Teenage girls smile while attending the BBYO international convention in Dallas..
(photo credit: JASON DIXSON)
Some Jewish 5,000 teenagers, community leaders and activists from across the globe gathered in Dallas, Texas, for a five-day international convention scheduled to end Monday hosted by Jewish youth group BBYO.
Touted as its largest-ever convention for the organization, one of the largest Jewish conferences in the US, the gathering sought to “ignite a global renaissance of Jewish teen life.”
“As we highlight BBYO’s core principles of community service, civic engagement, philanthropy, leadership and Jewish heritage, our program will focus on the opportunities we have as citizens to shape the world,” BBYO CEO Matthew Grossman said ahead of the conference. “Each of our guest speakers has made a positive impact in effecting change, and each has inspirational stories to share.”
Figures from the fields of politics, activism, entertainment and business were featured at the event.
Deputy Knesset Speaker Hilik Bar (Zionist Union) was among them. He called on the youth to act – in any field – if they care about their community and family.
“You are our future’s leaders,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what you choose to do, but as long you choose to lead, to be involved and to pave the way, you can really make a change.”
Bar told the crowd that from his experience it is not easy to engage in Tikkun Olam [making the world a better place], but as long as a person sets their mind on it, it will happen.
“It takes time... It costs you sweat, tears and sleeping hours, but change will happen if you decide that it will happen,” he said.
As the chairman of the Knesset Caucus for Resolving the Israeli-Arab Conflict (the Lobby for the Two-State Solution), Bar said his striving for peace derives from his will to make Israel a better place and maintain it a Jewish and democratic state. However, he stressed that during negotiations with enemies he makes one thing clear: Israel is here to stay as it is.
“Peace is always Israel’s first choice and my first choice,” Bar said. “But when I sit down to talk with our enemies, I ask them one question: Do you want to live here next to us or instead of us? If you have any hidden desire of us disappearing then forget about it, it will never happen.”
Other key speakers were Julian Castro, former US secretary of housing and urban development; Andrew Frates, the ALS “Ice Bucket Challenge” creator; Deborah Lipstadt, American historian and author of History on Trial: My Day in Court with a Holocaust Denier; Joshua Malina, American film and stage actor, who appears on ABC’s Scandal; and Congressman Pete Sessions (R-Texas).
President Reuven Rivlin and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made guest appearances via video.
BBYO was formerly known as the B’nai B’rith Youth Organization.
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