial justice work

    • BBYO teen leaders, on behalf of BBYO International, have endorsed and signed onto a series of open letters and communal pledges that affirm our commitment to more actively include Jews of all backgrounds in Jewish communal life and champion justice for the Black community and communities of color

    • In partnership with two DEIJ and anti-racism consultancy firms, BBYO teens, advisors and staff will begin sustained learning and training on diversity, equity, inclusion, justice, and anti-racism in the year ahead

While there remains much work to be done, our teen, lay, and professional leaders are enthusiastically embracing the current reckoning and continue to make strides toward change. In Judaism, there is a practice called Cheshbon Nefesh, literally “accounting of the soul,” which is traditionally done at the New Year to help focus on what we need to change within ourselves to attain true growth. Over the past few weeks, many of us have engaged deeply in& Cheshbon Nefesh, and the actions we are taking serve to strengthen the role our Movement plays in being a place of community and inclusivity, and that is welcoming to all.

We commit to keeping everyone informed of our efforts and actions by updating this page regularly with news of our progress, and sharing information on our social media platforms via InstagramFacebook and Twitter.  We also invite you to reach out to us at [email protected] to provide input and feedback, or to become involved in our work.