|New England BBYO holds convention with New York-area teens|
|By Lindsay Goodman and Jason Harlam|
|Friday, 21 December 2012 02:26|
NARRAGANSETT – On Dec. 14-16, New England Region BBYO hosted its annual winter convention – a weekend of learning and bonding – in Narragansett.
Due to Hurricane Sandy, our friends from New York, Big Apple Region BBYO, were unable to host their own convention weeks before. In an act of solidarity, our region invited them to join us. We were all extremely excited that they agreed to participate in a convention that outshined all prior conventions.
BBYO, a pluralistic Jewish youth group, aims to bring Jewish teens from all around the world together to offer meaningful experiences. Teen leaders from both regions worked together for weeks before the convention to plan every aspect of the weekend.
Reflecting on this convention, Andrea Wollin, New England Region membership vice president, said, “I feel as though I have just been to the one place on Earth I can be 100 percent myself and not be judged by anyone.”
The theme of our convention was “No Fear” and our Shabbat service used music to inspire teens to dream big and face their fears. The theme was especially significant because of the school shooting in Connecticut that had taken place earlier that day. Thoughts and prayers were offered for victims and survivors of the horrific event.
After the Shabbat service, we had a song session that helped establish community among members of our group. We ended the evening with gender-separate programs, which allowed girls to form a sense of sisterhood and boys to establish brotherhood.
On Saturday, teen leaders provided options for Shabbat morning services. One option was to play “Jewpardy,” a session incorporating Jewish trivia into a creative morning minyan. Another option was a traditional service involving music.
Other programming electives, each focusing on the “No Fear” theme, were available in the afternoon. With strong support from professionals and volunteer advisors, teens planned and led every program and service. One well-received program, entitled “Living in Fear,” focused on Jews hiding during the Spanish Inquisition.
At the havdalah celebration, our program centered around Rabbi Nachman of Breslov’s famous quote, “Kol ha’olam kulo gesher tzar me’od, v’ha’ikar lo lefahed klal” (“All the world is a very narrow bridge, and the most important thing is not to fear at all”).
We gave our State of the Region Address, discussing our accomplishments thus far and our plans for the future.
Everyone participated in the late-night Saturday dance, which was DJ’ed by Dave Hochman of AZA, the Cranston/Warwick/East Greenwich Chapter of BBYO.
Later, teens from both regions participated in a “Spirit Session,” singing and cheering traditional BBYO tunes, many dating back 80 years or more. Even though we are from different regions, we still knew the same cheers!
On Sunday, both regions’ teen board leaders led business meetings, which, by following Robert’s Rules of Order, taught teens parliamentary procedures and the power of voting.
The weekend provided an opportunity for Jewish teens to become leaders, make friends and build their Jewish identity. It was moving to see the teens care for and support each other, especially after the impact of Hurricane Sandy and the more recent tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
Adrienne Frank, a member of Judy Anne Levin BBG, our Providence girls’ chapter, said, “Every time I attend a BBYO convention, it keeps getting better. Being with Big Apple Region made everyone realize how cool it is to be part of an international organization!”
Ben Maiden, of Needham, Mass., said, “I came with some friends ... and left with even more!”
LINDSAY GOODMAN is the BBYO New England Region B’nai B’rith Girls president.
JASON HARLAM is the New England Region AZA president.