Post bar or bat mitzvah, many Jewish teens and their parents struggle to keep the fires of Jewish life burning — fires that were sparked at b’nai mitzvah. Through community events and synagogue outreach, teens can continue their involvement in the Jewish community; however, many Jewish teens never find an environment in Judaism that fits his or her lifestyle and personality.
What teens and their parents may not realize is that a fantastic option for Jewish life exists right here in Baltimore in BBYO, a youth organization for eighth- through 12th-grade Jewish teens. This student-led youth organization fosters Judaism and leadership in teens through various events, from social-action initiatives to athletics to purely social get-togethers, such as movie nights. BBYO Baltimore, part of the larger Northern Region East, is home to various chapters for area teens, both male and female. BBYO consists of two separate but related units — Aleph Tzadik Aleph (AZA), the “fraternity” for young men, and B’nai B’rith Girls, the “sorority” for young women.
Members of BBYO not only connect with a rich history — nearly a century’s worth — but also experience the Jewish community with other teens. BBYO Baltimore can be a way for a Jewish teen to stay connected with friends from middle school after moving on to high school, to meet Jewish teens from across Baltimore and the country and to have fun at dances, sports events, larger BBYO conventions and other types of programming. During this school year, BBYO Baltimore hosted a pre-screening of “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” and held its annual Sweetheart Heartthrob SnowBall dance at the Radisson Cross Keys; and it has run events for teens nearly every week. The value of BBYO varies from person to person. For some, BBYO is a fun way to meet up with friends on a Saturday night; for others, BBYO has been an accepting, nurturing environment in which to grow.
“When I’m with my BBYO friends, I never have to pretend to be someone I’m not,” Matt Lipsey, a junior at Carver School for Arts and Technology and the BBYO Baltimore Council godol (AZA president), said. “BBYO has transformed me from a shy eighth-grader with few close friends into a confident young man with close friends from all over the world.”
Like Matt, many teens have been touched by the power of a Jewish youth organization, and they have been inspired to continue a Jewish lifestyle beyond high school because of their experience with BBYO.
For more information about BBYO Baltimore Council, contact Danielle Hercenberg, BBYO’s Baltimore Council program director, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 410-559-3549. To register for membership, visit b-linked.org and select “become a member.”
Max Sterling and Ilana Kornblatt are seniors at Pikesville High School. Max is a member of Gideon AZA, and Ilana is a member of Chana Senisch BBG.