In 2002 the movement split from B'nai B'rith International, which had been its parent organization, to become BBYO, Inc.
BBYO's mission is, "More Jewish Teens, More Meaningful Jewish Experiences." The organization emphasizes its youth leadership model, in which teen leaders are elected by their peers on a local, regional and international level, and are given the opportunity to make their own programmatic decisions. Membership to BBYO is open to any high school or 8th grade student who identifies as a Jew. Many local programs also may have programs for teens in grades 6th-8th, called BBYO Connect.
BBYO is organized into local fraternity- and sorority-like chapters. Male chapters are known as AZA chapters and their members are known as Alephs, and female chapters as BBG chapters, their members known as BBGs. AZA and BBG were independent organizations (beginning in 1924 and 1944 respectively) before becoming brother and sister organizations under B'nai B'rith. In some communities, there are co-ed BBYO chapters which borrow traditions from both organizations.
Early days of AZA
AZA's original advisor, Nathan Mnookin, soon left Omaha for his hometown of Kansas City, where he started a similar group with the same name. The Omaha group selected a new advisor, Sam Beber, who soon laid out his plans for an international youth movement based on the local AZA model. In 1924, the Aleph Zadik Aleph for Young Men, now an international Jewish fraternity, was formed according to Beber's plan, with the Omaha and Kansas City chapters receiving the first two charters. Four chapters were in attendance at the first convention in June 1924, and ten at the second convention the following summer.
By 1925, AZA had expanded east with dozens of chapters across the country. At Beber's urging, B'nai B'rith took up the issue of officially adopting AZA as its junior auxiliary at their national convention in 1925. Supported by Henry Monsky, who himself was vying for the B'nai B'rith presidency, the convention adopted a committee report affirming its approval of the organization under B'nai B'rith's jurisdiction. Immediately following the convention, B'nai B'rith Executive Committee met and officially adopted AZA, which then became known as the Aleph Zadik Aleph of B'nai B'rith.
In 1944, after a few past failed attempts to begin a Jewish youth group for young women, B'nai B'rith Girls (BBG) became officially recognized and adopted by B'nai B'rith. Anita Perlman is credited with the development of BBG as Sam Beber is credited with the AZA. For the first time, AZA and BBG were united under a single organization, officially cementing their relationship and brother and sister organizations. Combined, the two youth movements were called the B'nai B'rith Youth Organization, and BBYO was born.
From past to present
Although the organization has changed greatly behind-the-scenes over the years, its original tenets still remain true: dedication to Jewish life, a pluralistic approach, commitment to community service and social action, and a youth leadership model. BBYO continues to be open to all teenagers that identify themselves as Jews, without exception. Members participate in meeting rituals and sing pep songs that date back to the organization's earliest days. The organization continues to maintain and contribute to its International Service Fund, initiated at the very first international convention. Although the number of professional staff has risen dramatically, BBYO continues to maintain democratic youth leadership at every level.
Just as the organization changed greatly in its first few years, starting as a local youth group to being adopted as the official youth auxiliary of the world's largest Jewish organization, it likewise has undergone drastic changes in recent years. After more than 75 years of a general prosperity, B'nai B'rith began a massive restructuring at the turn of the 21st century in response to the changing face of North American Jewry. As a result, what was then the B'nai B'rith Youth Organization split from B'nai B'rith in 2002 and was re-formed as BBYO, Inc., an independent non-profit organization. The new organization received substantial funding from the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation and was chaired by Lynn Schusterman.
Traditionally, BBYO was a conglomeration of many largely independent regions. This was the result of the modification of B'nai B'rith's long-standing "district" model. As new forms of communication have brought the members and staff of BBYO in closer contact, and as the differences between geographic regions continue to deteriorate, BBYO has become much more of a top-down organization, with standardized marketing materials and directives. BBYO has reached into the online market with its b-linked.org website, into the middle school market with its BBYO Connect programs, and into the adult market with its Friends & Alumni Network.
BBYO has always been the world's leading pluralistic Jewish youth movement. As the first and the most dynamically inclusive organization of its kind, every Jewish teen, of all backgrounds, anywhere in the world, will find an experience that provides the foundation for a meaningful Jewish life.
BBYO operates at four different levels, each one of which has its own elected teen leaders: international, regional, council and chapter. Depending on the size of and geography of a particular region, it may or may not contain the council level. (Typically, regions that are large in population or spread out geographically are likely to contain councils.) All members are assigned to a chapter, which is part of a region (and sometimes a council). The combined regions make up the international movement.
On the international level, BBYO organizes large-scale programs and offerings for its members, both during the school year and the summer. These programs bring together members from all over North America, and all over the world. Despite the fact that BBYO focuses mostly on activities taking place or originating in North America, the organization nonetheless maintains a presence on five other continents as well. Some of these are affiliate chapters that ascribe to the traditions of BBYO but are not technically under the control of the international office. BBYO programs are known to be active in Israel, UK & Ireland, France, Thailand, Bulgaria, Curaçao, South Africa, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and most recently Turkey, Slovakia, Hungary, Serbia, and Argentina due to the new BBYO-JDC partnership.
Districts were a now-defunct organizational unit, that were mostly replaced by regions in the 1980s. The last remaining international districts were disbanded and renamed in 2005 at International Convention.
At the regional level, chapters are brought together on a regular basis for inter-chapter programming and regional programs. All regions have at least one weekend-long convention every year (with some offering as many as a half-dozen). Regions that do not contain councils elect a regional board on a yearly basis. The regional board helps to plan regional events, and supervise their counterparts on the chapter level. There are currently 43 regions in North America. Regions are supervised by professional staff in a regional office.
Larger regions are sometimes split into councils, which operate much the same as regions, with their own council-wide events and elected council boards. A region that has councils will typically have both council events and regional events (encompassing all of the region's councils) over the course of the year. Councils elect a council board on a year basis; these boards function in the same fashion as do regional boards. Councils are supervised by professional staff, which may be in a regional office or a separate council office depending on the size of the council and region.
List of BBYO Regions/Councils
|Name of Region/Council||Area Covered|
|Big Apple Region #12||New York City (Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island, Bronx)|
|Central Region West #45||Northern California and Hawaii (San Francisco Bay Area)|
|Connecticut Valley Region #17||Connecticut and Western Massachusetts|
|Cotton States Region #72||Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Arkansas (Memphis, Nashville, Knoxville, Birmingham, Huntsville, and New Orleans)|
|Eastern Region: North Carolina Council||North Carolina and Roanoke, Virginia|
|Eastern Region: Virginia Council||Richmond, Williamsburg, Virginia Beach, and Tidewater, Virginia|
|Eastern Canada Region||Montreal and Ottawa|
|Evergreen Region #46||Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Alaska, and British Columbia|
|Gold Coast Region #51||Palm Beach and Broward Counties, Florida|
|Great Midwest Region #61||Flossmoor, Chicago, Skokie, Evanston, Glencoe, Highland Park, Buffalo Grove, Long Grove, Northbrook|
|Greater Jersey Hudson River Region #22: Central Council||Central New Jersey|
|Greater Jersey Hudson River Region #22: Northern Council||Northern New Jersey and Albany, NY|
|Kentucky Indiana Ohio Region #27||Kentucky, Indiana, and Southern Ohio (Columbus, Cincinnati, Dayton, Louisville, Lexington, and Indianapolis)|
|Keystone Mountain Region #33||Western Pennsylvania and West Virginia (Pittsburgh Metro and Charleston)|
|Lake Ontario Region #36||Toronto, Vaughan and Richmond Hill|
|Liberty Region #13||Eastern Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Elmira and Binghamton, NY|
|Lonestar Region #73||Southern Texas (Houston, San Antonio, and Austin)|
|Manhattan Region||New York City (Manhattan)|
|Miami Region #53||Miami-Dade County, FL|
|Michigan Region #1701||Detroit, Ann Arbor, and Windsor, ON|
|Mid-America Region: Omaha Council||Omaha, Nebraska and Sioux City, Iowa|
|Mid-America Region: Kansas City Council||Greater Kansas City and Wichita|
|Mid-America Region: St. Louis Council||Greater St. Louis|
|Mid-America Region: North Star||Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota (Minneapolis Metro)|
|Mountain Region #47||Arizona, Nevada, and Utah (Phoenix Metro, Tucson, Las Vegas, Henderson and Salt Lake City)|
|Nassau-Suffolk Region #19||Long Island, NY|
|New England Region #18||Eastern Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Maine|
|North Florida Region #52||Northern and Southwestern Florida (Orlando, South Orlando, Sarasota, Tampa, Oviedo, and Naples)|
|North Texas Oklahoma Region #74||Northern Texas and Oklahoma (Dallas Metro, Fort Worth, and Tulsa)|
|Northern Region East: Baltimore Council #59||Baltimore and Howard Counties, MD|
|Northern Region East: DC Council #54||Washington, DC, Howard County, MD, and Montgomery County, MD|
|Northern Region East: NoVa Council #50||Northern Virginia|
|Northwest Canada Region #87||Alberta and Saskatchewan (Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatoon, and Regina)|
|Ohio Northern Region #23||Northern Ohio (Greater Cleveland, Akron, Toledo, Youngstown, and Canton)|
|Pacific Western Region #44||Los Angeles, Ventura, Orange County, San Diego|
|Red River Region||Greater Winnipeg|
|Rocky Mountain Region #25||Colorado and New Mexico (Denver, Colorado Springs, Boulder, and Albuquerque)|
|South Jersey Region #35||Southern New Jersey (Cherry Hill, Voorhees, Washington Township, and Princeton)|
|Southern Region: Atlanta Council #55||Greater Atlanta|
|Southern Region: Dixie Council||Georgia (Savannah, Augusta) and South Carolina (Columbia, Charleston)|
|Westchester Region||Westchester County, NY|
|Wisconsin Region #64||Greater Milwaukee and Madison|
Chapters are BBYO's most basic organizational level, functioning at a local level. There are currently over 600 chapters in operation (roughly 45% B'nai B'rith Girls, 40% Aleph Zadik Aleph and 15% BBYO) across the world. These chapters contain about 48,000 registered members, and their programs reach over 40,000 teens every year.
Chapters regularly engage in self-created programing. Programs are incredibly important and build the relationships among members of a chapter. There are many different programs, and a large bank of ideas can be found at BBYO Program Bank
BBYO each year offers programs in which all regions and councils in the international order come together and gather for various purposes. Through the duration of the school year there are three main programs a member could attend.
A three-day convention in August which the top leaders of the regions: the two presidents and the International Boards, and all regional and council presidents, gather to discuss the goals and objectives of the upcoming programming year.
These leaders meet again in February before the International Convention with the addition of the International Chair Network and discuss how the first half of the year has gone and how to improve off it. They also do some final planning for the 5 days ahead of them.
International convention is a five-day convention in which is open to all members of BBYO. It serves as a weekend to reconnect with those whom you’ve met over the summer, international execs for a second time, business meetings, elections of the new international board for the next programming year and the state of the order of the International Presidents of the girls and the boys.
March of the Living
This is a trace through the remembrance of the Holocaust. One week of the trip is spent in Poland and the other week in Israel. While in Poland the participants connect to their connection to Judaism. The participants then spend one week in Israel celebrating its independence day. The March of the Living is not a BBYO sponsored program, but does send its own delegation on the trip annually.
BBYO offers a variety of different Summer programs dealing with leadership, Judaism, community service, the business world, and international travels to many different countries. The core of these programs have, for many years, taken place at B'nai B'rith Perlman Camp. These programs include:
Chapter Leadership Training Conference (CLTC)
This program is a twelve-day program in which incoming sophomores, juniors, and seniors in high school attend to learn about the essentials of leading a chapter. There are eight sessions held during the summer, five of which are held at the Beber Camp in Wisconsin (CLTC 1,3,5,7,8), and the other three at Bethany College in West Virginia (CLTC 2,4,6).
International Leadership Training Conference (ILTC)
This program is a nineteen day leadership program in which those on regional board learn how to expand what they knew about how to lead a chapter but now how to lead a region. It is part of the Perlman summer.
This program allows those seeking to find their Jewish identity to do so. It is 19 days of forming your own Jewish Self. It constitutes as half of the Perlman summer along with ILTC.
International Leadership Seminar in Israel (ILSI)
This program is twenty one-day elite leadership program in Israel that combines educational touring, leadership training, interactive seminars and meaningful community service. ILSI allows Jewish teens to gain an appreciation for the complexity of modern Israel and an enduring connection to the Jewish State and the Jewish People worldwide.
A program offering trips to all 5 continents that BBYO maintains a presence on. These trips include tourism, community service, social education, leadership, and Judaic experiences. One of the activities is tour of Israel. The teens are esorting by local team leader and have a basic introduction to Israel's geography, history, and culture.
BBYO on Campus
BBYO Michigan Business and Entrepreneurship Institute BBYO UT Austin Sports Management Institute BBYO UCLA Leadership and Entertainment Institute
Impact is two weeks of community service in a chosen location to better make one city at a time. Each program focuses on a different aspect of community service.
BBYO Michigan Business and Entrepreneurship Institute
A two-week course highlighting Jewish business leadership along with teaching teens marketing, finance, and product development.
Both AZA and BBG have a segmented programming model, with each proscribed programming area referred to as a "fold". For AZA, the five folds are social, athletic, community service/social action, Judaic and educational; for BBG, the six folds are sisterhood, creativity, recreation, Jewish heritage, community service, and social action. Some chapters also have adopted the unofficial seventh fold of Mind, Body, Attitude (MBA). It aims to create a better self-image, and better self-esteem. Programs can be any time, and can involve any number of chapters (including both AZA and BBG together).
The teen leaders elected to office by their peers at various organizational levels have their own set of office titles, derived from Hebrew. Elections are typically held on an annual or semi-annual basis. The titles are often similar for the equivalent AZA and BBG positions, varying slightly due to a word's gender.
|Programming Vice President||S'gan||S'ganit|
|Membership Vice President||Moreh||Aym Ha-Chaverot/MIT Mom/Morah|
|Judaic and Social Service Vice President||Shaliach||Sh'licha|
|BBYO Connect Recruitment||M'kesher||M'kesheret|
Exact board positions elected can vary slightly between regions and chapters, with some chapters electing additional board positions, and some electing multiple members to a single position (e.g. electing two Aym Ha-Chaverot to expand recruitment). It is also possible for chapters to elect one member to two positions (e.g. electing the same person to serve as Mazkirah and Gizborit). Additionally, chairmanships may be appointed on an as-needed basis at every organizational level.
BBYO chapters typically contain the same positions as would an AZA or BBG chapters, with the exact position name corresponding to the gender of the person elected to the position. Some BBYO chapters may also elect both a male and female officer to certain board positions (e.g., electing both a moreh and a aym ha-chaverot).
However, within BBYO in the UK and Ireland, the leadership positions work differently. Each chapter has an exec of about six people, who are voted on by all the members of that chapter. The positions are (in order):President, Vice-President, Administrator (sometimes split into Secretary and Treasurer), Programmer, Judaism and Zionism Awareness Officer (Referred to as JZA) and Welfare. Each of these positions has a specific role, but work together as a team to run the weekly meetings. On a larger scale, there is a National Executive, consisting of the positions listed above.
The BBYO in Curaçao also has its own way of composing a board. Elections are held annually (usually in August), where each member attending that day votes. The board consist of 5 members. The positions are: President, Vice-President, Treasurer, Secretary and Past-President (the President chosen at the previous elections). One more position that is also voted on, is the one of PR (Public Relations). This position is filled by two members, each representing one of the congregations respectively. The PRs are not part of the board.
Notable BBYO alumni
- Ed Asner
- David Michael Barrett
- Carl Bernstein
- Mark Cuban
- Michael Dell
- Russ Feingold
- Michael Froman
- Ezra Furman
- Ginnifer Goodwin
- Matt Groening
- Tomer Kagan
- Philip Klutznick
- Adam Levine
- Maureen Lipman
- Leonard Nimoy
- Tracy-Ann Oberman
- Kevin Pollak
- Sheryl Sandberg
- Adam Sandler
- Florence Shapiro
- Grant Shapps
- William Shatner
- Alicia Silverstone
- Ben Stein
- Scott Sternberg
- Lucy Tammam
- Henry Winkler
- Jonathan Wolff
- Joshua Harendorf
More in-depth histories of AZA and BBG are available, as each organization developed independently before being united by B'nai B'rith. In addition, each organization maintains its own customs, traditions, and songs. Likewise, customs, traditions and program vary greatly from region to region, and more information is available on each.
- Aleph Zadik Aleph for additional background and history on AZA, BBYO's fraternity for young men.
- B'nai B'rith Girls for additional background and history on BBG, BBYO's sorority for young women.
- BBYO International Programs for more information on BBYO's various program offerings at the international level, both during the summer and the school year.
- B'nai B'rith for an overview of the organization that sponsored BBYO for over 75 years.
- UK and Ireland BBYO for information on UK & Ireland BBYO
- "Our Mission, Vision and Core Values". BBYO. Retrieved 2015-09-01.
- BBYO's official website containing information about the organization, its history and AZA and BBG member resources.
- b-linked.org, BBYO's online social networking community for Jewish teens, containing BBYO program listings, forums, personal blogs and scrapbooks, and volunteer opportunities.
- BBYO's official alumni page, where the organization's alumni can connect with each other and receive information about upcoming alumni events.
- Dealing in Futures: The Story of a Jewish Youth Movement, by Max Baer.
- Voices of Oklahoma interview with Lynn Schusterman. First person interview conducted on September 14, 2010 with Lynn Schusterman. Original audio and transcript archived with Voices of Oklahoma oral history project.
- Exodus AZA chapter website Includes a section on the history of BBYO along with other chapter resources.