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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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Protester Sets Self on Fire Outside Israeli Consulate in Atlanta

Illustrative. Anti-Israel protesters demonstrate outside AIPAC President Michael Tuchin’s vacation home in Los Angeles, Nov. 23, 2023. Photo: Screenshot

i24 NewsA protester was in critical condition on Friday after setting themself on fire outside the Israeli consulate in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S. authorities said. A security guard who tried to intervene was also wounded.

A Palestinian flag found at the scene was part of the protest, Atlanta Police Chief Darin Schierbaum said at a news conference. He added that investigators did not believe there was any connection to terrorism and none of the consular staff was ever in danger.

JUST IN: A pro-Palestine protester is in critical condition after they set themselves on fire in “political protest” outside of the Israeli Consulate office in Atlanta.

The protester was reportedly draped in a Palestine flag.

The protester has severe burns and unfortunately, a…

— Collin Rugg (@CollinRugg) December 1, 2023

“We do not see any threat here,” he said. “We believe it was an act of extreme political protest that occurred.” Everyone inside the consulate building was said to be safe.

Anat Sultan-Dadon, Consul General of Israel to the southeastern U.S., said: “We are saddened to learn of the self-immolation at the entrance to the office building. It is tragic to see the hate and incitement toward Israel expressed in such a horrific way.”

“The sanctity of life is our highest value. Our prayers are with the security officer who was injured while trying to prevent this tragic act. We are grateful to the city of Atlanta’s law enforcement and first responders for all they do to ensure safety.”

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Released Israeli Hostages Call for Captives to Be Freed

Relatives and supporters of hostages kidnapped on the deadly October 7 attack by Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, rally for their release, after a temporary truce between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas ended when the terrorist group broke it, in Tel Aviv, Israel, December 2, 2023. Photo: REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

Israeli hostages released in the past week by Hamas in Gaza called on Saturday for the immediate release of fellow captives left behind, a day after a temporary truce that had allowed scores to come home broke down.

Tens of thousands gathered at a rally in Tel Aviv outside Israel‘s defense headquarters, where they cheered Yelena Trupanov, 50, standing on a stage just two days after being freed.

“I came to thank you because without you I wouldn’t be here. Now we must bring back my (son) Sasha, and everyone. Now.”

Similar pleas from other released hostages were shown on video.

A seven-day truce, during which Hamas had released more than 100 hostages, collapsed on Friday after Hamas breached the ceasefire.

Israel said on Saturday it had recalled a Mossad intelligence agency team from Qatar, host of indirect negotiations with Hamas, accusing the Palestinian faction of reneging on a deal that would have freed all children and women held hostage.

More than 240 people – Israelis and foreign nationals – were abducted to Gaza on Oct 7. by Hamas terrorists who burst through the border with Israel and killed 1,200 people.

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IDF Foils Stabbing Attack Near Nablus in West Bank, Eliminates Terrorist

Illustrative. Palestinian attacker near Nablus hurls stones towards Israeli troops during clashes at a riot in support of Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike in Israeli jails, May 5, 2017. Photo: Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90.

i24 NewsThe Israel Defense Forces (IDF) reported thwarting a stabbing attack on Saturday afternoon against reserve Battalion 7037 at the X junction near Nablus in the West Bank.

According to the IDF spokesperson, the event unfolded when the forces at the roadblock became suspicious of an individual approaching the barricade.

During the questioning process, the suspect suddenly drew a knife and advanced towards the IDF personnel.

ניסיון פיגוע דקירה אירע לפני זמן קצר לעבר כוח צה”ל במילואים מגדוד 7037 שפעל בחסם בצומת האיקס סמוך לעיר שכם שבמרחב חטיבת שומרון.

הכוח חשד במחבל שהגיע לחסם והחל לתחקר אותו, המחבל שלף סכין והחל להתקדם לעבר הכוח.
הלוחמים חתרו למגע והגיבו בירי לעבר המחבל שחוסל. אין נפגעים לכוחותינו.

— דובר צה״ל דניאל הגרי – Daniel Hagari (@IDFSpokesperson) December 2, 2023

The soldiers, faced with the threat, engaged in contact procedures and ultimately responded by opening fire on the assailant. The spokesperson confirmed that the attacker was neutralized due to the IDF’s action.

It was also noted that there were no casualties among the IDF forces involved in the incident. According to the spokesperson, the situation at the X junction has stabilized, and IDF continues to maintain vigilance in the area to prevent further attacks.

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