I became a member of BBYO in July of 2020, meaning that I was a MIT for five months! When you’re a MIT, it’s a confusing time, and being in a new environment full of people that you don’t know can be scary. For me, I had tons of questions about how things worked, and the lingo took forever to learn (Glossary at the bottom). Meeting new people was also terrifying, and I wasn’t sure if I was exactly “welcome.” Everyone seemed to already be friends. That is why I have put together my, “The Things I Wish I Knew When I Joined BBYO.”
- Talk to people: Older members want to be friends with you; sticking with your grade really isn’t a thing in BBYO, it can be awkward talking to new people (especially when they’re older than you), but all it takes is a simple “hi.” All of the people that were in BBYO when the seniors joined are gone, so they want to meet you and make friends; they will probably lead the conversation if you are nervous. I once got a text from a senior (who became my ‘big’*) that said, “tell me everything about yourself and we’ll be best friends.” Now I talk to her all the time, and she has become my mentor; I love her so much for it.
- You don’t have to do everything: People in BBYO are always telling you to GET INVOLVED, go on a summer experience*, run for board, go to RC*. It’s okay if you don’t do everything. If you don’t want to be on board your first year or ever, that doesn’t make you less than anyone else. Especially with it being your first year, I know that you’re excited to be a part of the movement but burnout is real. You tell yourself that you won’t stop being active by senior year but if you do everything in 9th grade, there’s nowhere else to go. Start small, go to chapter programs*, join ILN*, do big/little*.
- Become accustomed to songs like Wonderwall and One Day: Ahhhh the classics. There are a few songs that remind you of home. At every convention there are certain songs that will always be played; don’t worry they’re good songs. Here is my list of BBYO songs: Wonderwall, Here’s to the Night, One Day, Wagon Wheel, Wish You Were Here, What Dreams Are Made Of (Hey Now), You’ve Got a Friend in Me, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Country Roads, Fly, Closing Time, Time of Your Life, and Accidentally in Love.
- Where to put your BBYO stuff: Over time you will collect lots of BBYO shirts, hats, sweatshirts, stress balls, basically anything you can imagine. There will be lots of worthless things that you don’t want to keep, but we keep things to look back on and give away at our lives. Life ceremonies happen at the end of your senior year, and it’s your time to reflect on your BBYO journey and then give away all of your BBYO stuff to younger members. In my experiences, along with the people that I have talked to about this, it is best to get plastic storage bins to put in your basement or closet, and then you can put the things that you don’t want or use, into the bins so that they are out of your way.
- Find a mentor: Lots of younger members have that one junior or senior that they can always count on. Whether it’s your ‘big,’ or someone that lives across the world, it's important to always have that one person that you can go to with questions.
- Explore the website: You’d be surprised at how much information is on the website. If you click on AZA & BBG, you will get to a section on the website that has information about all the rituals and traditions in BBYO. If you ever need advice with things like elections or conventions, The Shofar* has tons of articles written by members and alumni.
- Try out small things: While you don’t have to (and shouldn’t) do everything, it is good to try out some small leadership roles to find out where you fit and what you enjoy. Things like chair positions* (if your chapter has those) and small board positions can tell you if you’d enjoy being on board, which isn’t for everyone. Planning a program or working with someone to plan one is lots of fun and gives you a chance to be in charge. You’d be surprised at how awesome it is to take initiative and do things for other members. BBYO has a ton of leadership opportunities and it’s your choice on whether or not to get involved in one. The main thing is to not be scared or let anything hold you back, but don’t feel pressured into it.
- Be yourself: BBYO has a network of Jewish teens around the world. You will make friends, trust me! You don’t have to act like anybody but yourself, and if they don’t like you for you, then they’re out of luck.
Big/Little: Alephs and BBGs are paired with someone else in their chapter to be their ‘big’ or ‘little’. Younger members are ‘littles’ because they are still learning about BBYO, while older members are ‘bigs’ because they can guide their ‘little’ through that year.
Summer Experiences: A large part of BBYO is their summer camps or ‘experiences.’
CLTC: (Chapter Leadership Training Conference) which is 12 days all about leadership within a chapter and has two locations to choose from.
There are four programs that take place at the B’nai B’rith Perlman Camp in Pennsylvania.
ILTC: (International Leadership Training Conference) about leadership on the regional and international level
International Kallah: about exploring your Judaism and Jewish identity
Movement Makers: about learning leadership skills with the feeling of a normal Jewish summer camp
Camp BBYO: a normal Jewish summer camp while meeting people in BBYO.
BBYO also has many trips that you can take over the summer to other countries like Israel, Argentina, Bulgaria, Italy, etc.
The March of the Living (MOTL): A two-week trip that is one week in Poland and one week in Israel, participants learn about Jewish history and hear from Holocaust survivors.
RC: Regional Convention which takes place every year in most regions. To learn more about your RC, ask someone else in your region or check your chapter/region’s website.
Chapter Programs: Chapters have programming usually every week with the exception of summers and a few other days called ‘blackout days.’ Programing is an event/meetup/activity that the people in your chapter do together.
ILN: International Leadership Network. A great way to become a leader in BBYO; ILN consists of committees that get to change the BBYO community for the better. Committees include All Abilities Task Force, Genocide Education Committees, Press Corps, Racial Justice Education Task Force, and so many more.
The Shofar: BBYO’s international newspaper. The Shofar has tons of articles and videos by members, staff, and alumni with lots of information about their unique BBYO experience.
Chair Positions: Small leadership positions that some chapters have, usually assisting board members with planning programs, social media, services, and other small things to give a member a bit of leadership experience before something like board.
Lily Granai is a BBG from Hilah BBG in Northern Region East: DC and loves theatre, Grey’s Anatomy (Jolex for life), FaceTiming with friends, and BBYO of course.