50th Year Alumni Q&A

By Ari Kaganovsky, Liberty Region, IC 2017 Press Corps

International Presidents Reconnect With Their Predecessors

This afternoon, Aaron Cooper and Ellie Bodker, the Grand Aleph Godol and International N’siah, met with former international presidents of BBYO from around fifty years ago. They started the session by introducing themselves and giving some insight into what they have accomplished this term, including completing the push for nineteen-thousand North American teens during ILTC, the #VoiceYourVote campaign, Global Shabbat, and the great successes in globalization. Following this, they turned the floor over to the alumni, who asked questions about their experiences in this new era of BBYO in the 21st century.
With the magnitude of teens attending IC, many of the alumni were concerned about finding the balance between intimacy and the element of togetherness that was felt in the days where IC was at B’nai Brith Perlman Camp. Ellie explained that this is always questioned to maintain the feeling that BBYO exudes while adapting to the current situation. She discussed how opening ceremonies, Friday’s plenary, State of the Order, and more all help to allow all to feel the BBYO experience. At the same time, smaller programs such as Leads Day Labs, Limmuds, and Separates all have a more intimate atmosphere where fraternity and sisterhood as well as friendship can be felt. For example, in last night’s separates, there were an average of fifty to sixty Alephs or BBGs in a room, but all were able to experience the same programming. Much thought is put into picking which moments to make meaningful and which ones to show off the amazingness of 2,500 teens being together.
Another alumnus asked the presidents what they would say to the future Grand Aleph Godol and International N’siah at their fifty-year reunion. Ellie stated that she would talk about how BBYO gave her the opportunity to develop deep connections with other teens in her smaller Jewish community of Kansas City. Aaron talked about how BBYO was an introspective experience, allowing him to find his personal identity as the son of a caucasian Jewish woman from Long Island and an African American Christian father from South Carolina. One specific experience that he would share would be during his time in Budapest, Hungary, where BBYO is playing a great role in getting the Jewish community of the city back on its feet; seeing this rebound from the devastation of the Holocaust will always stick in his mind.

In this new age of technology and a much greater number of teens, one alumnus asked how the elections process is handled today. After explaining the specifics of how to run for Grand or International Board, it was clear that it is a much more rigorous process now, especially because of many calls and online forms they have to complete. Many of the previous Grand Aleph Godolim and International N’siot even remarked that the difficulty of the process would even cause many of them to drop their caucuses.

Ultimately, this Q&A session showed how now, as one alumnus put it, BBYO is “so different, but so the same.” Despite the half-century between their terms, all in the room were able to connect in their mutual love for BBYO and knowing their everlasting impact on the movement that they dedicated so much to.