B'nai B'rith Youth Organization

B'nai B'rith Youth Organization

The B'nai B'rith Youth Organization (BBYO) is an independent Jewish youth group for teenagers in high school.

BBYO is the world's only independent, international, pluralistic Jewish youth group for high school teenagers. In addition, BBYO is the largest youth group in the world, with about 20,000 members worldwide. Formerly associated with B'nai B'rith, the youth group split with its parent ogh organization's name still contains the words "B'nai B'rith", it is officially preferred to refer to it simply as "BBYO".organization in 2002 and was reconstituted as B'nai B'rith Youth Organization, Inc., an independent non-profit organization. Al thou

BBYO is unique amongst its peers in its organization into local fraternity- and sorority-like chapters. Male chapters are known as AZA chapters, and female chapters as BBG chapters; AZA and BBG began independently before being united as brother and sister organizations under B'nai B'rith. In smaller communities where there is not a sufficient Jewish population to support both AZA and BBG chapters, there may exist just a single BBYO chapter which borrows traditions from both organizations.

Membership to BBYO is open to any teenager in high school who identifies himself as a Jew. BBYO's mission is, "More Jewish teens, more meaningful Jewish experiences." The organization's uniqueness stems from its youth leadership model, in which teen leaders are elected by their peers on a local, regional and international level, and are given the opportunity to make their own programmatic decisions.


Early days of AZA

The Aleph Zadik Aleph (AZA) originated in 1923 as a young men's Jewish fraternity in Omaha, Nebraska. The group was formed by 14 high school teenagers in response to their rejection by a school fraternity, the Alpha Zeta Alpha, because they were Jews. AZA was founded in part to protest the Greek letter societies community, and so Hebrew rather than Greek letters were used for the name of the organization. Two years later, when B'nai B'rith began sponsoring the group, the letters were interpreted to stand for its motto: the first Aleph stood for Ahava, brotherly love; the Zadik stood for Tzedaka, benevolence; and the second Aleph stood for Achdoos, or harmony.

AZA's original adviser, Nathan Mnookin, soon left Omaha for his hometown of Kansas City, where he started a similar group with the same name. The Omaha group selected a new adviser, Sam Beber, who soon laid out his plans for an international youth group based on the local AZA model. In 1924, the Aleph Zadik Aleph for Young Men, now an international Jewish fraternity, was formed according to Beber's plan, with the Omaha and Kansas City chapters receiving the first two charters. Four chapters were in attendance at the first convention in June 1924, and ten at the second convention the following summer.

By 1925, AZA had expanded east with dozens of chapters across the country. At Beber's urging, B'nai B'rith took up the issue of officially adopting AZA as its junior auxiliary at their national convention in 1925. Supported by Henry Monsky, who himself was vying for the B'nai B'rith presidency, the convention adopted a committee report affirming its approval of the organization under B'nai B'rith's jurisdiction. Immediately following the convention, B'nai B'rith Executive Committee met and officially adopted AZA, which then became known as the Aleph Zadik Aleph of B'nai B'rith.

BBG beginnings

In 1944, after a few past failed attempts to begin a Jewish youth group for young women, B'nai B'rith Girls (BBG) became officially recognized and adopted by B'nai B'rith. Anita Perlman is credited with the development of BBG as Sam Beber is credited with the AZA. For the first time, AZA and BBG were united under a single organization, officially cementing their relationship and brother and sister organizations. Combined, the two youth groups were called the B'nai B'rith Youth Organization, and BBYO was born.

From past to present

Although the organization has changed greatly behind-the-scenes over the years, its original tenets still remain true: dedication to Jewish life, a pluralistic approach, commitment to community service and social action, and a youth leadership model. BBYO continues to be open to all teenagers that identify themselves as Jews, without exception. Members participate in meeting rituals and sing pep songs that date back to the organization's earliest days. The organization continues to maintain and contribute to its International Service Fund, initiated at the very first international convention. Although the number of professional staff has risen dramatically, BBYO continues to maintain democratic youth leadership at every level.

Just as the organization changed greatly in its first few years, starting as a local youth group to being adopted as the official youth auxiliary of the world's largest Jewish organization, it likewise has undergone drastic changes in recent years. After more than 75 years of a general prosperity, B'nai B'rith began a massive restructuring at the turn of the 21st century in response to the changing face of North American Jewry. As a result, the B'nai B'rith Youth Organization split from B'nai B'rith in 2002 and was re-formed as BBYO, Inc., an independent non-profit organization. The new organization received substantial funding from the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation and is chaired by Lynn Schusterman.

Traditionally, BBYO was a conglomeration of many largely independent regions. This was the result of the modification of B'nai B'rith's long-standing "district" model. As new forms of communication have brought the members and staff of BBYO in closer contact, and as the differences between geographic regions continue to deteriorate, BBYO has become much more of a top-down organization, with standardized marketing materials and directives. BBYO has reached into the online market with its b-linked.org website, into the middle school market with its Teen Connection programs, and into the adult market with its alumni chapters.


BBYO operates at four different levels, each one of which has its own elected teen leaders: international, regional, council and chapter. Depending on the size of and geography of a particular region, it may or may not contain the council level. (Typically, regions that are large in population or spread out geographically are likely to contain councils.) All members are assigned to a chapter, which is part of a region (and sometimes a council). The combined regions make up the international organization.


On the international level, BBYO organizes large-scale programs and offerings for its members, both during the school year and the summer. These programs bring together members from all over North America, and all over the world. Despite the fact that BBYO focuses mostly on activities taking place or originating in North America Although, the organization nonetheless maintains a presence on five other continents as well. Some of these are affiliate chapters that ascribe to the traditions of BBYO but are not technically under the control of the international office. BBYO programs are known to current be run in Israel, UK & Ireland, France, Thailand, Bulgaria, Curacao, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand.


Districts were a now-defunct organizational unit, that were mostly replaced by regions in the 1980s. The last remaining international districts were disbanded and renamed in 2005 at International Convention.


At the regional level, chapters are brought together on a regular basis for inter-chapter programming and regional programs. All regions have at least one weekend-long convention every year (with some offering as many as a half-dozen). Regions that do not contain councils elect a regional board on a yearly basis. The regional board helps to plan regional events, and supervise their counterparts on the chapter level. There are currently 43 regions in North American. Regions are supervised by professional staff in a regional office.


Larger regions are sometimes split into councils, which operate much the same as regions, with their own council-wide events and elected council boards. A region that has councils will typically have both council events and regional events (encompassing all of the region's councils) over the course of the year. Councils elect a council board on a year basis; these boards function in the same fashion as do regional boards. Councils are supervised by professional staff, which may be in a regional office or a separate council office depending on the size of the council and region.


Chapters are BBYO's most basic organizational level, functioning at a local level. There are currently over 600 chapters in operation (roughly 45% BBG, 40% AZA and 15% BBYO) across the world. These chapters contain about 18,000 registered members, and their programs reach over 40,000 teens every year.


International programs

BBYO's international office organizes an array of international programs every year. During the school year, the following programs are offered:
* International Execs (every August)
* International Convention (every February)
* March Of The Living (late April, bi-annual)

In addition, a variety of summer programs are offered, varying from leadership training to educational to community service. Some programs are open to non-members. Current program offerings include:
* Chapter Leadership Training Conference (CLTC), a 12-day leadership program
* International Leadership Training Conference (ILTC), a 2-week leadership program
* International Kallah, a 3-week intensive Judaic educational experience
* Passport 2 Israel, an inclusive array of various Israel programs and experiences
* Operation Shema, a 2-week urban renewal community service program
* Project NYC, a 10-day business leadership program which focuses on aspects of entrepreneurship in a constantly changing business world.

Local programs

Both AZA and BBG have a segmented programming model, with each proscribed programming area referred to as a "fold". For AZA, the five folds are social, athletic, community service/social action, Judaic and educational; for BBG, the six folds are sisterhood, creativity, recreation, Jewish heritage, community service, and social action. Programs can be any time, and can involve any number of chapters (including both AZA and BBG together).

Leadership model

The teen leaders elected to office by their peers at various organizational levels have their own set of office titles, derived from Hebrew. Elections are typically held on an annual or semi-annual basis. The titles are often similar for the equivalent AZA and BBG positions, varying slightly due to a word's gender.

Exact board positions elected can vary slightly between regions and chapters, with some chapters electing additional board positions, and some electing multiple members to a single position (to work together). Additionally, chairmanships may be appointed on an as-needed basis at every organizational level.

BBYO chapters typically contain the same positions as would an AZA or BBG chapters, with the exact position name corresponding to the gender of the person elected to the position. Some BBYO chapters may also elect both a male and female officer to certain board positions (e.g., electing both a "moreh" and a "aym ha-chaverot").

ee also

More in-depth histories of AZA and BBG are available, as each organization developed independently before being united by B'nai B'rith. In addition, each organization maintains its own customs, traditions, and songs. Likewise, customs, traditions and program vary greatly from region to region, and more information is available on each.

*Aleph Zadik Aleph for additional background and history on AZA, BBYO's fraternity for young men.
*B'nai B'rith Girls for additional background and history on BBG, BBYO's fraternity for young women.
*BBYO International Programs for more information on BBYO's various program offerings at the international level, both during the summer and the school year.
*B'nai B'rith for an overview of the organization that sponsored BBYO for over 75 years.

External links

* [http://www.bbyo.org/ BBYO's official website] containing information about the organization, its history and AZA and BBG member resources.
* [http://www.b-linked.org/ b-linked.org, BBYO's online social networking community] for Jewish teens, containing BBYO program listings, forums, personal blogs and scrapbooks, and volunteer opportunities.
* [http://www.bbyoalumni.org/ BBYO's official alumni page] , where the organization's alumni can connect with each other and receive information about upcoming alumni events.
* [http://www.biblio.com/details.php?dcx=59432310&aid=frg Dealing in Futures: The Story of a Jewish Youth Movement] , by Max Baer.

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