Collier County BBYO Update - August 15, 2012
By Marc Saperstein, Collier County BBYO Friends and Alumni Network Committee Coordinator
After a very successful informational meeting in late May that attracted more than 100 parents, teens, tweens and alumni, BBYO is off and running in Collier County. BBYO in Naples is open to all Jewish teens and is unaffiliated with any specific congregation.
Given the community’s strong level of support, the Collier County Youth Group Exploratory Committee, which has been leading this effort, has been renamed the Collier County BBYO Friends and Alumni Network (FAN) Committee. The Committee includes David Willens (Jewish Federation of Collier County), Rabbi Adam Miller (Temple Shalom), Rabbi Fishel Zaklos (Chabad of Naples), Rabbi Ammos Chorny (Beth Tikvah), Rabbi Sylvin Wolf (BBYO alumna), Stuart Kaye (interested parent), Bobbie Katz (BBYO almuna), Caren Plotkin (BBYO alumna), Marc Saperstein (BBYO International Board Member) and Gary Levin (BBYO Director of Field Operations Southeast).
This FAN Committee will provide the strategic leadership for fundraising, parent support, and alumni outreach efforts. This September, the committee will begin looking for volunteers interested in getting involved in one or more of these three areas to help assure BBYO’s long-term success in Naples.
Our local BBYO activities will fall under BBYO’s North Florida Region, which already has over 200 AZA and BBG members throughout Sarasota, Tampa and Orlando. BBYO has increased its reach dramatically over the past five years from 25,000 involved teens to more than 37,000 in North America today. In Florida, BBYO has close to 1,000 AZA and BBG members and over 2,000 Jewish teens involved.
BBYO’s vision is to be one of the world’s leading Jewish movements, convening and connecting teens of all backgrounds who will be inspired to live Jewish lives while making a difference in the world.
“This partnership between the Jewish Federation of Collier County and three of our community synagogues is a wonderful example of cooperation that is a model for other smaller Jewish communities in the U.S.,” commented Matthew Grossman, BBYO’s Executive Director.
“There are already 28 teens who have signed up for BBYO membership in Naples, and many more who have expressed interest. The AZA (boys) and BBG (girls) chapters will be planning events starting this fall and throughout the school year,” reported North Florida Region Program Associate Leah Wapnitsky.
Along with AZA and BBG for teenagers, BBYO will also be starting a BBYO Connect program for middle school tweens (grades 6-8). BBYO Connect is a transition program to attract and engage tweens in the years just prior to their Bar or Bat Mitzvah in social and community service efforts as an entry point to joining the BBYO teen programs.
In addition, four local teens, Hannah Daugherty, Ben Kaye, Ben Klausner and Zoe van Slyke, chose to go to BBYO’s Chapter Leadership Training Conference (CLTC) over the summer. CLTC is a two-week program which helps prepare Jewish teens to effectively lead its AZA and BBG teen chapters. BBYO International and the Jewish Federation of Collier County provided scholarship funds to those teens attending CLTC this year in an effort to help the new chapters get off to a strong start.
Hannah called CLTC “the best 12 days of my life. It made me feel more connected to my Judaism and helped me to find where I stand in my faith.” Zoe reported that “the brotherhood and sisterhood at CLTC was just amazing. I went there not knowing anything about BBYO, and left knowing what the B’nai Brith girls are all about!” Ben Klausner said, “I liked the feeling of fraternity. I’ve never felt that before. I want to bring the brotherhood back to Naples AZA. I made my best friends at CLTC and I am more connected to my Judaism. It was nice to make connections with other Jewish teens.” And Ben Kaye said, “Although I was hesitant to go to CLTC, I was enjoying every moment by the second or third day. The conference was a success in developing my leadership skills as well as sharing the nuts and bolts which will be helpful in growing our new BBYO chapter here in Naples. I look forward to doing my part in Naples and in the Jewish community.”
Other recent activities include:
• A pool party was held in mid-June, attracting more than 25 local Jewish teens and several leaders of the BBYO North Florida Region Board. The North Florida Region teen leaders came to Naples to introduce themselves and welcome those local teens interested in joining BBYO.
• A Collier County BBYO Facebook group was set up by one of the local teens to allow the new teen members to communicate with each other online. At last count there were more than 35 teens participating in this online community.
Finally, BBYO has posted an open position on numerous Jewish job-posting sites for a part-time Program Associate (15 hours per week) who would be headquartered in Collier County. This individual will be responsible for supporting the AZA and BBG chapters, leading a BBYO Connect program for Jewish tweens (grades 6-8), and working on North Florida Region events. In addition, Collier County BBYO will be looking for two to four chapter advisors to work with the teens who will be leading the AZA and BBG chapters.
Anyone interested in the part-time Naples Program Associate position should contact Gary Levin at email@example.com. If you are interested in being a volunteer chapter advisor, please contact Leah Wapnitsky, BBYO Program Associate for North Florida Region, at 407.765.9234 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.