BBYO, the leading pluralistic Jewish youth movement, and NFTY, the Reform Jewish youth movement are collaborating to maximize their efforts to engage Jewish teens. Both organizations offer significant channels for teens to have Jewish experiences that can have a lasting and profound impact on their engagement in Jewish life.
“When NFTY teens met BBYO teens for a gathering in Boston in 2011 and discovered that together NFTY and BBYO teens comprise only 15% of Jewish teens in North America, they realized they had to join forces to engage more teens in Jewish life,” said Miriam Chilton, Union for Reform Judaism Vice President of Youth Engagement. “In 2014, 25 NFTY teens and Union for Reform Judaism President Rabbi Rick Jacobs attended BBYO’s International Convention and they decided to meet again this February in Atlanta, where both organizations have conventions during the same week.”
Even before the conventions begins, 60 teen leaders from five major Jewish youth movements: BBYO, NCSY, NFTY, United Synagogue Youth (USY) and Young Judea, will meet to learn together, ask big questions, and share ideas, as members of the Coalition of Jewish Teens (CJT).The CJT is an entity created four years ago to unite Jewish teens across North America around a shared mission and set of values and to strengthen youth engagement as a whole. Teens were selected for this special meeting by professionals at their respective organizations or by their peer leaders through nominations and applications.
On Saturday, February 14, the more than 3,000 teens will participate in a shared Limmud day of learning, including over 200 workshops led by program educators, guest speakers and leaders. There will be a session when all will join in one room to recognize the strength of these communities coming together, featuring a text study led by teen leaders and a keynote address by Rabbi Jonah Pesner, Director of the Religious Action Center.
On Sunday, February 15, 125 teens will attend an interfaith service at Ebenezer Baptist Church, from where Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King preached about nonviolence. They will participate in a discussion about civil rights history and current events with Rabbi Peter Berg from The Temple, and Ebenezer’s Reverend Raphael Warnock.
“So much of what we strive to do is help our teens understand the larger world in which they live and guide them to take responsibility to make it a better place,” said Chilton. “How empowering it will be for each attendee to be surrounded by thousands who celebrate their Judaism and their commitment to finding their best selves so they can make a positive impact on the world.”
“These young Jewish leaders are committed to doing great things for our community and the world around them. Organizational boundaries don’t stop them from that,” said Matt Grossman, BBYO Chief Executive Officer. “This is just the start of more collaboration for the next generation.”