BBYO has 80K teens. Of those 80 thousand, a mere few thousand have something in common: being on Board. What sets BBYO apart from other teen movements is not that it is simply teen-led, but also teen run. From steering committees to press corps, there are hundreds of ways to get involved. Despite all of these amazing opportunities, the best one, in my humble opinion, is running for board. BBYO offers Chapter, Regional, Council, and International Board opportunities. Remaining in line with BBYO’s democratic fashion, all officers are democratically elected, and fill one of various possible positions all around the order. The six most common, and those present on international board are Godol/N’siah, S’gan/S’ganit, Moreh/Aym Hachaverot, Mazkir/Mazkirah, Shaliach/Shlicha, and Gizbor/Gizborit. These exist alongside other less common ones, like Sopher, M’Kasher, Madricha, Yehudia, and Nochechi, among others, that exist only on some regional and chapter boards. With all of these positions available, it is not hard to find not only a position that you would be a good fit for, but also one you would enjoy. You also have a wide range of options, based on what level you want to run for. I had an unusual start, as my first board position was Regional S’Gan, and my second one is the one that starts on June 1st, Grand Aleph (International) Mazkir. Despite this, I have either observed, participated in, or chaired every level of elections at some point, so I know how they operate, and feel passionate about all of them. Running for board can be a lot, but here are some tips and explanations to ease your worries:
1. What position should I run for?
It depends. Whenever I get asked this question, I always give the same answer. Talk to your respective Godol or N’siah and ask them to show you the constitution or read the responsibilities for each position outlined in it. What position makes you, ____ the happiest? When you look at the description for each position, which one puts the biggest smile on your face and excites you the most? With these guiding questions it is easy to be indecisive anyways, so I always add another one. Which position are you most prepared for? Essentially, which position do you know how to fill the best, and where would the chapter/region/council/order best benefit from your individual and unique talents? Use these questions, and the overwhelming task of deciding whether you should run, and what you should run for, should seem a tiny bit less daunting. When I was declaring for I-Board, I was confused and indecisive whether I should declare for S’gan or Mazkir. I went through a fiasco and ended up declaring for S’gan, but after using these guiding questions and talking to a few staff mentors, I was able to switch to Mazkir, a move I am very thankful for doing. Being unsure is okay, but staff and your elections chair are there to guide you and help you through the process.
2. How should I prepare?
No politicking. Ever. You’ll hear that sentence a lot, but here is what it means. Do not tell anyone you are running/ what you are running for, unless they are one of the few people outlined in the elections packet handed to you. Because no one is to know, there is no form of campaigning that will be done. This ensures elections are based on qualifications rather than popularity. Because of this, all you have to do is prepare yourself and your campaign materials. Most elections will require a speech of varying length, but the structure is usually the same. My advice would be to speak from your heart. Tell everyone why you are running, what you would look like in the position, and how you would like to contribute to the chapter/region/council/order. Telling people what the future would look like and how you would fill the role allows you to appeal to them individually and as a whole, proving you to be a qualified candidate and a devoted leader, something most voting delegates are looking for. All of the best speeches I heard at international elections had these qualities, and you can make it the same for your elections. Next comes the platform. Essentially a platform is a document to outline your qualifications, goals, and experiences, among other things you wish to showcase. These are handed out to voting delegates who read them while you present. While there is no set template for platforms, the advice is to make it you. Design it yourself and according to your taste, and it will convey to delegates who you are. Examples of hundreds of platforms can be found on the Fisher Platform Database, a resource put together by Max Fisher AZA in Michigan Region to help with platforms.
3. What are elections like?
It is absolutely amazing. Running for board teaches you discipline, dedication, and determination. The day itself was one of the most nerve-racking days of my life. I was jittery and fidgety, filled with a mix of excitement and anxiety, and I was a nervous mess. As other positions went, all I could focus on was my speech, regrettably so. Be prepared, yes, and it is more than okay to be nervous. However, pay attention to the other candidates and vote. Know that you are ready and qualified, and you have to keep your head in the game and not succumb to stress. Use a fidget toy or have a snack (if allowed at your elections) and sit back and have fun. Nervousness was a pain during my elections, but despite it, I learned a lot. I learned how to deal with pressure, and still hold a smile. How to manipulate nervousness into motivation, and many other useful practical skills. I also learned from my other candidates. Seeing the maturity of those who lost, and the embraces they gave the winners showed me that albeit competitive, elections bring us together as not only candidates, but brothers and sisters.
If you win, you will begin a board term. However long that term is, you will have a direct and tangible impact on your board and your community. Your BBYO experience will be elevated and changed in the best way possible, and you will have an experience unlike any other youth group. If you lose, however, don’t give up. Pick yourself back up, and try again in the future. Losing an election is just a bump in the road. After all, not only can you continue to be a leader via another position, but throughout your presence and involvement in BBYO. Candidates who lost at International Elections went on to win regional and chapter elections, and continued to serve as role models and leaders to all of BBYO. Don’t let an election define you, and learn from the elections process, the elections themselves, and your peers. To me, elections represent the very best of BBYO, and constitute some of my favorite memories and experiences in this amazing organization. This experience could and will change your life, so take advantage of it and seize the moment, because it is absolutely worth it.
Luiz Gandelman is an Aleph from Miami, Florida and is the 99th Grand Aleph Mazkir.
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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