To my friends not in BBYO:
As a junior in high school, I am in the middle of my third year in BBYO. BBYO is a pluralistic youth group for Jewish teens, where you are given the opportunity to meet people from around the world, and engage in social actions/create your own Jewish Identity. These past three years in BBYO have changed my perspective on religion greatly, and have allowed me to break out of my shell beyond school. However, along with my achievements and amazing memories in BBYO, come the setbacks and negative messages I receive on a daily basis from people I call my “friends”.
To my friends that think BBYO is an orgy: The definition of an orgy is a wild party, especially one involving excessive drinking and unrestrained sexual activity. BBYO has a zero tolerance policy for drugs and alcohol and if a teen shows up to a BBYO sponsored event under the influence, that teen will face mandatory suspension from all BBYO activities. While BBYO is known for their kickoff dances during the early months of the school year, BBYO does not allow any illegal substances and there is zero unrestrained sexual activity. Keep everything PG-13, kids.
To my friends that think BBYO is “too Jewish”: Yes, and I think Grilled Cheese is too “cheesy”, but that doesn’t mean I don’t love it. BBYO is the leading pluralistic teen movement aspiring to involve more “Jewish teens, with more meaningful Jewish experiences”. The organization includes people from all over the world with different backgrounds and different beliefs. In its early stages, it started as a high school fraternity and still includes some of the same values in its different type of programming that go beyond religion (EX: Philanthropy, sisterhood, recreation).
To my friends that came to kickoff last year and have been “too busy” to come to a chapter event since: I SEE YOU. The best part about BBYO is that you can choose how much time you put into it. Come to an event for part of the time just to check it out. I promise that not all our events are as wild as our “Great Gatsby Rave” and our “Superhero Kickoff Bash”. We also do things such as paint wars and Mason jar making that allows you to take a break from whatever has been stopping you from coming this past year.
To my friends that don’t understand why I love it so much: Joining BBYO has allowed me to gain the leadership skills and opportunity to express myself in front of others. The people you meet in this organization have the capability to change your life and help you grow as a person. From things as simple as “how to rock Birkenstocks” to “enjoying a Friday Night Service”, I have changed my outlook on life and now think twice before judging others. You would be surprised at how comfortable Birkenstocks are.
To my friends that just don’t get it: BBYO isn’t for everyone. However, it is for the people who are willing and able to find themselves. If you don’t understand what a “chapter” or “chofesh” is, just ask. We would all rather tell you about the organization and answer all of your questions before you just assume the worst. We don’t bite, or at least most of us don’t.
BBYO isn’t a place to hookup. BBYO isn’t “too Jewish”. BBYO “won’t take up all of your time”. BBYO isn’t a place for people with “no friends” to find “friends”. BBYO is a place for teenagers to find themselves. BBYO is a place to discover your Jewish identity. BBYO is a place to meet new people. BBYO is a pluralistic Jewish youth organization that has changed my life along with the lives of over 400,000 people.
Love, Rachel Reisman and Jack Lefkowitz