BBYO Convention in Singapore: Fostering Jewish Community Among Asian Teens

BBYO Convention in Singapore: Fostering Jewish Community Among Asian Teens

BBYO, a global Jewish youth movement, has seen a resurgence in Asia, decades after its initial presence in Shanghai during World War II. This revival was marked by a recent convention in Singapore, which brought together about 40 teens from various Asian cities. The event signified a significant step in reconnecting Jewish teens in a region where Jewish communities are often small and scattered.

Building Bridges Across Borders

Teens and leaders from Singapore, Taipei, Tokyo, Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong gathered for the four-day event. For many, this was a rare opportunity to interact with other Jewish youths, given the relatively small size of their home communities. The convention served as a platform for these teens to engage with their peers, learn, and embrace their Jewish identities.

Overcoming Isolation in Asia

The convention addressed the unique challenges faced by Jewish teens in Asia. Many of them are “third-culture kids,” growing up in cultures different from their parents’. This can lead to a sense of isolation, especially when they are the only Jews in their schools or communities. The BBYO convention offered them a chance to connect with others who share their heritage and experiences.

A New Experience for Jewish Youth

Participants like Emma Brownstein, a 13-year-old from Tokyo, expressed the value of this gathering. For teens like her, accustomed to being among a few Jewish individuals in their communities, the event was an eye-opening and invaluable experience. It provided a sense of belonging and community that they seldom experience in their daily lives.

Cultural Exploration and Community Building

The convention wasn’t just about meetings and workshops. It included exploring Singapore’s landmarks like Jewel Changi Airport and Gardens by the Bay. These activities, along with team-building exercises and discussions about Asian Jewish identities, helped strengthen the bonds among participants.

Empowering Future Leaders

A key focus of the convention was empowering these teens to lead and sustain Jewish life in their respective cities. Workshops on leadership and community understanding aimed to equip them with the skills to create engaging activities for their peers, ensuring the continuity of Jewish youth involvement in Asia.

Continuing a Legacy

The event is part of a long-term vision that dates back to 1941, when the first Aleph Zadik Aleph chapter was established in Shanghai. The recent resurgence of BBYO in Asia, with chapters in Shanghai, Singapore, and Tokyo, and anticipated ones in Hong Kong, Taipei, and Beijing, reflects a growing and more established Jewish presence in the region.

Anticipating a Bright Future

Rabbi Martha Bergadine from the United Jewish Congregation of Hong Kong highlighted the enthusiasm of the teens who attended. They returned home inspired and ready to plan their first activities, indicating a promising future for Jewish youth programs in Asia. This convention marks a significant milestone in the evolution of Jewish communities across the continent, promising richer programmatic offerings and stronger community ties going forward.


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