Ideas have great power. After all, what binds BBYO together more than money and organization are the common ideas and values we share. When you come right down to it, this entire site has been about ideas, because shared vision and ideas have much greater power to build BBYO than rules, policies and even money. And if I’ve sometimes been critical, I’ve strived to be critical of certain ideas and approaches rather than individuals.But as important as criticism is, it is equally important (if not more so) to acknowledge good ideas. And if they happen to come from the executive director of the organization, so much the better.I recently ran into an article published in the April issue of the New York Jewish Weekly by Matt Grossman, BBYO’s Executive Director. I encourage you all to read it at The Jewish Week
In this article, Mr. Grossman addresses an interesting question: Does the existence of the Birthright program (that offers a free trip to Israel for young adults) harm high school Israel programs (attendance of which typically disqualifies a teen from taking the free trip later)? The answer is clearly yes, but the response of BBYO is that this is alright. The competition has driven BBYO to not only create newer innovative Israel and international travel programs but truly unique domestic programs such as Project NYC.
This lesson applies to chapters as well. I’ve know chapters that have whined about competition by USY or FTY programs, or the lack of support by local synagogues who place their resources at the disposal of their own youth groups. But great chapters aren’t afraid of the competition – the leadership, fraternity and sisterhood they offer allows them to succeed despite the competition. And really great chapters understand what Mr. Grossman states so eloquently in his article – that there is room – no, there is need, in the Jewish community for every and any group or organization that reaches out to Jewish youth. Whether it is Birthright, USY, or a temple youth group, what matters most is that every Jewish teen has a place to go and a community to belong to. And if a USY member tries to join your chapter, welcome them – they may later bring their friends. And if a BBYO member goes to a USY event, that’s ok too – they may make new friends there and bring them over as well.
No organization can be everything to everyone all the time. So it is important that everyone remember that ultimately we are on the same team, and that the competition between groups and programs serve to help every group grow stronger.