Looking Back, Moving Forward


This story comes to us from BBYO, the leading pluralistic teen movement aspiring to involve more Jewish teens in more meaningful Jewish experiences. The reflection, which has an eye to the new school year and beyond, is written by this year's BBYO BBG and AZA International Presidents, Lauren Keats and Colin Silverman. It first appeared on BBYO's AZA and BBG Keeping Pace blog.

Lauren, of Scarsdale, NY, is the 71st International N’siah (President) of the B’nai B’rith Girls (BBG), BBYO’s high school leadership sorority. Colin, of Chicago, IL, is the 91st Grand Aleph Godol (President) of the Aleph Zadik Aleph (AZA), its brother fraternity. Together, they will lead AZA, BBG and the BBYO Movement toward ensuring a strong Jewish future during the 2015-2016 programming year.

As we move into our term ahead for the 91st and 71st years of BBYO, we celebrate the foundation of success our Movement has achieved in these past 90 and 70 years. BBYO has flourished into an International organization that has created a strong global Jewish teen network with a recognizable identity.

What started with 14 teens in Omaha, Nebraska in 1924, has now become a home to more than 18,000 members of AZA and BBG (BBYO’s high school fraternity and sorority) across North America, and we reach thousands more Jewish teens in more than 30 countries around the world. Now, with over 400,000 alumni, BBYO has evolved with society and time, and has created and preserved its heritage, tradition and Jewish roots.

As co-presidents for the 2015-2016 programming year, we see the future of BBYO specifically moving towards expanding our global presence, collaborating with other Jewish youth groups and strengthening the bonds within our Movement. In the last year, China and Georgia joined the BBYO family and, over the coming year and in the future, we’re looking forward to partnering with Denmark, Finland and Moldova – with more to come!

We introduce all of our country partners to the BBYO model and connect them to our Movement at large, making them a part of something bigger. During BBYO’s 90th and 70th year, we collaborated with fellow youth groups, and we look forward to continuing these partnerships in the future - uniting the Jewish teen world. As social media continues to advance communication, the ability to form bonds across region and country borders is stronger than ever, and we plan on utilizing these new outlets as a way to mobilize our members and the Jewish community.

One way in which we will work towards these visions is through what we call our “visits.” Throughout our term as co-presidents, we will travel to cities and Jewish communities around the world. During our North American visits, we’re excited to work with BBYO teens, staff and parents to strategically grow BBYO in each unique community in a way that makes it accessible to the entire local Jewish community.

During our international visits, we look forward to supporting the existing Jewish community and instilling a sense of Jewish pride where there might not be one. We understand that many of our International brothers and sisters face Anti-Semitism in their daily lives, and we want to provide the tools to combat this and change this reality.

As co-presidents, we know that our goals cannot be reached by working alone. By working with not only the BBYO executive teen body, but also our passionate members, we are excited to encourage everyone to contribute their skills, ideas and visions on the local, regional and International levels in order to grow our organization.

Over this past summer, hundreds of teens attended various leadership Summer Experiences where they gained new knowledge on how to be stronger Alephs and BBGs (members of AZA and BBG), advocate for Israel and strengthen their Jewish identity. These teens have a newfound excitement for BBYO and we will work with them, helping them to get involved in leadership opportunities in their areas.

Our mission – More Jewish Teens, More Meaningful Jewish Experiences – does not only benefit BBYO. Our main priority as a pluralistic Jewish youth movement is to preserve the culture, heritage and love of being Jewish. As the percent of teens who drop out of Jewish life post Bar and Bat mitzvah grows, we realize BBYO has the ability to reverse this trend. When BBYO reaches another teen through engaging events, everlasting friendships and memorable experiences, it secures our Jewish future.

Learn more about BBYO's teen leaders!

The Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation is proud to empower emerging leaders to explore their values, identity and new ways to strengthen their communities. We believe that as we work together to repair the world, it is important to share our diverse experiences and perspectives along the way. We encourage the expression of personal thoughts and reflections here on the Schusterman blog. Each post reflects solely the opinion of its author and does not necessarily represent the views of the Foundation, its partner organizations or all program participants.