80 Years of History

April 21, 2024
Courtney Saxe

Las Vegas, Nevada, United States

Class of 2023

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Throughout my term serving as the 79th Anita M Perlman International N’siah, I have had the honor of meeting with and hearing from so many past International N’siot during travel. I have the opportunity to hear so many incredible stories and share what BBYO looks like today. To celebrate the 80 year anniversary of the B’nai B’rith Girls, I recently began a WhatsApp group chat inviting all past International N’siot to connect and join. As conversation’s rolled, these influential women began to share so many incredible stories from their time in BBG. Below are some truly incredible, inspiring, and adorable stories from past International N’siot. All of these women have put in that same level of devotion and drive to ensure that the future of BBG is alive and well. Happy 80th to B’nai B’rith Girls!

Michelle Caplan

43rd International N’siah (1987-1988)

There are so many memories to share, but the ones that come to mind are when I first joined Fannie Sablosky BBG #396 in Dallas, TX (originally Texoma Region, and then we became North Texas, Oklahoma) - I felt like I immediately found my people. My favorite memories are the events and conventions over the years where we had the chance to create lasting friendships (many of whom are still my closest friends today),  meaningful programs, and lasting memories. As I went up the leadership ladder and traveled as International N'siah, knowing that there were so many other teens like me around the world was the most incredible gift! My year as N'siah was by far the most rewarding experience. I often reflect on it. On December 6, 1987, we went to Washington DC and attended the March for Soviet Jewry; 250,000 people marched on the National Wall in Washington, D.C., demanding that USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev put an end to the forced assimilation of Jews open the door to allow their emigration. This was pivotal at this time, and it was incredible to be part of such a moment in our history. Grateful every day that BBG was there for me, for my children and will continue to be for the many generations to come.

Meka Millstone-Shroff

49th International N’siah (1993-1994)

It’s all one big happy blur.

I loved how the older members made me feel so welcome and cool when I was younger…and then I loved trying to recreate that feeling for others. BBYO taught me the utmost importance of fostering a sense of belonging and a sense of purpose.

(I also have to mention it was pretty cool giving a speech as Int’l N’siah with President Bill Clinton on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Helped reinforce the notion that everyone is just another human :)

Amanda Freedman

70th international N’siah (2014-2015)

A very special memory from my time in BBG was at BBG separates at IC 2015 during my N’siah term. My board inducted Trudy Album, a Holocaust survivor, into the International Order in front of 1,000 BBGs. Trudy had accompanied many BBYO teens on the March of the Living, and was involved in her local BBYO community. It was so special to honor her in this way, and to share that with the International Order.

Jamie Konigsberg Brotz

57th International N’siah (2001-2002)

My first event, a potluck Shabbat dinner

Running my first meeting as chapter N’siah

CLTC 5 1999

Lifelong BBYO friendships

Meeting my husband

Addressing the Board of Directors of the General Assembly as International N’siah

Participating in the first Board of Directors Meeting for BBYO Inc. in 2002

Nava Mizrahi Rosenberg

52nd International N’siah (1996-1997)

“Memory is my story, the past that made me who I am, of whose legacy I am the guardian for the sake of generations yet to come.”  --Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

Selecting a single favorite memory from BBG and BBYO feels like an impossible task.

BBYO was my identity for 6 years, from 8th Grade in Vancouver, BC to my term as International N’siah (1996-97). Over this time, I had the true pleasure of getting to know many bright, dynamic, and compassionate Jewish teens from all over the world through various roles on the chapter, regional, and international levels.

I met my husband at ILTC 1994 and hosted dozens of members in my home regularly. As International Sh'licha, I attended Yitzhak Rabin's z"l unforgettable memorial at Madison Square Gardens in 1995, and lead ISI Eastern Europe in the summer of 1996. These were but a few transformative experiences where BBYO exposed me to the vast tapestry and diverse richness of our global Jewish community.

I have many meaningful memories, but ultimately it is their very collection that shaped my identity. My experiences opened a world of opportunity. I became President of University of British Columbia Hillel, launched a German-Jewish dialogue on campus, chaired Holocaust and Israel Awareness Weeks, and studied at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Upon graduation, I worked in UN affairs and studied Middle East politics at London's School of Economics. My husband and I are raising our children in a vibrant and principled Jewish home--- imbued with a deep appreciation of tradition, a commitment to robust education, and a reverence for diversity.

For those 6 formative years, it was a profound honour to serve in BBG and I have boundless gratitude for every opportunity, connection, and skill honed. Today, my treasured memories are eclipsed by sentiments of loyalty, love, and sincere appreciation for those who initially introduced me to BBYO, welcomed me as a member, and encouraged my involvement in BBYO summer programs. This summer, it comes full circle as our eldest daughter, Ellie, will attend ILTC and Kallah. Looking back, BBYO was the best way to live out my teenage years and I remain deeply thankful.  

My husband, Ryan (Red River Regional Godol 1995-96), and I need only glance at our three children to witness the enduring legacy of this youth organization and the imperative of its continued success. As BBYO commemorates 100 years and BBG marks 80 years, we extend heartfelt congratulations to all who have contributed to shaping Jewish teenage identities and personal stories.  

Lori Kaufman

32nd International N’siah (1976-1977)

I was N'siah from 1976-1977, way before most of you were even born!! Even though that was many lifetimes ago,  my closest friends today are still from BBYO (including the GAG Jeb Brownstein and many others!). We live all over the world but still see each other regularly. I'm good friends with Lynn and Stacy Schusterman too, whose foundation has done so much to transform BBYO into the force it is today -   so I follow the organization closely. I've lived in Israel for the past 38 years, have 4 adult kids and an adorable new grandchild. When I retired (from a business career), I went back to an earlier love of mine, creative writing. I wrote a historical novel Rebel Daughter, which won a National Jewish Book Award, and am now working on my second book. It's so nice to "meet" all of you and hear about your lives. There are at least 3 other International N'siot living here now and I'll pass on this link.

Wendy Smith

47th International N’siah (1992-1993)

I loved my year as International N'siah, and the ability to add my voice and interests to a broader collective ... but as I look back, I loved more my moments of being Chapter N'siah, where my actions along with my board would directly mold and create what was possible for my chapter. I loved recruiting new members, knowing that our open and welcoming group would offer them fun, laughter, friendship and meaning. I loved running social justice programs that I knew made a difference to the people in our community, and in doing so, to our members involved. I loved building a culture where everyone could be their best self. Those moments continue to inform who I am and what I do today.

Emma Zentner

77th Anita M. Perlman International N’siah (2021-2022)

How could one possibly summarize, and pick a highlight from, the most transformative 4 years of their life, let alone the International N’siah year that changes everything? For me, every second of being AMPIN brought a new adventure, sense of appreciation, and reason to love the BBG community and BBYO Movement at large. Growing up in a smaller and isolated Canadian BBYO community, to a family of Argentinian immigrants, the notion of global Jewry and the international aspect of the movement had always fascinated me, and ultimately guided me towards my role as N’siah. The two monumental moments for me came at the inaugural ELTI and ILLA conferences; The European Leadership Training Institute, and the Instituto de Liderazgo LatinoAmericano. Watching regions and chapters pop up all over the globe as the weeks of my term went on, and as they continue to today, demonstrates a reminder that the world needs BBG, AZA, and BBYO, and we need them. During these experiences and being surrounded by Jewish leaders from entirely different communities served, and continues to serve, as a reminder of the power and resilience of the Jewish community from all ends of the earth. I’m excited to watch on the sidelines as the Movement only continues to grow and serve every Jewish teen, and change so many lives like it did for all of us past N’siot. Here’s to another 100! 

Courtney Saxe is a BBG from Mountain Region is serving as the 79th Anita M. Perlman International N'siah.

All views expressed on content written for The Shofar represent the opinions and thoughts of the individual authors. The author biography represents the author at the time in which they were in BBYO.

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