Attendees of IC from the Mid-America region (Kansas City, Minnesota, St. Louis, and Omaha) get together to take a picture showing their love for BBYO.
Attendees of IC from the Mid-America region (Kansas City, Minnesota, St. Louis, and Omaha) get together to take a picture showing their love for BBYO.
Photo courtesy of Gabrielle Sosland

Look at all Those Jews: the Experience of Jewish Teens at International Conventions

Between the 15th and 25th of February, 2024, there were two large international conventions for Jewish teens worldwide. The first convention was B’nai B’rith Youth Organization’s (BBYO) International Convention (IC) in Orlando, Florida from February 15th to the 19th. The second was Cteen’s International Shabbaton in Crown Heights New York from February 22nd to the 25th. 


The first convention that took place was IC. BBYO had its largest convention to date and celebrated its 100th anniversary. They brought 45 people from Kansas.


Sophomore Sadie Azulay, an IC attendee from Scottsdale, Arizona, says she likes going to these conventions because she gets to meet other Jews from all over. She explains, “When I’m at home, a lot of my friends aren’t Jewish, and the ones who are are not as observant as I am so I avoid talking about my Jewish identity,” whereas at conventions, it is easier to connect to people. “Everyone was Jewish and it was very easy to form connections,” said Azulay. 


Azulay says, “My highlights of the convention were meeting Ross Lynch and the Saturday night concert.” 


Gabrielle Sosland and friends have the amazing opportunity to meet actor Ross Lynch at IC. (Photo courtesy of Gabrielle Sosland)


David Wasserman, a sophomore at HBHA says that there was a “sports day kind of thing where we got to pick a bunch of different activities and I chose flag football.” Wasserman mentioned that this was a positive experience for him because he has been playing flag football at home with his friends, and it was fun to play against other people. 


Wasserman says his highlight was “hanging out and meeting new people,” and he also explained that not going with any of his close friends gave him the opportunity to meet new people or get closer to people from Kansas whom he didn’t know.  


Senior Aliya Martin from Charlotte, North Carolina had the opportunity to attend both the Cteen and BBYO conventions. This was Martin’s third time attending the Cteen International Shabbaton and first time going to BBYO’s international convention.


 Martin says she has been “active in both youth groups since she was a freshman.” 


When asked why Martin chose to attend both conventions instead of just one, she said that she went to “BBYO for friends and Cteen for the Jewish experiences.” She elaborated and said that the best part of any convention is “meeting new people from around the world and reconnecting with old friends.” She also says Cteen adds this whole other level of Jewish experiences because “everyone there is passionate about Israel.”  


At this year’s Cteen Shabbaton Martin was named leader of the year. She said her rabbi nominated her “based on the fact that I helped create and grow my Cteen track where I live.” 


The second convention was the 16th International Shabbaton for Cteen which had over 3,000 Jewish teens from six of the seven continents. 13 teens from Kansas attended. 


Kansas City’s Cteen poses for a picture in front of the Children’s Museum after spending a long day exploring New York and shopping. (Photo courtesy of Avremi Baron)


Sophomore Ethan Hobbs said, “The whole Shabbaton was jam-packed with amazing experiences. There was never a dull moment.” 


One of the biggest events of the weekend was when everyone came together in Times Square and sang together. Rachel Jacobs, a sophomore from The Barstow School in Kansas City, Mo. described the event as “absolutely bonkers” and explained that it “ felt as though the force and energy effusing out of Times Square was enough to make the earth fall out of orbit.”


Hobbs explains that, “one of the biggest themes of the trip for me was showing the power of Jewish unity. When Jewish kids come together, we can make a big change.”


Even though one of the main purposes is to have fun and meet new people, Jacobs said that at the convention she also “gained a totally different perspective on the current state of World Jewry,” and it made her feel like “a building block in the larger body of World Jewry.”


Hobbs’ last remarks about the convention were, “I would totally recommend the Shabbaton for any Jewish high schooler out there. It doesn’t matter what your background is, there is a lot for everyone and it is a weekend that I will never forget and cannot wait to do again throughout my high school career. I can almost guarantee that everyone will come out of the Cteen Shabbaton feeling more proud and excited about their Judaism while also having an amazing fun experience.”


Ezra Jacobs and Ethan Hobbs walk around the streets of New York City wearing flags to show their love for Kansas and the Chiefs. (Photo by Avremi Baron)


Whether you are more of a busy city person and would rather be in NYC or you would rather be somewhere a little warmer like Orlando, after hearing about both of these jam-packed weekends, it sounds like whichever one you choose to go to you will have a wonderful time. 



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About the Contributor
Elia Ellis
Elia Ellis, Writer
Elia Ellis is a sophomore at HBHA, and this is her second year of publications. She enjoys playing volleyball, dancing, and cooking in her free time. She is looking forward to writing articles and taking photos for Rampage. This year she will also be the EIC of HBHA’s yearbook Chronicles. Elia is excited to be a part of the publication team in the 2023-24 school year.