Teens gather at BBYO winter event


Hartford, Conn. – On Jan. 29-31, more than 300 high school teens attended BBYO’s Winter Kallah here.

Focused on the theme of Survivor, teens engaged in speaker and interactive sessions including LGBT+ Inclusion Training, Medic First Aid Training, Krav Maga, Facing Anti-Semitism on College Campus, and a Holocaust panel discussion. Additionally, teens participated in educational training including discussions about domestic violence, substance abuse and homelessness. Teens also attended a Wolfpack hockey game and business meetings. The Alephs elected a regional president for the second half of the year.

One of the highlights of the program was a powerful coming of age ceremony, a B’nai Mitzvah with four teens from both New England region and Connecticut Valley region and one Holocaust survivor.

“I am so honored and proud to say that I became a Bat Mitzvah this weekend,” said Rachel Levine, a senior at Acton-Boxborough Regional High School. “I never thought I’d get to this point, let alone be this involved in BBYO. As president of my chapter, BBYO has helped me become a leader, strengthen my Jewish identity and make lifelong friends. I want to thank everyone that helped me get to where I am today, and I’m so lucky to have such amazing and supportive friends. I am so glad I got to celebrate with my BBYO family, and this is a day I will never forget.”

“Doing my Bar Mitzvah with my brother Alephs, sister BBGs and a Holocaust survivor was remarkably powerful,” said Drew Siegal, a sophomore at Beaver County Day School. “It was so powerful, that I was legitimately speechless after. It was an experience that I will never forget, and I am so grateful that I was offered the opportunity to become a Bar Mitzvah.”

BBYO’s high school leadership program and fraternity and sorority – the Aleph Zadik Aleph (AZA) for boys and the B’nai B’rith Girls (BBG) for girls – feature teen-led programming designed to reflect the interests of the teens involved. Diverse chapter and regional school-year programs and summer experiences at camp, on campus and around the world offer teens ways to meet new people, explore new ideas, play sports, connect with their Jewish heritage and learn about Israel.

AZA and BBG allow teens an opportunity to gain invaluable leadership skills, participate in service and advocacy projects and a chance to explore the world as part of an international network of Jewish teens.

Upcoming BBYO events in New England include a Beau Sweetheart Dance on March 5, a Spring Convention on April 1-3, and J-Serve on April 17.

SAMANTHA WALSH is regional director, BBYO New England region. For more information, you can contact her  at 401-490-1030 or swalsh@bbyo.org.