JCC and BBYO join forces and recalibrate shared teen focus; Youth group will move HQ from Squirrel Hill to South Hills

JCC and BBYO join forces and recalibrate shared teen focus; Youth group will move HQ from Squirrel Hill to South Hills

In a push to strengthen Jewish teen outcomes and the South Hills community, the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh and the Keystone Mountain Region of BBYO announced an expanded strategic partnership and a joint effort to raise $2 million.

As part of the agreement, said JCC president and CEO Brian Schreiber, the local BBYO chapter will relocate from the JCC’s Squirrel Hill location to the South Hills site. Schreiber characterized the development, which has its roots in an alliance that began in 2002, as progressing from what was a “cordial,” but superficial relationship to a substantive one.

“BBYO has undergone a metamorphosis,” explained Schreiber, who pointed to a speech by Union for Reform Judaism president Rabbi Rick Jacobs at the February 2014 international BBYO conference in Dallas as a wake-up call for the Jewish community and those involved in teen engagement.

In that speech, Jacobs called on BBYO as an organization to increase its collaboration with other Jewish groups.

“We took notice,” said Schreiber.

Schreiber examined the relationships developing between other JCCs and BBYOs nationally. Various approaches had been adopted. Schreiber determined that Pittsburgh could best benefit by collaborating with BBYO, as opposed to owning it.

The prior arrangement between JCC and BBYO, which Schreiber claimed looked more like a rental agreement, was updated to a new memorandum of understanding.

“The new [MOU] is more like a partnership,” said Schreiber.

Chuck Marcus, regional director of BBYO Keystone Mountain Region, called the relocation “a good thing.”

“There are over 60 members [of BBYO] in the South Hills,” said Marcus.

With the move, and an already active BBYO base in the South Hills, Marcus hopes to bring more teens into the JCC.

“This is more of an opportunity for all teens to get reconnected with the JCC,” he explained.

Along with the change in address, the role of BBYO’s regional director has changed as well. Specifically, Schreiber welcomed Marcus’ involvement by asking him to attend regular JCC staff meetings.

“The JCC in the South Hills has been very welcoming,” stated Marcus.

Although not an employee of the JCC, Marcus has been part of the decision making team at meetings.

“Now it’s more like BBYO is part of the family,” he said. “That’s important to my teens.”

The final piece of the new JCC/BBYO partnership is a shared fundraising plan. With an overall goal of $2 million, the agreement calls for funds to be equally divided between establishing a permanent endowment for BBYO’s program director position as well as addressing ongoing capital investment needs at the JCC South Hills facility.

Citing both causes, Schreiber began approaching donors with a collective development strategy. Aiding his efforts is the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh’s Centennial Fund for a Jewish Future. A matching gifts program associated with the fund expires Sept. 30.

Specifically, if a donor gives $100,000 to the cause, $50,000 will go towards the South Hills site and $50,000 will fund the endowment, which is being held by the Federation’s Foundation. From the $50,000 that goes towards the endowment, up to 50 percent will be eligible to be matched by the Centennial Fund.

“The Federation is a great bridge to this,” said Schreiber.

Schreiber is excited about the prospect of raising money for a combined effort.

“It’s meaningful and different to raise dollars for the entire program,” he said, adding that people he’s approached for funds like the new approach as well. “Donors like the one-ask piece; It’s a bit of a game changer.”

With many changes underway, certain stabilities remain.

“Our goal is teen engagement at the end of the day,” said Cathy Samuels, JCC’s senior director of marketing and sales. “Bottom line is we’re doing the same things, now we have an opportunity to be a unified source.”

Adam Reinherz can be reached at adam.reinherz@gmail.com.

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