Teens to connect online for weekend of learning, prayer and socializing
By Deb Silverthorn
The North Texas Oklahoma region of BBYO is prepping to pray and play Oct. 16 to 18 in the region’s first digital convention “NTO Live: A Weekend.”
The convention is open to all Jewish teens in the DFW area, grades 9 to 12, and is mostly online, with a few in public with pandemic guidelines in place.
“Our teens are really creative and they’ve found what works in a virtual space and we’re thrilled to help them put their efforts into place,” said Lory Conte, senior regional director of NTO BBYO which has more than 700 registered teens.
The convention will include teen-led Shabbat services Friday night and Saturday morning and a Saturday night Havdalah service that invites families to join. The weekend also includes programming for individual chapters and integrated groups, a “Voice your Vote” event and performances by song leaders Happie Hoffman and Eric Hunker.
“In March it was hard to imagine communal singing could translate but it has,” said Hunker, who with Hoffman has performed worldwide at BBYO’s International March of the Living, Limmud Festival UK, the Silicon Valley Jewish Music Festival and the URJ Biennial. “In the absence of physical togetherness, we will share music and prayer to create visceral memories and imagine the touch of our friends.”
Most activities will be online with in-person activities following socially distanced guidelines, limited to 10 guests, and with adults present.
“We’ve missed each other for a long time and it’s time to be back, whatever and however we can and we’re putting together a great weekend,” said Rachel London, who with Jason Bodzy is leading the planning committee. “It’s going to be a great opportunity to sometimes reconnect in person, and our online events will be creative, meaningful and exciting.”
London, the NTO BBYO region’s s’ganit (vice president of programming), is a senior at Parish Episcopal School and a member of Fannie Sablosky BBG. Bodzy, the region’s s’gan, is a senior at J.J. Pearce High School and a member of Rubin Kaplan AZA.
Services are being planned with the assistance of Marissa Tait, a consultant participating in the Maimonides Jewish Infusion Grant. The fund allows BBYO to contract with Jewish community educators, speakers and song leaders to work with teen leadership.
“Dallas’ teens are wonderful and this is going to be a very special experience,” said Tait, the director of youth programs at Congregation Beth Shalom and senior youth group advisor at Rodef Shalom Congregation in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. “I encourage them to create, craft and elevate services, guiding them to write a d’var Torah and to enhance their learning moments.”
Hallie Sternblitz, a Greenhill School junior, and member and s’ganit of Judy Kravitz BBG, is captain of the weekend’s Jewish enrichment. Her committee is working with Tait to create a camp-style Shabbat that will include a service of reflection and relaxation.
“BBYO allows Jewish teens to connect with each other through prayer and programming so that we can keep our passion for Judaism alive, even when we cannot be together in person,” said Sternblitz, noting many BBYO members are among few Jewish teens in their schools. “It’s important that we don’t lose our sense of community during these trying times. It’s a difficult task, but through engaging services and programs, we’re hoping to bring the entire community together for a fun and meaningful weekend.”
Participants will be asked to wear white for Shabbat, classic attire at many camps. They will also receive swag bags before the event containing a weekend T-shirt, prayer packets and ingredients for tie-dye and bead crafts, pancake art, a scavenger hunt, talent show, a Netflix watching party and more.
“While we may not be able to have a typical fall convention, we’re definitely making the most of it,” said Lexie Lowey, a junior at Frisco Wakeland High School and n’siah (president) of Judy Kravitz BBG, serving as the convention’s programming experience captain. “It’s going to be a fun-filled weekend and NTO cannot wait to come together.”
For more details and registration, email NTO@bbyo.org or visit tinyurl.com/2020-NTO-BBYO-Fall-Convention. For scholarship support, email Lory Conte at email@example.com