On Tuesday evenings I usually take my older daughter Jessica to her BBYO, B'nai Brith Youth Organization meeting.  It's a fifteen minute drive from our house, located in a Conservative Jewish synagogue in Brooklyn's Mill Basin neighborhood. In fact, it is just a few minutes away from the decked-out Hanukkah house I wrote about in December.

The BBYO group has Jewish-themed cultural and social activities for high school students, and she has told me she enjoys the meetings. One of the kids who brought her into the group is Sarah, a girl one year older, whom she has known from dance class and public school as well.

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I am certainly happy that Jess has joined with BBYO, and B'nai Brith International has a storied history. (I told Jess a brief version of this and she seemed vaguely impressed, in the way most teens do when you bombard them with historical facts.) But I am actually a bit disappointed that I have drive my daughter to a Jewish youth group, and that there is no club meeting in our own neighborhood, And Jess would have liked to attend a Young Judaea club because she attends their senior sleep away camp, Tel Yehudah in upstate New York, but there is no Young Judaea group held in Brooklyn at this time.

There used to be a few Young Judaea groups that met in Brooklyn, and I belonged to one. There seem to be very few Jewish youth groups active in Brooklyn right now. This is pathetic and I am wondering why.

In the past Brooklyn was home to USY, United Synagogue Youth; Young Judaea; B'nai Brith; Kadimah; Betar; HaShomer Hatzair, NFTY (National Federation of Temple Youth) and other types of Jewish youth groups for kids from elementary school through high school grades. Kids had their choice of associations ranging from different levels of observance, political agendas, and other designations. There was even some healthy rivalry between groups. Young Judaea and USY tended to draw from the same pool and B'nai Brith was seen as more of a partying group, believe it or not. We joked about the "B'nai Breath" group, and some of the USY kids thought we Young Judaeans were not as achievement oriented. They were the yuppies and we were the more laid back crew. Or so some thought.

Now the BBYO group is practically the only game in town, as far as groups affiliated with national organizations. However, some of the public high schools do have Hebrew Culture Clubs, such as Brooklyn Technical High School ("Tech"), Edward R. Murrow High School, Leon Goldstein High School, and others. And the Kings Bay YM-YWHA does have a Rosh Hodesh club for girls, which Jess attended a few times with her friend Susan.

So, why are there so few Judaic clubs in Brooklyn right now? Is it a lack of population? Are non-Orthodox Jewish kids just not into these clubs? Are they too busy building their resumes with other activities? Or is there a dearth of adults who have the vision to entice these kids into joining up?


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