BBYO, World Jewish Congress expand partnership to help Jewish high schoolers get ‘a seat at the table’

The Jewish Youth Assembly is meant to provide teens with the knowledge and skills they need to become world leaders

The BBYO teen movement and the World Jewish Congress have launched an expanded partnership to prepare Jewish high schoolers from across the globe for university life and give them “a seat at the table” in the wider world, the organizations announced earlier this month. 

The Jewish Youth Assembly (JYA), a WJC NextGen initiative, has run virtually for three years, connecting teens from BBYO and Jewish communities in more than 100 countries. At BBYO’s Centennial International Convention, which was held in Orlando, Fla., earlier this month, the organizations announced a significant expansion of the JYA program, with an inaugural in-person experience, in which 63 students from 40 countries took part.  

The participants delved “into the diverse tapestry of Jewish communities around the world as well as engage in meaningful discussions on the most pressing issues confronting Jewish people today, including the surge in global antisemitism, support for Israel, and the legacy of the Holocaust,” the organizations said. 

Held on the sidelines of the International Convention, the JYA program culminated with the deliberations and drafting of the 2024 resolution titled “Ensuring a Vibrant Jewish Future” which is made up of five subsections: tackling new forms of antisemitism; opposing denial and distortion of Jewish trauma; fostering Jewish life in the Diaspora; combating global terror; and strengthening Jewish unity. Delegates also presented the 2024 JYA resolution to 3,700 of their peers from around the world. 

Ian Kandel, BBYO’s vice president of global movement strategy, told eJewishPhilanthropy that the initially limited partnership between his organization and WJC has “snowballed into a number of different avenues that we are going to pursue.” 

According to Kandel, the efforts includes tapping into WJC’s “tremendous experience in select elements of BBYO leadership training curriculum such as diplomacy, public speaking, working with elected leaders and engaging with global entities like the United Nations and European Union.” 

“This will really enhance and enrich what we can offer to our teen leaders as BBYO globalizes,” Kandel continued. “The relationship really makes what we’re doing feel real and have a broader impact and gives teens a seat at the table.” 

Michal Cohen, WJC’s digital advocacy and NextGen communications coordinator, told eJP that “having our first in-person JYA [and] WJC working with teenagers was really exciting and different for us.” 

Cohen noted that high school students “need the training and resources” before entering college. “So the partnership with BBYO was a no-brainer because they’re representing high school students [globally] while we are representing communities around the world,” she said.