Howdy everyone, and good evening! To those of you with us in person, welcome to our historic Perlman Camp. It’s such a pleasure to have you with us. Tonight we reunite after a great summer and begin to kick off for a brand new programming year.
Dear friends, colleagues, special guests, beloved families, and to all of you that are tuning in from across the world - bruchim habaim, welcome! We are humbled to be speaking to you from Perlman Camp, our ‘second home’, our Movement’s longest-running ‘home base.’ This is where so much BBYO history and so much Jewish history has been made. This week will be no different.
For more than 70 years, AZA and BBG’s leadership have gathered in this place. Not just this camp, but under tents like this. This place has been the home to so many of BBYO’s signature summer experiences, but it was here that our Movement’s largest annual moment - International Convention - used to gather, in August. Hundreds of thousands of lifetime members have fond memories of being here, together, at important time in their lives when they were figuring out who they were, who they wanted to be, and how they wanted to shape the world.
It’s here, at Perlman Camp, where generations of our predecessors explored what it meant to be a part of something bigger than themselves. For many, it was the first time they met Jewish peers from across the United States, or maybe from countries across the world. Maybe it was here where they first read Torah, gave a speech, stood for an election as a candidate, decided what career they wanted to pursue, found their unique voice, or fell in love for the first time. It was here that meaningful and transformative commitments were made by so many people, surrounded by tradition, and supported by a special community. It was here where so many lives began to fill with purpose.
It’s here that the issues of the day and the events of the world were - and still are - made , accessible, easier to understand, and safe to explore. It was here, that for the majority of our Movement’s history, the Aleph Zadik Aleph and the B’nai B’rith Girls made bold, courageous, and often unprecedented decisions to ||| Meet the Moment. It was from here that they rose to occasions, faced down challenge, and motivated our global network of Brothers, Sisters, and Siblings to declare ‘Hinenu - we are here’ .
Like it had been for all those that came before us, it is through moments like these, in places just like this, with people just like you, all over the world, and all year long, that we are able to define our character, embrace our core values, and become the best versions of ourselves. We can put our best foot forward. We can move mountains to bring about the change our communities and the world need. We can experiment, we can grow, and - together - we can achieve great things.
And so, we proudly, and enthusiastically, launch our terms as your 98th Grand Aleph Godol and 78th Anita M. Perlman International N’siah, alongside our Brother Alephs and Sister BBGs up here on stage, partnered with our esteemed International Executive Body, and thousands of other teens just beginning their leadership responsibilities to do their part in strengthening our Movement across our global network spanning over 60 countries.
For the first time in three years, BBYO’s year is starting without severe implications from the pandemic. Across North America and around the world, our Movement is poised to offer a full year’s worth of powerful in-person experiences to tens of thousands of Jewish teens. And, a lot of what the year will look like, and, more importantly, how effective of a year it will be, is largely dependent upon you.
That’s right. The Alephs and BBGs under the tent here tonight, all of you participating online from home, and the countless other teens who are busily working - right now. Those that are preparing for a terrific and meaningful semester ahead will be who makes this year great for so many Jewish teens that are just beginning their journey within our community. Already, we’re hearing about huge kickoff events and new member registration throughout the United States and around the world … and we’re just getting started.
To our International Executive Body, you are essentially our global Movement’s Congress. We have a lot of important work ahead of us over the next few days. What we achieve here will translate into helpful, inspiring, and important ripples across the entire Order. If we take part in all that our Movement has to offer and lead our communities in the ways that our peers entrusted us to do so, w we will make an impact that will last for generations. AZA and BBG are finally bouncing back. We’re leaping forward. We must Meet the Moment. Now is Our Time.
We have an opportunity unlike any generation of BBYO leadership before us. As the pandemic ends and we prepare for our upcoming 100th anniversary, our Centennial celebration, we can build an AZA, BBG, and BBYO better positioned than ever for a second century of changing lives and building meaningful, inclusive, welcoming Jewish communities. We will build upon our decades of tradition and ritual, preserving the best of who we are, while also taking time to explore new horizons and try new ways of strengthening the platform we provide to Jewish teens, anywhere and everywhere.
We’re focused on our core operations. We know better than anyone else, that teens are seeking places and environments where they can be themselves, take risks, and feel valued. Thus, our top priority as we begin our term is to focus our Movement on strengthening local chapters.
Chapters engage with the most Jewish teens of all of BBYO’s offerings. It’s where teens practice their peer leadership abilities, where they join communities for the first time, and practice social skills the most frequently. It’s in the chapters where the most friendships are formed, and where Alephs and BBGs spend the majority of their BBYO experience. Chapters can be a much-needed escape, a home base, for thousands of Jewish teens.
Our world needs leadership. Better, new, visionary, hopeful, brave leadership. We need to make sure our generation is ready to take over. As we gather here this week, communities everywhere are receiving updated leadership training tools, best practice guides, and helpful resources to utilize at leadership training experiences at all levels of the organization. These materials are intended to help ramp up teen ownership over the chapter and improve the BBYO experience in every community we serve. We need to revive some of the synchronizations we lost due to the pandemic, and elevated training will help restore some consistency as to how we’re building a vibrant AZA, BBG, and BBYO program in communities throughout the world.
We’ll also spend a lot of our time this year promoting our core leadership summer experiences to expand the pool of teens who are able to lead chapters, manage councils, regions, and countries, and contribute to the broader Jewish community. We’re already focused on returning to record attendances at CLTC, ILTC, International Kallah, and ILSI next summer. Teens are already registering for next year’s line-up, and with things largely back to normal, we’re planning for a historic summer..
We want to grow our impact. We’ll widen our recruitment efforts to include thousands of more teens across all grades and geographies. This membership growth will help strengthen the foundations of our chapters worldwide. Ensuring that our programming is top-notch is key to this effort, which is why offering engaging programs, funding for phenomenal kickoff events, and our new virtual Program Bank are all becoming available to ensure a strong start to the year. If we host our new attendees right, they’ll quickly connect with local chapters, and find a ‘second home’ to take part in. We need to do all we can to help make this happen.
We are committed to working with all of your chapters to ensure that all teens have what they need to be successful, that they have the training and tools needed to make impact, and that all chapters are positioned to provide the experiences and friendships that teens expect from BBYO.
We want to make sure all your chapters are represented at BBYO’s international training programs next year - including International Convention. Chapters who regularly take part in international experiences are proven to be stronger. We know that as a result of the pandemic, some education opportunities and traditions were interrupted, and so we’ve made ordering AZA & BBG member pins, Blue Books and Red Books as well as applying for international awards and program grants easier over the last few months. Let’s make sure that all of our members are exposed to the rituals of our Movement and have all the special gifts that inspire each individual Aleph and BBG to feel a part of our larger Order.
We’re also going to test new ways of reaching the next wave of Alephs and BBGs: We’re going to pilot a variety of athletics and sports-related activities in communities worldwide. From Manhattan to Morocco, a new emphasis on recreational and competitive sports will roll out to reach new groups of teens. ||| Our Center for Adolescent Wellness will continue to expand its Peer Mental Health training and overall teen wellness activities to ensure that our peers are well taken care of, feel welcomed and included, and feel safe when they’re with BBYO. ||| As well, we’ll continue to grow the number of teens who take part in BBYO Passport’s travel opportunities to Israel next summer. These trips, made more affordable than ever as a result of the Root One initiative. ||| If our chapters are healthy, and our teen leaders are well trained, the teens we meet through these avenues will easily find a home amongst our Movement in any community.
While we’re working to strengthen our existing chapters, and grow the membership of our existing communities, we’re excited to launch our Movement in plenty of new territories, too. As our ‘For Every Jewish Teen’ Campaign continues to progress - our initiative to reach Jewish teens in small, rural, and unique Jewish communities across North America - and our continued globalization efforts expand around the world, we’re looking forward to BBYO becoming a place for Jewish teens to connect all over the world. Over the next few months, we’ll welcome new chapters in Boise, Idaho; El Paso, Texas; Princeton, New Jersey; Tahoe, California; Reno, Nevada; Orange County, California; Maui, Hawaii; Hamilton, Ontario; as well as expanded international hubs of Jewish life across Europe in Portugal and Sweden, throughout Asia like Japan and Singapore, and throughout new cities in Australia and Latin America.
And, of course, we can’t wait to gather our entire worldwide family at our Movement’s largest annual moment - BBYO’s 99th International Convention - in Dallas, Texas hosted by the North Texas Oklahoma Region in February. We can’t wait to return to one of our favorite communities to host our Order’s largest annual reunion - and this year we will go bigger than ever.
This year’s Convention will start the countdown to our 100th anniversary, and a very special couple of years for our beloved Movement. Naturally, we’re going to produce the same incredible experience that IC has become world-renowned for, and we’re putting a special emphasis on recruiting more general members and freshmen to attend than ever before. We want to share the energy of the International Order with more of our ranks to inspire a next generation of Alephs and BBG’s to usher us toward an incredible Centennial celebration. We can’t wait to throw down and go big in Texas just six months from now.
And, as our Movement grows stronger and larger, we’ll continue to use our might to help improve the world around us, both locally and internationally. As we face the final opportunities to hear from Holocaust survivors, and a worldwide surge in anti-Semitism, discrimination, and racism, we intend to use the lessons of the Holocaust to educate more teens - Jewish and otherwise - on tolerance and acceptance through informal and official educational means. We will assist our chapters with new program content on these topics as well as support local efforts to push school systems and communities to prioritize a greater emphasis on these issues in the classroom.
If there was ever a time when the world needed youthful, idealistic, and entrepreneurial emerging leaders skilled in changing and improving the world it is now. Unfortunately, our generation is coming-of-age at a moment when society is as divided and polarized as ever. More people around the world are skeptical of institutions, elected leaders, and proven facts than ever before.
The pandemic highlighted why humanity needs unity, trust, and partnership to tackle big ‘things’ together. The weakening of democracies, the war in Ukraine, the challenges posed by climate change, and so much more make the case for greater global connectivity, collaboration, and partnership. All of these themes enrich the meaning and purpose of our annual shared projects like Global Shabbat and J-Serve, and we’ll work together to ensure that the world feels our impact, hears our voices, and understands the future we wish to shape.
And beyond our Movement Initiatives, we’ll leverage our membership, supported by the International Leadership Network, to work as a united team all-year-round - across six continents and throughout hundreds of cities - to return to regular volunteering, to raise funds for tzedekah and meaningful charities that our members care about, to support communities faced with violence or crisis - including our Brothers and Sisters in Ukraine, and we’ll continue to encourage young people to vote in their upcoming elections all over the world. We have the energy, the tools, and the knowhow to level up our actions for a fairer, more just, and more compassionate society. The moment upon us requires our determination, our resilience, and our fortitude. Now is Our time.
Avi and I have just returned from a powerful summer in Israel - and it was a special summer to be there. We had the chance to participate in the 21st Maccabiah Games, and see the country as it begins preparations for its 75th anniversary this coming spring. We explored the Jewish homeland from north to south, and delved into the land’s - and our People’s - history over the last 5,000-plus years. We met with Jews and Arabs, voices from the left and right, agents of social change, and proponents of every perspective you can imagine. Our time on ILSI was transformative, and we’re so grateful we had the chance to immerse ourselves in a place so inspiring, complicated, and enriching as our service to the Movement begins.
A common thread throughout every triumph and challenge that we learned about, every hero and hardship that we explored, was the pivotal role that teens - just like us, played at every major moment of Jewish history. Teens seems to always be on the front lines, or in postions of leadership for our People, when change or evolution is needed. When exploring Zionism, we discussed a lot about how Zionism - a means toward self-determination for the Jewish People - is reborn with every generation, and that every generation has the right and responsibility to move our People and the world forward according to the values and goals of their generation. Time and again, teenagers just like us are handed a moment to meet where they embrace their chance to lead as they see fit.
History is now calling upon us to Meet the Moment; it’s our turn to pursue our destiny. Our Time is Now.
It’s time for us to fight anti-Semitism, hate, racism, and build meaningful connections with peers of all backgrounds, cultures, and faiths across the world.
It’s time for us to stand up for our siblings in Ukraine, to reach out to our peers in Russia, and to expect more from our world’s leaders.
It’s time for us to advocate for greater attention and support for teen mental health.
It’s time for us to educate our generation about the importance of healthy relationships, consent, and respect for everyone.
It’s time for us to take an active part in strengthening our democracies, to encourage our peers and neighbors to vote, and to ensure that our government systems are fair, equitable, and easy to engage with.
It’s time for us to double-down on strengthening our Movement, to growing our chapters, to ensure that as many Jewish teens around the world that want to be a part of this network can be, and to make sure that the experiences we offer to teens are universally great, regardless as to where you live or what kind of Jewish community you’re apart of.
It’s time for us to Meet the Moment before us. It’s time for our Movement to rise to new heights.
Teens, just like us, for millenia, stood up for their beliefs, pushed back on tyranny and persecution, protected our tradition and the vulnerable, ensured that every next generation would be more vibrant than the last, defended our People, rebuilt a national homeland, and have fought for equality and justice at every turn of social change. Now it’s Our Time to Meet the Moment.
We can build the future we want. We can build the future we deserve.
As we look to this upcoming year, we have so much to look forward to. Will it be difficult to forge the unmade path ahead? Absolutely. We are in unmarked territory. The decisions we make on all aspects of our order will determine what the year ahead holds.
We hold the power to decide what is next. What roadblocks we face head-on and what goals we reach. What communities we expand into and what Jewish life, in general looks like. We are the people that will shape how this movement reinvents itself. We have the opportunity to do something really amazing here.
We hold the cards in this game. The things that you want to see? Make them happen. Feel like something is impossible? Well, that’s when we tend to do our best.
We are the BBGs who flip the tables, and rebuild them as we see fit.
We are the Alephs that jump to help at a moment’s notice.
We are the BBYO members who raise millions of dollars for charity, put forth hundreds of thousands of hours of volunteering, and are ready to advocate on the causes we believe in.
We are the global citizens who protect the right to vote and stand for the values of democracy.
We are the young Jews who will help shape a stronger, more democratic, more pluralistic State of Israel.
We are the ones that believe that when all the odds are against you, by working together, anything can be achieved.
We’re the generation our ancestors dreamt of in their wildest dreams.
The year ahead holds so much potential and promise. We have always been a Movement for Jewish teens, built by Jewish teens.
We’ve always strived for bigger, bolder and better.
Today, we reaffirm our commitment to these principles. As we come together to open this International August Executives Conference, and a new era for Jewish teens worldwide, on this day August 17th, 2022, the 20th of Av 5782, we are Together As One, Forever United As One Crew.
May our actions display to the world, we are ready to Meet the Moment. Now is Our Time.
Fraternally and respectfully submitted with an undying love,
For the International Order of the B’nai B’rith Girls,
The Grand Order of the Aleph Zadik Aleph,
Northern Region East: DC Council #54
Lonestar Region #73
Yachad BBG #159
And Jack Lubel AZA #2092
We remain, Avi Gorodetski, your 78th Anita M. Perlman International N’siah
And Aleph Levi Richard Fox, your 98th Grand Aleph Godol
Levi & Avi are the international presidents for the 2022-2023 year. Levi, hailing from Houston, Texas is the 98th Grand Aleph Godol and Avi hails from Washington, DC and is the 78th 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.
In the face of hatred, these teens are shedding light on ways to stand up against Antisemitic ideologies.
Although my four hours in the Omaha airport anxiously waiting to board the buses for August execs was long, it was such an amazing experience.
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