BBYO International Convention
Over Presidents Day weekend, more than 2,200 Jewish teens from across the globe gathered in Atlanta for the largest BBYO International Convention ever. Lola Maas, a freshman at Tucson High Magnet School and member of Kadimah BBG, and Lindsay Migdal, Tucson BBYO city director, participated in what Migdal called “this life-changing experience.” The convention’s 2015 theme was “Stronger Together,” demonstrated by the leaders of the five major Jewish youth groups (NFTY, USY, BBYO, NCSY and Young Judea) coming together to strategize ways to build a stronger, united Jewish community. An array of speakers inspired the teens to stand up for Israel, become leaders, and search for their own Jewish identity. Shimon Peres, former president of the State of Israel, sent a special video message about the importance of being an ally for Israel. Other speakers included actresses Kat Graham of “The Vampire Diaries” and Emmanuelle Chriqui of “Entourage”; Lynn Schusterman of the Schusterman Foundation; Michael Steinhardt, Taglit-Birthright Israel co-founder; and Eric Fingerhut, Hillel International president. The convention also hosted celebrity performers Hoodie Allen (aka Steven Markowitz), Kap Slap, Aer and Flo Rida.
The BBYO teens volunteered at the Atlanta Food Bank, participated in an interfaith service at the Ebenezer Baptist Church, visited Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthplace, heard stories of survival from Holocaust and Rwandan genocide survivors, toured the Coca Cola factory, and learned about marketing and communication at CNN headquarters.
Lola’s favorite programs included the feminism panel comprising prominent women in business, and Kat Graham’s talk. The convention brought home to her just how large the BBYO organization is. “It was really cool to be surrounded by all of these teens who are Jewish,” she said. “I loved the programs offered, having something for everyone.”
My husband, Fred, and I recently returned from a cruise in Southeast Asia. Embarking in Singapore, we made a point of visiting four former Tucson Hebrew Academy staff now at the Sir Manasseh Meyer International School there. Daniel Kahn, Ph.D., head of school; Arthur Yavelberg, dean of students; and teachers Daniel Kahn and Melissa Winkle are members of the international faculty, who, along with the students, represent a microcosm of the international Singapore society. We left Tucson at the beginning of Rodeo Week and entering the school building in Singapore, felt right at home when we spotted a flyer
with a picture of a cowboy riding a bucking bronco announcing the “Wild, Wild West Purim Carnival” to take place that Sunday. This Modern Orthodox Jewish day school serves Tiny Tots (18 months) through seventh grade, with an eighth grade planned for next school year. The program includes an integrated general studies and Judaics curriculum serving children of all races, nationalities and religions. “Mr. Arthur,” as he is called, gave us a tour of the facility, which houses a kosher kitchen, computer lab, science lab and auditorium, similar to THA. The day school will be moving to its expanded new state-of-the-art campus in 2016.
Some background: Manasseh Meyer (1846-1930), for whom the school is named, was a prominent Singaporean entrepreneur and benefactor. He was responsible for setting up Singapore’s two synagogues — Chesed-El and Maghain Aboth. Besides being a major donor locally, in 1922, Meyer was visited by Albert Einstein who sought his support for the building of Hebrew University in Jerusalem. The elder Kahn showed us a photo of, amongst others, Meyer, Einstein and their wives. Meyer donated 500 British pounds sterling (the equivalent of $287,000 today) to establish Hebrew University.
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“A tree may be alone in the field, a man alone in the world but a Jew is never alone on his holy days.” This inscription hangs on the wall in the Musmeah Yeshua Synagogue in Yangon, Myanmar (Burma). Moses Samuels, whose grandfather was one of the founders of the synagogue built in 1893, is the synagogue keeper. The Myanmar Jewish community today numbers 20 (it was 3,000 before World War II). They hold Friday night and holiday services and get along with all other communities (Muslim, Christian, Bahaii, Hindu and Buddhist). Israel and Burma both gained their independence in 1948 and have very good relations. In fact, Burmese Prime Minister U Nu was the world’s first prime minister to visit Israel on a state visit. Moses’ son Sammy Samuels operates Myanmar Shalom Travels and Tours,which promotes excursions to the country, including a Jewish Heritage Tour. As Sammy says, we need “to keep the Jewish spirit alive in Burma.”
Time to share
Keep me posted and Happy Pesach — 319-1112. L’shalom.