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For Jewish teens in Asia, first BBYO convention in Singapore offers a rare sense of community

TAIPEI (JTA) — For a few years eight decades ago, Shanghai was home to an outpost of what would become BBYO, the global Jewish youth movement.

At the time, the Chinese city was a refuge for Jews fleeing Europe. Fifteen German Jewish teens created an Aleph Zadik Aleph chapter in June 1941, but when they left Asia after the war, the youth movement ended, too.

Now, the network of small but significant Jewish communities scattered across Asia has resurrected BBYO’s presence on the continent. About 40 teens attended the group’s conference in Singapore last week.

Over four days, they explored the city with their peers while learning how to launch their own BBYO chapters, host events and foster a sustainable community among Jewish teens in their own cities.

The event drew teens and lay leaders from Singapore, Taipei, Tokyo, Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong who otherwise would rarely have the opportunity to interact with one another and whose home communities have too few teens to mount much in the way of their own programming.

“The communities are small and they don’t get a lot of the experiences available in the U.S.,” said Ryan Ladd, BBYO’s senior manager of digital strategy, who is based in Washington, D.C. “So this is an opportunity to level the playing field to make sure they have these Jewish experiences.”

Asia can be a lonely place to grow up as a Jewish teen. Most are “third-culture kids,” meaning that they are being raised in a culture that is not their parents’, and while many come from diverse or international backgrounds, they’re often the only Jews in their classrooms or schools.

The best part of the weekend for Emma Brownstein, a 13-year-old member of the Tokyo Jewish Community, was getting the opportunity to connect with other Jews from across Asia. She goes to an international school in Tokyo, where she knows a few other Jews, but being immersed in a large group her age was “really a new experience for me.”

Participants explored some of Singapore’s most famous sites like the Jewel Changi Airport and the Gardens by the Bay while participating in team-building exercises, community building workshops and discussions about their Asian Jewish identities. During a “Taste of Asia” oneg on Friday night, delegations shared some of their cities’ trademark snacks.

“I think the trip really highlighted the importance of friendships and branching out and going out of your comfort zone to socialize with other people,” Brownstein told JTA. “This was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime thing, especially in Asia, where there’s not many other Jews.”

(Courtesy of BBYO)

The convention’s programming reflected an explicit goal of forming and strengthening local BBYO chapters in Asian cities. Workshops on leadership, understanding one’s own community and dreaming up activities that would engage fellow teens at home all aimed to ensure that the convention would not be a one-off event.

It was a vision that leaders of AZA — which became BBYO in 1944 when B’nai Brith, then the fraternity’s partner, launched a girls division — first outlined back in 1941. “You have seen displayed before you more than the mere installation of a set of new officers – You have seen more than the mere unfurling of the Aleph Zadik Aleph banner in the Far East,” an officer wrote in article in “The Shofar,” BBYO’s newspaper, at the time about the Shanghai chapter. “You have actually been present at the setting up of a new and vital milestone in the history of Far Eastern Jewry.”

That milestone period came to a close at the end of World War II, when most Jewish refugees in Shanghai departed for America, Israel, Australia and other countries. BBYO again had no presence in Asia until 2017, when a chapter opened again in Shanghai. Other chapters opened in Singapore and Tokyo in 2021. Now ones are anticipated in Hong Kong, Taipei, and Beijing following the convention.

Rabbi Martha Bergadine, the education and programming coordinator for the United Jewish Congregation of Hong Kong — a progressive community of about 130 families, with about 20 total teens — says the six teens who attended the convention this weekend are already working to plan their first activity.

“It seems that the Jewish communities of Asia are at a point of becoming more established and more rooted,” Bergadine said. “And I think in that sort of evolution, programmatic offerings get richer … this is going to be a key part of going forward, to provide these opportunities to the teens.”

The post For Jewish teens in Asia, first BBYO convention in Singapore offers a rare sense of community appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Israeli Official: ‘Important Operation’ in Yemen Sends Strong Message to Shiite Axis

Drones are seen at a site at an undisclosed location in Iran, in this handout image obtained on April 20, 2023. Photo: Iranian Army/WANA (West Asia News Agency)/Handout via REUTERS

i24 NewsA senior Israeli security official spoke to i24NEWS on Saturday on condition of the retaliatory strike carried out by the Israel Air Force against the Houthi jihadists in Yemen.

“This is an important operation which signals that there’s room for further escalation, and sends a very strong message to the entire Shiite axis.”

“We understood there is a high probability of counter attacks, but if we do not respond, the meaning is even worse. Israel has updated the US prior to the operation.”

The strike on Hodeida came after long-range Iranian-made drone hit a building in central Tel Aviv, killing one man and wounded several others.

The post Israeli Official: ‘Important Operation’ in Yemen Sends Strong Message to Shiite Axis first appeared on

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IDF Confirms Striking ‘Terrorist Houthi Regime’ in Yemen’s Hodeida

Houthi leader Abdul-Malik al-Houthi addresses followers via a video link at the al-Shaab Mosque, formerly al-Saleh Mosque, in Sanaa, Yemen, Feb. 6, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah

i24 NewsThe Israeli military on Saturday confirmed striking a port in Yemen controlled by the Houthi jihadists, a day after the Iranian proxy group perpetrated a deadly drone attack on Tel Aviv.

“A short while ago, IDF fighter jets struck military targets of the Houthi terrorist regime in the area of the Al Hudaydah Port in Yemen in response to the hundreds of attacks carried out against the State of Israel in recent months.”

After Houthi drone attack on Tel Aviv, reports and footage out of Yemen of air strikes hitting Hodeida

— Video used in accordance with clause 27A of Israeli copyright law

— i24NEWS English (@i24NEWS_EN) July 20, 2024

Yoav Gallant, the defense minister, issued a statement saying “The fire that is currently burning in Hodeidah, is seen across the Middle East and the significance is clear. The Houthis attacked us over 200 times. The first time that they harmed an Israeli citizen, we struck them. And we will do this in any place where it may be required.”

“The blood of Israeli citizens has a price,” Gallant added. “This has been made clear in Lebanon, in Gaza, in Yemen, and in other places – if they will dare to attack us, the result will be identical.”

Gallant: ‘The fire currently burning in Hodeida is seen across the region and the significance is clear… The blood of Israeli citizens has a price, as has been made clear in Lebanon, in Gaza, in Yemen and in other places – if they dare attack us, the result will be identical.’

— i24NEWS English (@i24NEWS_EN) July 20, 2024

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One Part of Cyprus Mourns, the Other Rejoices 50 Years After Split

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan leaves after attending a military parade to mark the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus in response to a short-lived Greek-inspired coup, in the Turkish-controlled northern Cyprus, in the divided city of Nicosia, Cyprus July 20, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Yiannis Kourtoglou

Greek Cypriots mourned and Turkish Cypriots rejoiced on Saturday, the 50th anniversary of Turkey’s invasion of part of the island after a brief Greek inspired coup, with the chances of reconciliation as elusive as ever.

The ethnically split island is a persistent source of tension between Greece and Turkey, which are both partners in NATO but are at odds over numerous issues.

Their differences were laid bare on Saturday, with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan attending a celebratory military parade in north Nicosia to mark the day in 1974 when Turkish forces launched an offensive that they call a “peace operation.”

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis was due later on Saturday to attend an event in the south of the Nicosia to commemorate what Greeks commonly refer to as the “barbaric Turkish invasion.” Air raid sirens sounded across the area at dawn.

Mitsotakis posted an image of a blood-stained map of Cyprus on his LinkedIn page with the words “Half a century since the national tragedy of Cyprus.”

There was jubilation in the north.

“The Cyprus Peace Operation saved Turkish Cypriots from cruelty and brought them to freedom,” Erdogan told crowds who gathered to watch the parade despite stifling midday heat, criticizing the south for having a “spoiled mentality” and seeing itself as the sole ruler of Cyprus.

Peace talks are stalled at two seemingly irreconcilable concepts – Greek Cypriots want reunification as a federation. Turkish Cypriots want a two-state settlement.

Erdogan left open a window to dialogue although he said a federal solution, advocated by Greek Cypriots and backed by most in the international community, was “not possible.”

“We are ready for negotiations, to meet, and to establish long-term peace and resolution in Cyprus,” he said.

Cyprus gained independence from Britain in 1960, but a shared administration between Greek and Turkish Cypriots quickly fell apart in violence that saw Turkish Cypriots withdraw into enclaves and led to the dispatch of a U.N. peacekeeping force.

The crisis left Greek Cypriots running the internationally recognized Republic of Cyprus, a member of the European Union since 2004 with the potential to derail Turkey’s own decades-long aspirations of joining the bloc.

It also complicates any attempts to unlock energy potential in the eastern Mediterranean because of overlapping claims. The region has seen major discoveries of hydrocarbons in recent years.


Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides, whose office represents the Greek Cypriot community in the reunification dialogue, said the anniversary was a somber occasion for reflection and for remembering the dead.

“Our mission is liberation, reunification and solving the Cyprus problem,” he said. “If we really want to send a message on this tragic anniversary … it is to do anything possible to reunite Cyprus.”

Turkey, he said, continued to be responsible for violating human rights and international law over Cyprus.

Across the south, church services were held to remember the more than 3,000 people who died in the Turkish invasion.

“It was a betrayal of Cyprus and so many kids were lost. It wasn’t just my son, it was many,” said Loukas Alexandrou, 90, as he tended the grave of his son at a military cemetery.

In Turkey, state television focused on violence against Turkish Cypriots prior to the invasion, particularly on bloodshed in 1963-64 and in 1967.

Turkey’s invasion took more than a third of the island and expelled more than 160,000 Greek Cypriots to the south.

Reunification talks collapsed in 2017 and have been at a stalemate since. Northern Cyprus is a breakaway state recognized only by Turkey, and its Turkish Cypriot leadership wants international recognition.

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