This evening, before the official kickoff of BBYO International Convention 2020, friends, supporters, and special guests gathered to celebrate the Dallas community for being such incredible partners in bringing IC to life.
The program opened with remarks from BBYO’s Chief Executive Officer, Matt Grossman. He thanked the Dallas community for their support, and especially for opening their homes to host our global delegates over the course of Global Ambassadors Week preceding IC. Grossman emphasized the sense of connection so unique to Dallas that allows for a strong BBYO presence supported by a generous community.
Two of the Global Teen Delegates then took the floor to relay their experience connecting with the community, Ulyana Sashko from Minsk, Belarus and Leon Jasque from Mexico City. Ulyana highlighted the shirt she wore from International Convention with Active Jewish Teens (AJT), BBYO’s movement partner in the FSU. She mentioned that the convention, held in Kiev, represented her memories and how important her BBYO and AJT experiences are. Leon talked about the cultural exchange that took place over the course of this week and how Hebrew language and Jewish identity unified their differences in tongue and custom. Both teens described how BBYO in their home communities means to much to them, and that being here at IC was an incredible experience.
Attendees then enjoyed a panel discuss of amazing women leaders. Alisabella Ackerman facilitated the discussion, a senior who just finished her term as North Texas Oklahoma Region’s N’siah. She began by talking about how much BBYO has meant to her because of the opportunities it has offered her to connect deeply with her immediate community and the wider global Jewish community, and because it allowed her to find amazing role models like all the women on stage. She then engaged each member of the panel in a thoughtful discussion.
Dr. Sakena Yacoobi, founder and Executive Director of the Afghan Institute of Learning, an Afghan woman-led NGO she founded in 1995, remarked that being a leader sometimes means taking risks and being in danger. She learned this lesson firsthand while providing education in secret and illegally to women and children living under Taliban rule in Afghanistan. Her story of defiance and courage was moving and inspiring.
Bari Weiss, editor and writer at the New York Times and author of the recently released book How to Fight Anti-Semitism, mentioned how she once thought “we in America were uniquely inoculated from the threat of anti-Semitism.” This perception, she went on to say, was shattered by the deadly attack on the Tree of Life Synagogue, which she attended growing up and in which she had her Bat Mitzvah. When the news of the shooting broke, she cancelled her planned travel and came and bore witness to the aftermath. She called this a “wake up call” and it prompted her to write her book on how to fight anti-Semitism and why we fight it.
The Honorable Stav Shaffir, the youngest person ever elected to the Knesset and leader of the Green Movement in Israel, discussed her fight to end corruption in politics. She recalled her grandfather in Palmach serving under Yitzhak Rabin, and her experience as a child meeting him the year before he was assassinated. His gentleness and curiosity toward the children made a deep impression on her, and she compared this to the different political landscape of today. She wants to create a better political environment for young people to experience, so that they are inspired to want to get involved to improve the world.
The final panelist was Abby Adams, a BBYO leader and high school senior from Charlotte, North Carolina. Abby started an international campaign called “Why I Wear My Star," which has reached thousands of people on Instagram and Facebook, sharing stories of Jewish pride and persistence in the midst of hate. She began her remarks by thanking the people in the room for supporting BBYO, because without BBYO she “wouldn't have gained the passion and skills needed to start a campaign like this.”
With these inspiring words, the Dallas community joined the BBYO community of 3,000 teens for Opening Ceremonies, officially launching this incredible event.
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