With Loud Luxury’s thrilling performance and the official centennial anniversary for our great movement being announced, International Convention 2023 in Dallas, Texas has gotten off to an amazing start. Friday’s LEADS day plenary masterfully transitioned our hype and celebration into determination for change.
The plenary began with the Hamilton cast beautifully performing their hit song “My Shot”, perfectly emphasizing symbolically the determination of not just Alexander Hamilton, but our movement to make strides in this world.
Our first major speaker was David Hoggs. Hoggs, a Parkland Shooting and Harvard Student, was the first to start the trend at our LEADS Plenary, of invoking change. “Watch Us” he says, commanding the teen crowd to start change, to start making the world a better place for Jewish teens to live. “It does not matter what age you are, you can make change.”
Up next Deborah Lipstadt, the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism, came out with a passionate tone, demanding for the Jewish movement to take on the offensive, and constantly call for change. While pushing for action, she also called for time for Jewish teens to find who they truly are themselves, as a Jew in our peoplehood. She calls out the people who use antisemitism as a joke that the wise crack is “not a joke when there is prejudice involved.”
Following Lipstadt was Reverend Stephen John Green, who started his speech with a classic “I believe that we will win” chant that spread through the convention center. And it was true; he did believe that we could win. For him, he asked for the mantle to be moved forward, and to push the boundaries that used to confine us. He compared each person’s personality to a stone and said ''your stone is unique to you”, which was followed by an eruption from the crowd. He went beyond the confines of BBYO and Jewish culture as well; he praised movements that continue to help people of all ethnicities get the same basic privileges as everyone else.
Jodie Cantor rounded out the list of speakers. Jodie was one of the many people who interviewed women associated with Harvey Wienstien, and upstarted the #MeToo movement. These women were legally barred to talk to anyone about their trauma, but Jodie found a way to get their stories heard. She recounted her time growing up with her mother and her grandparents, constantly being surrounded by Holocaust survivors, each telling a different story. Rather than the “Speak Now” motto as the last 3 speakers, Cantor offered a platform of which people should tell their history, and to tell their story, as the women she interviewed never could have had the chance.
Here is where it all culminated; after speaking, Jodie Cantor invited the other three speakers up for an interview in front of the entire order.
Cantor asked Hoggs regarding the spike in violence and school shooting incidents since his start of “March for Our Lives' ', and what keeps him going. He believes his positivity and hope for the future comes from the environment he surrounds himself with constantly.
Cantor then gives to Green and Lipsaht, asking about how subtle anti-semetisim and racism is hurting our people today. Green constantly believes that forever, even in the darkest of tunnels, there is still light at the end. Lipshadt puts the blame on social media, coining an amazing quote about social media’s role. She said, “social media is like a knife. In the hands of the surgeon, it helps life. In the hands of a killer, it takes life”.
Kai Shappley and Ryan Turell both were welcomed on stage with thunderous applause, each giving their own anecdotes on how they overcame their adversity because of who they chose to be. Kai Shappley was a young transgender girl who battled against her community and school board to be comfortable with who she is. Ryan Turell is the first ever NBA player to be an Orthodox Jew.
The LEADS Day Plenary offered as many different perspectives on life, but over all of it, one idea triumphs: It is time. It is time to stop taking no for an answer. It is time to start fighting back. It is time to be who we want to be. NOW IS OUR TIME.
Ben Goldstein is an Aleph from Marlboro, New Jersey, and he is a massive New York Jets fan.
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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