BBYO South Africa: From the Ground Up

February 15, 2021
Lior Kolman

Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa

Class of 2022

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Hi, I’m Lior Kolman: BBYO South Africa’s first-ever regional and chapter Morah, but this wasn’t who I always was.
Just a sheer 6 months ago, I could have never dreamed of being where I am today… because BBYO South Africa didn’t exist back then.

Lilla Fleischmann herself got into contact with Elana Rubanenko and Jared Wilen, and together, they introduced BBYO to our country. BBYO: South Africa had its first event on the 5th of July 2020; on that day a group of South African teens met up with a group of North American teens, and for the first time ever, BBYO: South Africa participated in the movement. On July 18th, we held our first, very own Havdalah in honor of Nelson Mandela Day. We then had our next Havdalah with West Chester BBYO.

For me personally, July 25th was the start of it all; this is the day I joined BBYO: South Africa. At first, this seemed like just another Saturday night, but it truly changed my life forever. The 26th of July was my personal first time actually learning about BBYO. I will never forget it, I sat on the floor of my study for 2 hours, while Ian Kandel sat and told a group of us about all things BBYO. This was the very first moment I realized this movement was going to become more than just a little lockdown time filler.
As our little region started to grow, we continuously held educating sessions for teens that kept joining and after a while, I started feeling like I could personally be giving the talks. But little did I know I was going to learn so much more and fall more in love with this movement every day! On Thursday the 13th of August 2020, BBYO: South Africa made its first true appearance in the international order at “August Execs.”  8 South African teens attended the executive conference, and for me, this was the moment it all started to come together. Meeting people, learning leadership skills, and just growing as a region, put us on the road to success.

Now that we had experienced what BBYO truly is, it was time to bring it back home. On the 15th of August, we had our first event with the Australian chapter which sparked a true connection between our two regions and which we have continued to build on. On Saturday the 22nd of August, BBYO: South Africa had its official regional kickoff event, and our escape room is the biggest event we have had to date, with nearly 70 people attending. This day motivated our teens and after kickoff, we were ready to keep achieving great things! Our next monumental moment was our newsletter: for the first time, we had a professional place to post updates, upcoming events, our region’s wins and so much more! Our newsletter team works tirelessly to ensure that we have an amazing newsletter being released monthly. On the 12th of September, we had our first outreach (community service) event, and more than 30 people came together to make over 750 sandwiches for a local charity organization. On the 21st of October, BBYO: SA held their first-ever podcast. Together, with guests from Finland and the UK, we sat and discussed what it is like being a Jew in a non-Jewish world. Our podcast was an amazing success and we look forward to making more in 2021!

Sunday the 25th of October 2020: Election day. As nerves ran high, we came together and voted for our first-ever regional and chapter boards. Even though BBYO: South Africa had been going for months, this was the moment it all became real. BBYO: South Africa is here, and we are here to stay!

On the 17th of November, BBYO: South Africa received their first-ever BBYO Merch. Our hoodies created excitement around the region (and even around the international order). For the first time, we could proudly go out showing off everything BBYO! On the 1st of December, we held a massive recruitment event for all of our future eighth-graders; not only is it exciting to have over 30 new people joining BBYO, but they also are the future of BBYO: SA, and I know they will bring great things.

Global Shabbat in South Africa was a huge hit, with two events with Maccabi Tzair on Friday and a massive hang out with our new sister region, Manhattan, which was a massive success; we cannot wait for everything that is going to come from our regions working together! 2020 has brought plenty of success to BBYO: South Africa. At the beginning of the year, we did not even exist… and look where we are now! 2021 is going to bring so much to our region, like our school launch, IC 2021 and so so much more. 2020 treated us great. We cannot wait to see you all in 2021!

Lior Kolman is a BBG from BBYO: South Africa and is a founding member of BBYO South Africa!

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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