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B’nai B’rith Youth Organization’s mission is to offer the Jewish community and Jewish youth meaningful, cost-effective and enjoyable activities that inspire connection to each other and their heritage.
B’nai B’rith Youth Organization (BBYO) was officially founded in 1944. The organization has its origins in the Aleph Zadik Aleph (AZA) youth program established in the early 1920s. In 1925 AZA was adopted by B’nai B’rith International as its youth organization. Due to the displacement caused by World War Two, the minimum age of membership was lowered and several boy’s and girls’ organizations were formed. These groupings led to the formation of the BBYO in 1944.
The first BBYO camp was opened in Starlight, Pennsylvania in 1954. This camp became home to AZA International’s office and a range of BBYO summer programming. In the 1960s Noar L’Noar became BBYO’s first partner in Israel. In the 1980s BBYO’s international presence increased, with chapters being established in Spain, France, Holland, Austria, Germany, and Belgium. In the late 1990s, BBYO established a study centre in Israel dedicated to developing leadership skills. BBYO’s initiatives such as an annual basketball tournament also gained prominence.
BBYO’s business functions parted ways from the non-profit function in 2002, leading to the formation of BBYO Inc. The new corporation’s governance board was composed on philanthropists from the community, alumni of BBYO programs, and the Jewish Federation. The re-composed organization continues to maintain popular offerings such as the International Service Fund, which was established at the first BBYO convention.
Following the split between BBYO Inc. and BBYO’s non-profit side, the organization underwent some major restructuring in the early 2000s. Originally founded on a de-centralized “district” model, BBYO began to harmonize its messaging, programming and branding across chapters worldwide. Educational institutes such as the leadership institute in Israel, the travel program for teens and the Panin Institute - which organizes service learning opportunities – received a financial boost from donors.
In 2004, the organization’s Annual Convention left its original location in Pennsylvania and has been held in a different location each year. BBYO continues to expand its programming on a yearly basis. Its original mission, to provide a meaningful experience to Jewish youth and to enhance Jewish life, remains intact.
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