TORONTO — Twenty-nine Toronto-area teens were among 2,000 Jewish teen leaders, educators, volunteers and philanthropists from 18 countries who gathered in Washington, D.C., recently for BBYO’s annual International Convention (IC).
This year’s convention, from Feb. 14 to 18, included delegations from Albania, Argentina, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Estonia, France, Ireland, Israel, Latvia, Macedonia, Serbia, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, the United Kingdom and from across the United States.
For nearly 90 years, IC has served to bring together the rising leaders of BBYO’s AZA chapters (for young men) and BBG chapters (for young women) and to set the course for the coming year, determine strategies for strengthening BBYO as a youth-led movement and connect teens to the worldwide Jewish community.
Ten teens who will serve on the 2013-14 AZA and BBG International boards were elected at IC.
The convention began with a video message from U.S. President Barack Obama, welcoming participants to Washington. He said that the IC is a gathering that “gives you a chance to affirm your faith and recommit yourselves to the enduring values this organization represents.” He encouraged the teens to return home, spread their enthusiasm and show the important role that young people play in making a difference in society. Visit tiny.cc/icvideo to watch Obama’s complete video message.
Judy Feld Carr, who rescued thousands of Syrian Jews in the 1970s; Ben Keesey, CEO of Invisible Children, and Michael Froman, assistant to the U.S. president and Deputy National Security Adviser for International Economic Affairs, spoke at the convention.
Froman, an alumnus of BBYO and former Grand Aleph Godol (International Teen President), said BBYO contributed most to who he is today.
At the BBYO Stand UP Day of Service and Advocacy plenary, BBYO welcomed alumni engaged in Jewish communal service, educational and entrepreneurial work around the world. At the plenary, Democratic National Committee chairwoman and Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) received the BBYO Stand UP Lifetime Achievement Award. She spoke about the importance of standing up for critical causes of the day. Josh Mandel (R-Ohio), a Marine Corps veteran and State Treasurer of Ohio, also addressed the group. Wrapping up the plenary, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, delivered a call to action before the delegates went into the D.C. community for hands-on service and advocacy training.
“BBYO’s International Convention brought together an amazing community of partners, guests, alumni, speakers and performers,” said Logan Miller, International Teen President of BBYO. “The magnitude and stature of our guests is a testament to the work of our members across the world this year, doing everything bigger and better on behalf of the Jewish future.”
Other programs and events during the convention included a day of learning, when teens attended more than 30 learning sessions on such topics as Israel, Global Jewish Peoplehood, Jewish Continuity and Media and Entrepreneurialism.
At the convention, 24 teen-led Shabbat services celebrated the pluralism of BBYO. Ben Stein, an actor, writer, lawyer and commentator on political and economic issues, and Laurie Moskowitz, a senior director for U.S. Campaigns at The ONE Campaign (which presses governments to deliver change that will improve the lives of people living in extreme poverty), received BBYO’s Alumni of the Year awards.
For more information about BBYO in the Toronto area, contact Kevin Goodman, executive director, at 416-398-2004 or firstname.lastname@example.org.