ATLANTA – From Feb. 12-16, more than 2,200 Jewish teens came together for the BBYO Annual International Convention, (IC) held in Atlanta to learn, lead and work together toward ensuring a strong Jewish future, spearheaded by the next generation. The teens were joined by 1,100 Jewish adults – including some of the community’s top educators, professionals and philanthropists – from 20 countries.
IC 2015 was also host to the Coalition of Jewish Teens (CJT). Teen leadership from the five major youth movements (BBYO, NCSY, NFTY, USY and Young Judaea) met for 24 hours concurrently to the Summit on Jewish Teens to strategically plan ways Jewish teens everywhere can work across organizational borders to build a stronger, united Jewish community. They drafted a mission statement for their work moving forward: “We, the Coalition of Jewish Teens, stand united to shape the Jewish future through shared Jewish values.”
“BBYO’s leadership, both teen and adult, realize that the future of the Jewish community is brighter when we all come together,” said Matthew Grossman, BBYO Chief Executive Officer. “IC 2015 was an exciting step in making that happen and we’re looking forward to continuing this collaboration.”
There was a surprise welcome video by former President of Israel Shimon Peres, in which he encouraged the IC body to “continue to learn, because we are a people whose main name is tikkun olam, to improve the world… to bring peace to Israel, to love Israel, to support Israel and to come to Israel as well.” Opening Ceremonies also included remarks by Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, Former Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth; Lynn Schusterman, Founder and Co-Chair of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation; and Karen Katz, CEO of Neiman Marcus and BBYO alumna.
A morning of guest speakers inspired IC participants to continue building their leadership skills and make an impact on the world. Speakers included Barak Raz, former Israel Defense Forces spokesperson; Kat Graham, Jewish actress known for her role in The Vampire Diaries and activism work; Noa Tishby, Israeli actress and co-founder of Act For Israel; Michael Skolnik, political director for Def Jam Records and President of GlobalGrind.com; Trudy Album, Holocaust survivor; and Michael Steinhardt, Chair of The Steinhardt Foundation for Jewish Life.
BBYO offered 20 Leadership Labs across Atlanta for teens to learn about advocacy, globalization, Israel, leadership, marketing and communications, philanthropy, political engagement, relationship building, service, chapter and program development, event management and design and more. They gained real-world insight from experts across industries at organizations and companies including the American Cancer Society, Center for Civil and Human Rights, CNN, Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change and The World of Coca-Cola.
Nearly 200 Limmud learning sessions were led by program educators, guest speakers and leaders in the thought and business worlds. Another thousand NFTY members joined BBYO for this day of learning, bringing more than 3,000 Jewish teens together to recognize the strength of the Jewish community.
On Sunday night, the convention body closed out a week of fun and learning with BBYO: Stronger Together. The celebratory event featured performances by rap, reggae, pop and indie rock band Aer, hip hop and rap artist Flo Rida and electronic DJ and producer Kap Slap.