Events | Post-Its

How the Tucson J is Strengthening the Future of Jewish Communal Life through Teen Engagement

The BBYO International Convention’s Centennial Celebration held last month at the Rosen Shingle Creek Golf Resort in Orlando, Florida, epitomized the vibrancy and spirit of Jewish youth. Ten teens from the Kadimah BBG and Abba Gadol AZA BBYO Chapters housed here at the Tucson J proudly joined nearly 4,000 Jewish peers from across the globe to commemorate 100 years of BBYO’s influence, partake in elections, celebrate milestones, and stand united in celebration of Jewish identity.

The convention was an inspiring microcosm of Jewish teen life and a beacon of teen leadership and Jewish communal pride—a powerful moment during an era where many adults are grappling with what can at times seem like a fractured and less-engaged population of young Jewish people.

With speaker panels led by BBYO teen leaders showcasing the organization’s commitment to teen-driven leadership, a diverse array of experiences from intense sports tournaments to reflective visits to the Holocaust Museum, opportunities for attendees to venture into the wonders of Cape Canaveral together, and a Havdalah service where 4,000 voices joined in prayer, the conference catered to a wide spectrum of interests and fostered a deep sense of communal pride.

One of the highlights was the palpable joy of connection, both with old friends and new. Teens expressed their excitement at reuniting with friends from Camp Perlman and other BBYO summer programs, highlighting the deep bonds formed through these shared experiences. “Seeing friends from Camp Perlman here makes everything feel full circle,” one attendee remarked. “It’s like we’ve brought a piece of summer with us, strengthening our connections and creating new memories together.”

“The block party, the Havdalah service, the moments of joy, and reflection—everything was amplified by being here with friends from different chapters and camps,” another attendee noted. “It’s a powerful reminder of how interconnected we are and how BBYO brings us together, creating a global family,” remarked another attendee.

At home at the Tucson J, we are fostering the same kind of excitement and pride in Jewish identity through intentional programming that engages teens in deeper ways, connecting them not only to one another, but global Jewish peoplehood. In addition to weekly BBYO chapter meetings that occur on Monday evenings at the J, bringing around 20 teens together to socialize, bolster leadership skills, and get inspired to live proud, Jewish lives, Jewish teens in Tucson are getting involved in other ways!

Earlier in March, 13 teens concluded the five-week One2One: Teen Encounters program put on by ENTER, and in collaboration with the Weintraub Israel Center. The program served as a cross-cultural exchange, allowing American and Israeli high school students to connect for a series of curated, one-on-one video encounters designed to share experiences, offer mutual support in the aftermath of October 7, and learn about different parts of the Jewish world. The Israeli teens earned English language credits, while American teens were able to put their time toward community service hours—but the impact was far greater than any school credit earned: the teens ended the program with new perspectives, incredible friendships, and a heightened sense of the shared history and culture that unites the Jewish people.

Since the fall of 2022, BBYO teens have been meeting almost monthly with residents from Handmaker Jewish Services for the Aging for intergenerational programming made possible with grant funding through Better Together. Activities are often centered around holidays and are designed to foster relationships and share stories through the lens of Jewish identity. Two more meetings will take place before the teens break for summer.

With planning for the 2025 JCC Maccabi Games® hosted by the Tucson J in full swing, the J looks forward to sharing the passion of our Tucson teens with thousands of other teen athletes from around the country and across the globe. This year, the J is sending a delegation to the Detroit Games July 28-August 2 and bringing teen athletes with developmental and physical disabilities to Houston August 4-9 for the JCC Maccabi Access Games.

There is so much on the horizon for Jewish teens here in Tucson, and the future for all of us looks brighter if we continue to provide and support teens in having meaningful Jewish journeys. If you know a teen who would like to get involved with BBYO or Maccabi, reach out to Davis Hubbell, Director of Teen Engagement, here.