It seems fitting that my first post set the ground rules – cardinal principles if you will. Principles are important because they give us the criteria on which to judge the wisdom of our choices and views. They allow us to frame our questions.
When you ask someone why they are involved in BBYO, you’ll hear many different answers. A teen will often refer to fun, friendship and leadership opportunities. An advisor will often refer to “giving back” to the organization (those who were once members), or to making a contribution to the community.
These are good reasons. They may even be the most important reasons for being involved, and nothing that follows is intended to suggest otherwise.
But they are not sufficient reasons.
Ours is a greater purpose.
Our goal is to help ensure the survival of the Jewish people.
Fun, friendship, leadership, giving back are all fine goals, but they alone do not justify the dedication and effort (and donations) of the community at large. But BBYO has a proven record of helping Jewish survival, and that DOES justify the costs.
How BBYO does this is (or should be) well known – though I may write more on this later.
- By getting teens involved in a Jewish community, it promotes a strong Jewish identity and increases the chance that they will remain involved in Jewish communities later, increases the chances they will marry other Jews and raise their children as Jews.
- By teaching leadership skills, BBYO alumni often become leaders and advocates of Israel and Jewish causes as adults, whether it is leadership on campus or in Congress.
In a world of increasing assimilation, conflict and anti-Semitism, BBYO alumni are often on the front lines, using the skills they formed in high school to advance their cause.
Ensuring the future of the Jewish people is important – and a principle that I hope members, advisors and staff can all agree to without reservation. I propose that it is a principle on which every aspect of BBYO should be measured. It is not the only principle to consider, nor is it essential that it be considered for every decision – I would hardly expect a chapter to worry about it when deciding what movie to go to at an event. But I would expect a chapter to consider it when planning their programming for a term. I would expect an advisor to consider it when working with the chapter to establish goals. I would expect staff to consider it when setting policy. I would expect everyone involved in BBYO to consider it when making any major decision – and a choice that is determined to be harmful to this goal should be avoided regardless of how attractive it might be for other reasons.
This purpose – to ensure the survival of the Jewish people, is why BBYO exists. It is the equal of other core values and principles that are based on fundamental Jewish values. Let us always strive to make our choices and actions follow these principles, for only thus will we achieve our shared goals.