KIO BBYO Names New Regional Director

December 1, 2011 – Even though most bar/bat mitzvah speeches profess that “this day marks the beginning of my Jewish journey,” according to researchers and sociologists who study American Jews, the reality is that for the majority of Jewish teens, their bar/bat mitzvah actually marks the end of their engagement in Jewish life. So what is that “thing” that can keep them on a Jewish path, not just now, but well into the future when factors such as increased social and academic pressures and secular influences have made it more difficult than ever to compete for their limited time and interest? According to The Mayerson Foundation in Cincinnati, one of the region’s largest private funders of projects related to Jewish engagement, that “thing” is BBYO.

“We have always been interested in creating and/or strengthening programs that fill unmet needs in our community, especially as it relates to helping those who are more weakly engaged make connections to other Jewish people and the Jewish community,” remarks Pam Saeks, Director of Jewish Giving for The Mayerson Foundation. “Recently we saw an opportunity to play a catalytic role in this area by partnering with BBYO, the leading pluralistic Jewish youth organization in the world, to help build an even stronger foundation for teen engagement in our own community and in the region.”

Last week, the partnership between BBYO and The Mayerson Foundation became official with the appointment of Josh Rothstein, the Mayerson Foundation’s Manager of Program Development and Engagement, who will now also serve as the new KIO BBYO Regional Director. As a member of the Mayerson Foundation team, Rothstein will be supported in this role by other seasoned Mayerson Foundation professionals who will bring their strategic planning, marketing, public relations and operations expertise to the table to help further enhance his efforts and take KIO to the next level.

Thanks to the generosity of The Mayerson Foundation, Rothstein will be able to contribute twice the amount of time that past KIO Regional Directors have been able to devote to the position, which will give him the opportunity to travel to each city more often, and work more closely with both staff and teens to strengthen their chapters. While it’s not BBYO’s traditional model, this move was seen as an opportunity to significantly elevate the organization’s efforts in the region.

“I am humbled and proud to be the new KIO BBYO regional director,” says Rothstein. “My involvement with BBYO started when I became a volunteer advisor for the boys’ AZA chapter in Cincinnati. I was immediately impressed by the great job BBYO does of turning typical teenagers into confident and effective leaders. With the many opportunities this organization gives them to develop and implement programs from the ground up, combined with just the right amount of adult supervision, it’s a winning formula that has been working for nearly 90 years.”

“I am thrilled to have the chance to play a small part in helping to shape the next generation of great Jewish leaders,” he adds. “I am especially fortunate to be working with such a high quality team of city directors and advisors to help strengthen the BBYO brand in our region, and look forward to all the great things I know we are going to accomplish together!”

Rothstein will be coordinating a regional teen board retreat for early January. He is also committed to creating a more effective and streamlined communication and marketing system to keep the staff, teens, parents and alumni more engaged and in the loop than ever before.

“This is a great opportunity for KIO to become a more cohesive region and involve more Jewish teens in Jewish life. The Mayerson Foundation’s vision and leadership makes this possible and BBYO is excited about this new partnership,” says Richard Kessler, BBYO’s midwest area executive director.

Rothstein’s experience as the Jewish outreach and engagement coordinator for the Mayerson Foundation has given him experience with connecting Jewish young professionals to one another and to the Jewish community on their own terms. In addition to helping run Access events for Jewish young professionals, 21-35 in Cincinnati, a majority of his work has been focused on Young Professional programming at the Mayerson JCC, to help the J enhance and expand their offerings to this important demographic.

Through Rothstein’s efforts in coordinating specialized fitness classes, sports activities and events for 21-35 year-olds, Cincinnati’s Mayerson JCC has gone from having almost no Jewish young professional presence, to having hundreds in this demographic per year. With a sociology degree from Miami University, he feels that his job allows him to use his skills to their highest potential and appreciates this opportunity he has been given to help Jewish young people connect with one another in meaningful ways.

“BBYO is my favorite thing in the world. It’s a place where anyone is accepted and a place where anyone can have a good time,” explains Sophie Reskin a member of the Louisville BBYO Chapter and the KIO (Kentucky-Indiana-Ohio) regional morah in charge of recruitment, retention and education. “BBYO is the one place where I feel most connected to my Jewish identity. I think it’s helping to keep so many other Jewish teens across the country connected as well!” she adds. “Josh is a wonderful addition to the BBYO network. He is so supportive of everything we are trying to accomplish. He’s always giving great advice and I am really excited to get to work with him!”

As the only non-denominational youth organization in the community, BBYO is positioned to attract both affiliated and unaffiliated teens, one of the most at-risk populations for falling off the Jewish path early. In addition to Shabbat dinners, special events and parties, BBYO offers a number of opportunities throughout the year to attend regional and even national and international conventions, summer camp and trips to Israel.

From offering fun, meaningful and affordable experiences to Jewish teenagers, BBYO has been providing leadership programs and identity-enriching experiences, shaping the lives of 250,000 alumni who are among the most prominent figures in business, politics, academia, the arts and Jewish communal life in the country and around the world. BBYO’s broad program menu enables teens to explore areas of leadership, service and civic engagement, Israel education, and Jewish values with the expectation that they will exhibit positive attitudes and behaviors about being Jewish while maintaining the values and relationships that strengthen the Jewish people.

According to a recent BBYO impact study, commissioned by the Schusterman Foundation, across several measures, BBYO alumni demonstrate a strong sense of Jewish pride and peoplehood, a willingness to play leadership roles and a connection to the State of Israel. They support Jewish organizations with their checkbooks and volunteer time. Alumni also participate actively in Jewish social networks and exhibit a desire and commitment to raising Jewish families.

For more information about BBYO, or to learn more about becoming a teen advisor contact David Siskin at the Louisville JCC at (502) 238-2701.

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