BBYO From A Staff Perspective

March 1, 2024
Alyssa Rossen

Raleigh, North Carolina, United States

Class of 2024

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It’s hard to believe that less than two weeks ago, we were all together in Orlando for our movement’s biggest moment. I know I speak for everyone when I say that we were all blown away by the work the coordinators, steerers, and International Boards put in to make the experience so incredible! However, there is a group of people that sometimes gets forgotten because we are a teen-led movement: our staff. While teens are always at the forefront of BBYO’s operations, there are hundreds of staff members who work with them and oversee things like logistics and operations so the teens can focus on programming. I was curious about what attending IC was like as a staff member, so throughout the convention, I interviewed various staff to get their point of view on working during the biggest BBYO event of the year.

For me, BBYO is about the people, and I found that most of the staff felt the same way. Liron Lipinsky is BBYO’s VP of Enrichment Strategy year-round and staffs International Kallah during the summer. “My favorite part of staffing IC is seeing teens that I know from all over the world who I don't otherwise really get to talk to throughout the year,” says Liron. Leo Fuhrman, Liberty Region’s Senior Regional Director, said something similar, as did Melanie Anderson, a BBYO Customer Service Specialist. “I just love seeing all the teens that I see from everywhere, around, from [Perlman] camp; people are so happy, and that’s my favorite thing,” said Leo. Melanie agrees, saying that the highlight for her is “being able to see coworkers and teens from trips and programs I’ve staffed who I don’t normally get to see!” Not only is IC about reuniting with friends, but also about meeting teens from across the order. As Emily Boskoff, Community Director for Mid America and Rocky Mountain Regions, notes, “Outside of going to a summer program, there's no other opportunity for the teens to be able to do that, and it's really fun for staff to also be able to meet staff from other places. It's one of the few times of the year that we get to do that.”

This year, for BBYO’s Centennial, many alumni returned to the International Convention as volunteers, and they seemed to come back for the same reason. Julie Litoff, Michelle Greenwald, and Amy Yosowitz are BBYO alumni who returned as volunteers for IC 2024. The three met on ILTC in 1992 and have remained close friends since. All three also have children who are members of BBYO now, and their kids were participants at IC. “For me, being together is the best, and seeing my son experience things that we experienced when we were teenagers is really cool…Seeing how much international convention has grown is amazing,” said Michelle. Julie says her “best friends are from BBG and BBYO. We’re still best friends to this day. They’re like my daughter’s aunts and uncles!... the friendships that I have formed…are still a big part of my life, and [BBYO] never really left me.” 

As always, there are a few downsides, but the staff agrees that the pros outweigh the cons. Melanie says that the hardest part is “switching my schedule from 9-5 work from home days to 10 days of weird, crazy hours running around the venue.” Liron’s least favorite part is one that I think we can all agree with. “My least favorite part is…when it ends. We plan for it for so long, and it just flies by, so it’s just sad when it’s over.” Rabbi Meir Tannenbaum, BBYO’s Director of Jewish Enrichment, doesn’t have a least favorite part! “I can’t think of anything. It’s work, but it’s such great, amazing work that I love it.” 

The staff members who weren’t in BBYO as teens felt drawn to BBYO because of its mission and their background in Jewish education. Most weren’t expecting to fall in love the way they did. Rabbi Meir “used to work in a day school in Dallas. I had several of my teens that were very, very involved in BBYO…and they said… you’d really really like BBYO, you should come work for us in the summers, and I started working at Kallah as a Jewish educator, and that was about 15 years ago.” Three years into her role in BBYO, Emily says she’s always “loved working in the Jewish community, and as a teacher working with teens and combining that passion has been really special.” Leo “grew up in a youth movement in Israel called Noam and I just finished a different job as an education director in a synagogue. I really wanted to go back to the youth movement world because I love working with teens and…this job was just open, and it was really pure luck.”

However, many of the staff members I spoke to began working for BBYO because they are alumni of the movement. Bennett Essman, an advisor in the Great Midwest Region, says his favorite part of staffing IC is “reminiscing on my time as a teen and looking back fondly on my memories and seeing…where it is now versus where it was when I was a participant.” Jackie Braslawce has worked as a Wellness Specialist at various regional conventions as well as ILTC 2023. She says, “BBYO was a part of my foundation that propelled me into a life of being a Jewish educator. The leadership experience I gained…taught me the importance of being a part of something bigger. That is why I choose to participate as an adult in BBYO and give back to the teens what I got when I was a teen.” Melanie agrees, saying that” the positive impact BBYO had on my life as a teen, from friendships to molding my Jewish identity and building leadership skills, made me confident in choosing BBYO as an employer. I wanted to find a job where I could have fun & make an impact, and also be challenged and get to work on a variety of projects, and this is definitely it!”

The biggest lesson I learned from speaking with all these individuals is that they work for BBYO because they care. Each person shared that their biggest “why” for working for BBYO was to support teens on their Jewish journeys.  Justin Greenbaum is an advisor in Eastern Region: NC and has advised the newly elected Grand Aleph Shaliach, Logan Reich, for Logan’s entire BBYO career. Justin told me that his favorite part of staffing IC “has been being here to support and go on the journey with my teens as they may or may not be running for International Board.” Emily says, “It’s been really amazing to watch the journey of so many of these teens…what brought me here, I think, was that passion to help the Jewish future.” Jackie agrees, saying that her “favorite part of staffing IC is reconnecting with my teens that I’ve had the privilege and honor to participate in their journey in some way and forge so many new connections just by showing up for them and supporting them when they needed it.” Bennett said something that many of us can relate to, and that encapsulates what I’ve learned from talking to the staff throughout IC. “Long story short, I would not be alive today had it not been for BBYO, and I wanna give back the same way my advisors, my friends, and my staff gave to me.”

Alyssa is a BBG from Shaina BBG in Raleigh, NC, and she has held a sloth twice!

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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