BBYO Parents

Don’t get me started….
Over the years I’ve seen all kinds of BBYO parents, from the very good to… oh well. A recent comment by Samantha, the advisor for Shore BBG, inspired me to visit this topic.
Like Samantha, I am astonished by the level of disengagement of many parents. Many really don’t seem to have a clue as to what their sons and daughters are doing or are going through. What’s funny is that this can express itself two different ways. Some parents see BBYO as a baby-sitting service. They pay little or no attention to events, and barely seem to care when their kid gets home. Other parents constantly complain about what’s going on to the advisor or staff – anything to avoid actually talking to their son or daughter! Amazing!
Curiously enough, the latter group is the easiest to deal with. When a parent comes to me with a chapter issue, the first thing I do is bring the appropriate chapter members into the conversation. It’s good practice for them to engage directly with parents – there is no better way for them to understand their responsibility to the parents and community. And it’s good for the parents in that it helps them see the chapter as youth led. I remember one time a parent came up to me at a PIT to complain about something he found in the chapter paper. I called over the Aleph Sopher responsible for the paper so they could discuss it. Turned out the Sopher was his own son! Now that’s engagement!
I could whine about awful parents all day. But I’d rather tell you about the good ones. Here are some observations I’ve made about parents.

Staff Run – Youth Led

One of the most interesting comments I read on Facebook recently was from an advisor in Washington D.C. who posted the following:

One thing to note however (and this is primarily to the CRW people) is that there are only a small number of regions that function like yours where the teens actually do have a large amount of latitude, EGR is one of them, and Mountain Region is another, however as you head east you will find a lot more staff control, and red tape so know that is not just the international staff you are having to deal with but much more conservative teens and parents as well.

This reminds me of a non-BBYO program I attended in Washington D.C. where I got to see first hand the culture clash between the West and East Coasts. As I recall, the arrival of the California group sent as many tremors through the conference as the earthquakes their state is so well known for. Their students were intelligent, engaged, and were outstanding students – but God help the staff person who didn’t treat them with the respect to which they had been accustomed. They did not well tolerate being treated in a condescending or controlling manner. I confess, even their staff did not quite fit in.
BBYO is said to be a staff run and youth lead organization. And frankly, to this day I’m not entirely sure what that means. I suspect it means different things to different regions. On one extreme, you probably have regions and chapters, where youth leadership is more form than substance – where members have titles and get to make small decisions, but their advisors and staff are “running” the show. On the other extreme, you have regions and chapters where the organization is effectively youth run and youth led – and the staff serves primarily as a safety net and a true advisory role.
Personally, I prefer the latter. As a new advisor I was taught that anything the youth can do, they should do. I was also taught that it was my job to allow them to make mistakes. Youth run and youth led was the ideal, and I think we’ve done well on that score.
I’m not suggesting that other regions should follow that trend. Frankly, I’m not sure how one would go about changing a chapter or region’s culture in that manner. But these cultural differences, more than anything else, demonstrate the need for caution in creating national policies – that they should not destroy a successful local culture.

The Other Side of Policy

I’ve been following the “Not On My Watch” Facebook forum, and came to realize that in all the arguments, there’s one aspect of the policy discussion that has not come up at all – and as a result certain assumptions are being accepted that may not be true. This is a side of policy that is not “supposed” to be raised with the members at all (advisors I’ve spoken to have been told not to bring it up). And it’s true, in an ideal world this issue should not be of concern to members. However, since it does impact members and chapters, it’s only fair that members be aware of it. And who better than a ghost to do so?
Many of the comments on the Facebook forum have been, how shall I put it, a bit “rebellious”. Members and alumni have talked about how we shouldn’t stress over bad policies because they can just be ignored or broken as they have in the past. And they are right – a lot of regions and chapters have played pretty fast and loose with policy for a very long time. But that does not mean this will continue. A recent post by a chapter S’gan hinted at this, as he described the difficulty he’s had getting people to sign up for a local convention because of the enforcement of driving policy and the requirement to register on B-Linked.
So today let me bring you to other side of policy – how it’s seen by advisors (and in many cases regional staff) – and why rules that were “breakable” in the past, may not be so flexible in the future.

The Flaws of International Board Elections

My current understanding of how the International Board is elected is as follows:  Candidates caucus at International Convention, and are given limited time to have a “Meet the Candidates” and give speeches and answer questions.  Regions are then allowed to vote.  Votes are allocated to regions based on their size, and ballots given to the regions.  The region then votes, choosing 5 delegates.  The 5 delegates are chosen with Regional Board going first, then Chapter Godols, then Regional Chairmen, then other attendees.  Yes ladies and gentlemen, 5 people from your region are allowed to vote on the candidates for I-Board, and those 5 candidates alone.  I will not even go into the philosophical argument of a Trustee voter vs. a Delegate voter, for you do not even need to think that hard to begin realizing the flaws of this system.

Not on my watch

With IC coming up, I suppose it’s not surprising that BBYO members and alumni are again turning their attention to the mysterious evolution of BBYO policy and the role of youth leadership (or lack thereof) in discussing it ahead of implementation.
What is surprising is where the discussion has moved to – it seems to have made its way to Facebook where a remarkable 80+ members from across the country have joined in a single day.

Funny Policy Proposals

Sometimes lawmakers, in their focus to solve a problem, end up writing laws that to outsiders seem ridiculous – laws that quickly end up as fodder for comedy central. While we can’t predict whether any of the forthcoming BBYO policies will be entertaining in that way, we can certainly speculate.
For example, imagine if we had access to the super top-secret proposed policy draft – the one presented at Staff conference. You know, the one that every staff member was sworn on a pile of blue books not to reveal to mere members or advisors on pain of torture. If we had a copy, we might find a number of humorous proposals…


18,000 – That’s this year’s membership target for BBYO. May not sound like much until you consider the Jewish teen population in the U.S. is estimated at between 200 and 250 thousand. Reaching 7% of that number would certainly be an impressive accomplishment. But is it enough?
Or specifically – is it enough to satisfy the community leaders, foundations and donors who provide BBYO with its financial support? Certainly not.
You all know that even with the increase in membership fees, BBYO comes nowhere close to being supported by those fees, right? So BBYO must satisfy those donors.
That means an increase in membership is necessary.
How can this be accomplished?

How Big is Too Big?

With the increased focus on engagement, recruitment and numbers, it makes sense to consider for a moment what is the best size for a chapter. Not that there is any one right answer. Rather, it’s important to consider the tradeoffs of various chapter sizes. To understand these tradeoffs, let’s consider two chapters, one with about 20 members, another with about 50.

A Christmas Zamir

Jewish ghosts get no respect. Not like the Ghosts of Christmas past present and future – they do great business this time of year. We maybe catch a movie and eat Chinese.
Though for us this week is little more than a break from work or school, it’s nice to slow down and reflect – especially if you’re one of the many who doesn’t really observe Shabbat. So I took a moment and looked up some fellow ghosts, and given they had little else to do, they were glad to forward some messages:


Have you ever seen this happen? A member spends a lot of time planning an event, and then is disappointed because of poor turnout. There are two main reasons why turnout to an event might be poor. It might be bad timing – a holiday during which many members are out of town, or an evening where a major community event (like a prom) is going on. It might also be bad promotion – an event planner can do a great deal to promote strong attendance at an event by talking about it beforehand and even calling people to ask them to attend.