By Rachel Gross Weinstein
Nearly 2,000 Jewish teens participated in an afternoon service project Friday, Feb. 14 in Frisco. They not only learned hands-on CPR training, but also took the Jewish values of tikkun olam and mitzvot to heart.
BBYO Stand UP Day took place as part of BBYO’s International Convention that occurred in Dallas Feb. 13-17. The event was coordinated with the Dallas Division of the American Heart Association and held at Frisco Memorial Stadium. The goal was to train the teens in CPR, who in turn taught hundreds of middle schoolers from the Frisco School District what they learned.
Before departing for Frisco, the teens heard from U.S. Olympic Gold Medalist Dana Vollmer; Ben Rattray, CEO of change.org; and Natan Sharanksy, chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel, via video message.
“Today, we showed what this movement is really about,” said Gary Levine, a senior at Yavneh Academy and one of BBYO’s international vice presidents. “This year, we wanted to do something we all feel passionate about in order to make a difference. It’s wonderful to come together with teens from all over the world with the same goal in mind. Dallas has always been a powerhouse for BBYO and it makes me proud that we were able to host the convention and do something like this.”
In addition to the CPR training, the teens built and sent 500 teddy bears to children with heart conditions across the American Heart Association Network. The day ended with filming a public service announcement encouraging others to learn CPR and to be prepared for different emergencies.
BBYO’s Stand UP initiative empowers teens to identify a cause that inspires them, and develop their own campaign to affect positive change. By implementing their own campaigns at the local, regional and international level, teens gain invaluable experiences in the areas of community service, philanthropy and advocacy. Past projects included the topics of hunger, cancer, homelessness, genocide, human rights, bullying and more.
Having this project focus on CPR is even more meaningful because Texas has the highest bystander rate, meaning that it has the fewest number of people that know what do in a life-threatening situation.
“It’s great that we were all able to come together for this and show our passion for leadership and Judaism,” said Lexi Prager, a Hillcrest High School student who is the regional president of the North Texas/Oklahoma Region of BBYO with Jacob Herstein. “It shows that we can make an impact in the communities we live in. This was a wonderful learning experience and it was great to participate with 2,000 of our brothers and sisters.”
Herstein, a Yavneh junior, noted that he was not only proud to be part of this project, but to also represent the thriving Dallas Jewish community.
“The best part of [Stand UP Day] was that everyone was working together and learning something really important,” he said. “When we announced that IC was going to be in Dallas, we expected it to be a big showing and we really got what we were hoping for. It’s absolutely amazing. I was just elected in December and this is a great way for me to start. It’s so great to show everyone in BBYO how great the North Texas/Oklahoma chapter is as well.”
“The fact that we are all here shows what BBYO is capable of,” added International President Mika Stein of Dallas. “For us, we live by the seven principles of AZA and one of them is to keep a healthy mind and body; our Stand UP project falls right in the lines of that. This is my fourth time attending IC and it’s been amazing to see how it’s grown. I couldn’t be more proud that this this convention is happening in my city.”