For the 40 Pittsburgh teens who attended BBYO’s annual International Convention in Washington, D.C., over the President’s Day weekend, the highlight of the trip may have been the welcome they and the other 2,000-plus Jewish teen leaders received from President Obama.
The president, via video, addressed the convention of AZA and BBG, BBYO leadership platform and high school fraternity and sorority, educators, thought leaders, volunteers and philanthropists from 18 countries.
“This gathering gives you a chance to affirm your faith and recommit yourselves to the enduring values this organization represents,” the president told the gathering. He then encouraged the teens to return home, spread their enthusiasm and show the important role that young people play in making a difference in society.
In addition to Obama, the convention body also heard from Michael Froman, assistant to the president and deputy national security advisor for International Economic Affairs. Froman, an alumnus of BBYO and former Grand Aleph Godol (international teen president of AZA), referenced BBYO as having contributed most to who he is today.
U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), chair of the Democratic
National Committee, and United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice also addressed the convention, as did Josh Mandel, a Marine Corps veteran and state treasurer of Ohio who ran for the U.S. Senate last year.
“BBYO’s International Convention brought together an amazing community of partners, guests, alumni, speakers and performers,” said Logan Miller, international teen president (Grand Aleph Godol) of BBYO, said in a prepared statement. “The magnitude and stature of our guests is a testament to the work of Alephs and B’nai B’rith Girls across the world this year, doing everything bigger and better on behalf of the Jewish future.”
Other notable programs and events during the Convention included:
• A plenary featuring a roster of inspirational community, national and global leaders including a presentation by Judy Feld Carr, a fundraiser who rescued thousands of Syrian Jews in the 1970s and a “Power of a Youth Movement” presentation by Ben Keesey, CEO of Invisible Children;
• A Day of Learning where teens chose from over 30 learning sessions from tracks including Israel, Global Jewish Peoplehood, Jewish Continuity, Media and Entrepreneurialism;
• Attendance and presentations by 70 international teens from Albania, Argentina, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Estonia, France, Ireland, Israel, Latvia, Macedonia, Serbia, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, the United Kingdom and from across the United States;
• Twenty-four teen-led Shabbat services that celebrated the pluralism of BBYO;
• The presentation of BBYO’s Alumni of the Year Awards to Ben Stein, an AZA alumnus of BBYO and political satirist; and Laurie Moskowitz, a BBG alumna, D.C. resident and senior director for U.S. campaigns at The ONE Campaign;
• A concert headlined by Top-40 artists Hoodie Allen and Timeflies; and
• The election of the 10 teens who will serve at the helm of the 2013-2014 AZA and BBG international boards.