For the past 20 months, regions around the world have been hosting conventions virtually, or in some, hybrid manner due to the pandemic. While those were so much fun, I am sure that we can all agree that nothing beats a classic in-person BBYO convention. There were so many amazing things that my region brought to virtual conventions, such as chofesh hallways and home-delivered packages. However, some things just can’t be transferred online; the feeling of physically being surrounded by your brothers, sisters, and siblings was one of the biggest factors that we were missing for our members.
My name is Leah Stein, and I am a proud member of Ahava BBG #2447 in Lake Ontario Region #36. I had the honour of coordinating the first in-person convention for LOR in almost 2 years! It was one of the most special BBYO experiences I have ever gotten to take part in, and I was able to learn so much from it. After less than two months of planning with the AZA co-coordinator and our steering team, we were able to achieve what seemed to have been impossible a mere few months ago. We hosted a convention with in-person events! We spent all day from November 5-7 together at a local Jewish Community Centre (JCC) full of exciting activities led by incredible teens from around the region. Due to COVID-19, we were unable to stay together at a hotel overnight, but that just gave us more room to create new and innovative ideas since our attendees went home at the end of each night! We had lunch from a local food truck, gave people things to take home with them, as well as made so many memories back together.
The theme of our convention was This Is Home, and you could feel how happy everyone was to be back at home the second you walked in. Everyone was so excited to be back together doing all of the things we have missed so much. When we had our song circle on Saturday night, in a real circle instead of a zoom call, you could see and feel the importance of BBYO in all of these teens’ lives. The enthusiasm and connection flowed through the room as everyone sang along and knew this was where we were meant to be. That same feeling could be felt at every meal, when we had our Shabbat services, when we learned new things in Limmud track sessions, and everywhere else. BBYO is our second home, one that welcomes us no matter where we come from, and one that we always have a place to return to. It was the perfect reminder that as great as virtual was, in-person conventions will always bring us together more than anything.
Steering conventions is such a special experience and one that I recommend to members of BBYO time and time again. Not only can you experience the amazing activities and fun that comes with a weekend-long BBYO event, but you can also learn new leadership skills, get behind the scenes on how we put conventions together, and view the weekend from a whole new angle. I have been steering conventions for my region as long as I have been able to attend them, so getting to step up and coordinate this one was the best possible position for me. Getting to work with other teens who are just as passionate as you are and working as a team to accomplish our goals is one of the most fulfilling things you can do with your time in this organization. If you are given the chance to steer a convention, or any event in BBYO, you should always take it. There are so many new things you can learn and this is such a valuable experience; there truly is no reason not to take a chance and try it!
Virtual conventions and events taught us so much about how we can elevate programming. Learning how to get supplies so everyone can participate in every activity, taking advantage of social media and our technological connection for promotion and guest speakers, and even creating new ways for people to connect during chofesh (free time) are all things I learned through steering virtual conventions and brought with me back in-person! They helped us make this convention a smooth transition back into the world of in-person BBYO, and make this one of our best conventions yet. This experience was unlike any other, and one that I will cherish for a long time. I recommend that everyone tries to get behind-the-scenes of conventions and events for their chapter, region, or even the international order, it truly puts this organization into a whole new light. Welcome back to in-person BBYO!
Leah Stein is a BBG from Lake Ontario Region who loves to crochet and play her ukulele.
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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