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Local teens join thousands at BBYO International Convention

Twenty-eight Kansas City teens attended BBYO, Inc.’s annual International Convention over President’s Day weekend in Washington, D.C. The more than 2,000 Jewish teen leaders of AZA and BBG, BBYO’s renowned leadership platform and high school fraternity and sorority, educators, thought leaders, volunteers and philanthropists from 18 countries, were treated to a variety of high-level speakers, including a welcome video message from President Obama.

The president’s remarks included this charge, “this gathering gives you a chance to affirm your faith and recommit yourselves to the enduring values this organization represents.” 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 the president, the convention body heard from Michael Froman, assistant to the president of the United States 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.

Teens in Kansas City played a big role in planning the convention. Ethan Loftspring, a senior at Blue Valley North High School, served as the Shabbat and rituals chair. Ethan worked with a steering committee of teens from all over to plan 24 unique, teen-led Shabbat services that celebrated the pluralism of BBYO.

Gavri Schreiber, another senior at BVN, was selected as the one teen to participate on a panel called “Teens, Texting and Torah: Opportunities for the Jewish Teen Experience” for adult stakeholders and the BBYO international board of directors. Gavri also helped plan the BBYO Connect Engagement Summit, an opportunity for teen leaders to come together to engage in discussion and training around BBYO Connect, the BBYO program for sixth- to eighth-graders.

Grant Sander, a junior at Blue Valley Northwest, represented Kansas City Council at the BBYO Connect Engagement Summit.

Three Kansas City Council chapters were presented with the most prestigious awards that a chapter can win. B’not Lev BBG and Saadia BBG won The Miriam Albert Chapter Excellence Award of the B’nai B’rith Girls. Nordaunian AZA #22 earned the Henry Monsky Chapter Excellence Award of The Aleph Zadik Aleph. Ten teens from Kansas City Council won awards for their leadership and dedication to BBYO, as well as their commitment to growing BBYO.

The teens participated in a BBYO Stand UP Day of Service and Advocacy plenary. The teen leadership body presented the Annual BBYO Stand UP Lifetime Achievement Award to DNC Chairwoman and Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), who spoke about the importance of standing up for critical causes of the day. The convention body also heard remarks from Josh Mandel, a Marine Corps veteran and state treasurer of Ohio. Wrapping up the plenary, United States Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice delivered a call to action before the delegates went into the D.C. community for hands-on service and advocacy training.

“IC was so amazing. Getting to play opening ceremonies with the Teen Band was such an unbelievable experience. I made so many new friends, and I learned so much.” said Rachel Kennelly, a junior at Pembroke Hill School. “It was my first International BBYO program, and even as a junior who never did a summer program, people were so awesome and welcoming. Thanks to IC, I’m now looking into doing a BBYO Summer Program. I learned so much, made some amazing friends, and I can’t wait for IC in Dallas in 2014.”

For nearly 90 years, this convention has served to unite the rising leaders of AZA and BBG, to set the course for the coming year, determine strategies for strengthening BBYO as a youth-led movement and connect teens to the worldwide Jewish community.

For more information on BBYO in Kansas City, contact Taly Yeyni, BBYO program director at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 913-327-8071.