A Movement Is Born
In 1923, 14 teenage boys in Omaha, Nebraska, were searching for a sense of camaraderie and acceptance. They had just fled Europe with their families and were settling into a new life in the United States at a time when Jews were excluded from large parts organized society. Fueled by rejection and a yearning to belong, the first chapter of the Aleph Zadik Aleph (AZA), with the support of Abe Baboir, Nathan Mnookin, and Sam Beber, was officially chartered in 1924.
Leading Side by Side
Beginning in 1927, an effort to establish a women’s counterpart to AZA was underway with the first chapter organized in San Francisco by Rose Mauser. It was not until 1944 in Chicago that the B’nai B’rith Girls was officially established as an international organization, led by Anita M. Perlman. Bucking societal trends, BBYO paved the way for equal opportunities for men and women to lead.
A Responsibility to Each Other
Following the Holocaust, BBYO expanded across Europe to revitalize communities where Jewish life had been decimated. In the 1960s, Jewish teens in the United States rallied their peers to join the Civil Rights Movement and engaged in global advocacy for the Soviet Government to permit Jewish youth organizations to gather. In 1973, nearly 1,000 BBYO teens from Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico, Panama, and Venezuela met for a Jewish Youth Congress.
The Independence Era
The start of a new millennium brought many changes for the B’nai B’rith Youth Organization. In 2002, BBYO became a legally independent organization from B’nai B’rith International under the guidance and support of Lynn Schusterman, the Founding Chair of what is now just called BBYO. The next decade was one of incredible resilience, fortitude, and growth. The BBYO teens of this era guaranteed our Movement’s vitality and laid the groundwork for a bright future.
For Tomorrow and Today
We are fortunate that our history is being written by tens of thousands of Jewish teens around the world, and we can’t wait to see what’s on the horizon for BBYO. As we look ahead to the next 100 years, even in an uncertain world, we are sure about one thing: BBYO will be alive and well.
The Early Years
Following the declaration of AZA as an International Order, the B’nai B’rith Organization adopted the Aleph Zadik Aleph as its auxiliary program for young men in 1924. From there, AZA expanded in breadth and depth, establishing chapters across the United States, Canada, Bulgaria, and the United Kingdom, while launching Five Fold and Full Programming; debate, oratory, and basketball tournaments; and the first simultaneous international program, AZA Shabbat.
United: The B'nai B'rith Youth Organization
In 1948, Dr. Max F. Baer became the first International Director of the B’nai B’rith Youth Organization (BBYO), the home of AZA and BBG. The decade that followed this unification was a period of tremendous growth for the Movement. From 1949 to 1959, AZA and BBG’s membership doubled from 18,000 to 36,000 members, and International Kallah, new leadership institutes, and Israel trips were launched.
This Is Our Order, Greatest on Earth
In 1977, Chapter Leadership Training Conference (CLTC) was established. Throughout the 80s and 90s, districts became regions and the International Board positions shifted to the titles and roles we know today. Entering the turn of the century, our strong rituals and traditions were what kept AZA and BBG alive.
Rising to the Moment
BBYO is an organization that continues to evolve with the times. Over the last decade, AZA and BBG have been working to welcome Jewish teens of all backgrounds and identities from anywhere and everywhere. BBYO has fostered remarkable growth across all aspects of the organization. BBYO’s annual global gathering, International Convention, has become the largest annual gathering of Jewish teen leaders and the largest Jewish event in North America. In 2023, BBYO International Convention hosted a historic 3,000 teens.