Emma Zentner International Life

June 20, 2022
Emma Zentner

Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

Class of 2021

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Hey, I’m Emma. I’m 18 years old (believe it or not), my chapter is Chaverim #0498, in Red River Region #204, and I’m from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. A city a few hours across the border, just north of North Dakota in case that makes more sense to you — unless it doesn't, and now you’re more confused than you were when we started. No I am not American, please stop putting it on my nametag. This past year I’ve spent a lot of time on planes and in Ubers and talking to all of you. I started Game On and wrote, witnessed, and celebrated The Power of Us, but most importantly, I’ve discovered why I’ve spent the past five years serving this Movement. 

This year we kicked off the only way we know how.  We finally reunited as one Movement under the theme, The Power Of Us. There’s no better way to describe this year or our Movement than this. The Power of Us is huge. The Power of Us to welcome in thousands of new members, give them a home, and change their lives. Take it from me, it changed mine. 

As I reminisce on the past year, sitting in the Dulles airport for the last time, I’m filled with joy and pride in our Movement and each of you. Together, we relaunched and navigated our way through the post pandemic world. We prioritized mental health, our global Movement, and most importantly, each other. From Kickoffs to Rush Weeks, Fall Fests, Global Shabbat and everything in between, together we’ve created memories for thousands of Jewish teens across the globe. The only thing that matters. As I spent the term visiting your communities I was reminded as to why we do what we do, and why I’ve spent the past five years deeply invested in the success of AZA and BBG. To create a community for Jewish teens worldwide. 

Alephs and BBGs, we’ve spent the past century building this Movement. We’ve learnt, adapted, and taught the pillars of AZA and BBG and formed the largest pluralistic Jewish youth organization the world has ever seen. We’ve welcomed hundreds of thousands of members into our family, coordinated hundreds of conventions and kickoffs, and thrown what’s essentially a big Jewish party camp thing, in the words of the one and only Josh Richards, year after year to celebrate just that. But, somewhere along the way we’ve lost touch. As a Movement we’ve gotten so tied up in trying to climb the leadership pipeline, fill quotas for our experiences, and surpass membership goals. We’ve - I’ve - let far too many teens slip through the cracks and lose their way. We’ve forgotten that what brought us in were the older members who cared about us and haven’t been doing the same for our underclassmen. We forget that not everyone wants to run for Chapter N’siah or attend RLTI, and that teens just want to be teens. 

My rally cry to you all is just this, something I failed to realize for so long. My BBYO journey wasn’t just about me, or becoming a leader or serving as International N’siah throughout our 97th year. It was about continuing to build the home that those before me created. The 98 year old vision of our Movement’s founders, Sam Beber and Anita Perlman as they looked to the future of the Jewish people. If there’s one thing I’ll continue to carry with me — it’ll be this. We are a people that have struggled throughout the years. We’ve been turned away, exilled, and unwelcomed from the silliest of establishments. So, why continue to rely on others to create experiences for us when we can do it ourselves? Why seek the approval and recognition from the people that couldn’t care less about our community? 

You may think your Wednesday night Chapter program’s goal is to inspire a handful of teens to run for Chapter Board. Or, to convince your members to sign up for Regional Convention that’s just around the corner. But, let me offer another perspective. Your chapter program may be the only reason a teen gets to experience a traditional Shabbat. The only reason one of your BBGs can say she has one Jewish friend. The reason your Chapter Shaliach knows the blessings over the spices during Havdalah. At the end of the day, and the end of the century, this Movement continues to come down to the same goal. To create meaningful Jewish experiences for each and every teen. 

We have big dreams. I guess that's one of the beautiful things about BBYO, no one here tells you what to think or how to think. Whatever you want to do — you can. I started my term with three goals in mind, make BBYO cool again, empower the global aspect of our Movement, and create a more accessible and united experience for every member of this family. Big dreams. In my times of struggle, when I found myself stuck and it was a challenge to continue working towards this vision, I was motivated by the incredible network around me. More than that, I was inspired by the people around me. The people and places that brought me into this community and showed me my place here. To you all, I am forever grateful. 

To Chaverim #0498,

Emily Kalo, Abbie Schultz, Alanna Cormier, Hannah Garber, Bailey Hurtig, Molly Perlmutter, Sophie Braunstein, Sasha Kretskaya, Maddy Tapper, Sofia Meschler & Abby Zentner. 

My heart and home, forever and always. You are the people and place that welcomed me with open arms five years ago. You built me into not only the BBG, but the person that I am today. Thank you for the memories, friendships, experiences and community. Thank you for being there when I needed you, and for continuing to do the same for hundreds of BBGs as the years go on. There’s no Chapter I have more faith in. Betty Boop 4L. 

To Red River Region #204,

61/60th Regional Board & 62/61st Regional Board, Ian Baruch, Michael Gurvey, Landon Chapley, Sarah Marks, Jillian Roitenberg, Alix Ganetsky, Dynasty, Alophim, Chadda, Chaverim, Gabriels, Bat Sheva, 63rd Regional BBG Board, 64th Regional AZA Board, Sophie Braunstein & Ethan Levene. 

The best region there ever was. Red River, you truly are like no other. Throughout my time in BBYO I have been honoured and proud to call you my home. Ian, Michael & Landon, needless to say nothing would have been possible without you. Remember when we wanted to fold all the chapters? Good times. Thank you for your constant support throughout my term as Regional N’siah and pushing me to run for AMPIN. You showed me what a BBYO family truly is and I’m so thankful for it. (PS. Now it’s June 1st again so we can finally go for that dinner.) RRR, never stop being you and never let our traditions die out. Our community is small, yet the friendships and experiences we’ve built are stronger than any other.I can’t wait to see y’all take the Movement by storm. 

To The N’siah Nation,

The International N’siah Network 

Truly the best network BBYO has ever seen. Words can’t describe how thankful I am for all of you as leaders of your community, supporters of myself and the Movement, and as the most amazing people. We built an empire this year, but most importantly, a family. This term wouldn’t have been the same without each and every one of you. I wouldn’t want to go for lunch, drive around obscure US cities, or go shopping with your grandma’s, with anyone else. PS. Thank you for putting up with my inner tourist, and thank your co’s for me. So much love and gratitude for you all. 

To 97/77, 

The 97th Grand Board & 77th International Board 

The best team anyone could ask for. This year was a rollercoaster but there’s no one I’d rather be strapped into these sketchy seats with. Thank you for the constant support, innovation, creativity and passion. You poured yourselves into this year and on behalf of the Movement, thank you. Most importantly, thanks for all the laughs and late nights from retreat to GAW.  I’m so excited to see the incredible things you all go on to do (and am already anxiously awaiting your college instagram feeds).  Xoxo. 

To The Best Staff,

Morgan Wittenberg, Ryan Ladd, Dara Molotsky, Ofir Shinhertz & all of the I-Board coaches & supporters. 

If Jared and I are the parents I guess that makes you the grandparents. Thank you for wearing your I love 97/77 shirts with pride (metaphorically of course, but if you want real ones that can be arranged, I think my divvy still works). Needless to say nothing would be possible without you all. Your love and care for the work you do and the people you work with never wavers. Thank you for teaching us everything and anything BBYO, busting all the myths, and acting as our managers/body guard’s/agents/snack providers/Instagram content advisors, and most importantly, the best grandparents anyone could ask for. 

To You, 

I guess it’s now time for me to pass on every last word of wisdom I have for you. To be honest, I have none. If there’s anything I’ve learnt in BBYO it’s that all of our experiences are, and should be, different. BBYO is home as long as you let it be, so come on in and enjoy the ride. You get to decide who you want to be, what programs you want to attend, and what board positions you want to run for. Make this experience your own and make the most of it. Trust me, the years fly by. What I ask of you is this. Don’t forget why you’re here. Don’t forget why BBYO exists now and has to continue to exist for generations to come. Love this Movement with everything you have. This experience has been one of a lifetime — I can’t put into words how much each conversation, moment and program has meant to me. Continue to give it your all, I know it’s in good hands. Don’t worry, I’m not going too far. If you need me, you know where to find me. 

And with that, respectfully submitted with complete and undying love for my heart Red River Region #204, my home Chaverim #0498, the 97th Grand Board and 77th International Board, and every single one of you, 

I give my life to the International Order of BBG, 

For the very last time, as your 77th International N’siah, and as a B'nai Brith Girl, 

I forever remain, 

Emma Miriam Zentner 

A damn proud lifetime member of the International Order of BBG

Emma is a BBG from Red River Region and is the 77th 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.

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