Welcome to Lake Ontario Region’s blog, managed by the Press Corps Committee. We are a group of Alephs and BBGs with a passion for writing. The views and opinions expressed in our blog posts are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of BBYO Ontario.

2021: The Year of Blogging

2021: The Year of Blogging

Written by: Leah Stein, 9th Grade, Ahava BBG #2447.

When I think of the LOR blog this year, the first word that comes to mind is ‘wow.’ We have had so many amazing writers share information about their favourite events, opportunities, and all things in and out of BBYO. From articles about making friends in the organization, to recaps of regional conventions, to how to stay busy in quarantine, we got to cover so many topics, and members of the region got to share so much with each other.

When I kicked off the blog back in September, I mentioned that this year, we wanted to reimagine what it meant to blog. Blogging doesn’t have to be boring and only on one subject, and it can open up so many new possibilities! Looking back now, I can truly say that we fulfilled this goal and more. We really were able to make it ‘the year of blogging.’ It has been such an honour to be able to work with so many members of the region to create articles they were passionate about, and spread the word about LOR’s interests. 

With the help of some amazing teens and our regional staff this year, we posted an article every other week for the entire programming year, and then some! Plus, we had writers both from within and beyond the Press Corps team, something we hadn’t done before. We brought in a new way for members of LOR to share their excitement, and reinvented the blog in ways previously unimaginable. I already know there are going to be so many amazing things on our blog next year, and I can’t wait! This is Leah Stein, officially signing off as your blog specialist, have a great summer LOR!

Pictured: The press corps team at one of our meetings this year.

Seniors Recap Send-Off!

Seniors Recap Send-Off!

Written By: Adam Zelnicker, 41st Regional Aleph Mazkir, Chapter Dayan AZA #1215.

Well, here we are. It has been a crazy ride to get to this point. It is unreal to think that whether you joined in Grade 8, 9, 10, 11 or this year of Grade 12, that our journey in this amazing organization has come to an end. I am not sure I can speak on behalf of all of the seniors, but this organization has made me better as a person and I have learned so much from it. It is safe to say I would not be here if not for LOR and BBYO.

Enough about me, this is about the graduating class of 2021. If there is one thing that I can say about this particular graduating class, it is that there are so many people that are different from one another in it. This year, I had the opportunity to branch out and meet with different people from all over the region, the seniors in particular, and I can tell you right now that even the people that seem like they are alike are certainly not. I think that is what makes this class unique, so many different ways of life in our region and we all come together to produce magic for this amazing order. At the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about. I would say that I have observed a lot from the seniors this year. I spent time with different groups of seniors and despite the differences they all had externally, they all had this internal goal and idea to make the region what it is, especially with COVID and all. I know for a fact it has been a hard year for us, but we still made it happen.

What also amazed me is that a lot of the seniors still wanted to get involved despite being on Zoom for 75% of the year. It made me so happy that everyone still wanted to help out with the behind-the-scenes work to put together awesome conventions, events, and programs! In particular, chapters Magen and L’Chaim had seniors as the majority of their boards! It goes to show how much this organization means to us even though times are what they should be. Also, those who chose not to run for board still took part in several regional steering and programming opportunities to put together incredible experiences for the entire region. I just feel that us seniors should be proud of our hard work and that there are bright futures ahead for all of us.

Lastly, I want to leave the idea that more than other senior classes that I have observed during my time in BBYO, this one was definitely the closest. Regardless of me being in it and the fact that there are so many of us this year, everyone was just so down to hop on calls to chill or have fun seniors programming, and it was such a fulfilling experience. For someone like me who has had a rough time meeting people and putting myself out there for a majority of my life, it was just amazing to feel welcomed by everyone.

To the LOR Class of 2021, it has been real. We have so much amazingness ahead of us for our post-secondary lives. Whether it is university, college, workplace, or still figuring things out, we will make our mark in this world. That is what amazing leaders like us do. We make it happen. Here’s to more fun times in the future! 

Pictured: LOR Seniors attending Seniors Night 2021.

How I Met My Best Friends through BBYO!

How I Met My Best Friends through BBYO!

Written by: Erin Shapiro, 11th Grade, Dor Chadash BBG #2404.

BBYO is a great place to make new friends. As someone with social anxiety, I know from experience how hard it can be to meet new people and go to new places. However, after finishing my first year of BBYO, I can confidently say that BBYO has helped me meet my closest friends. Being surrounded by so many Alephs and BBGs who are kind and non-judgemental makes a comfortable space for everyone, including me.

When I first joined BBYO, I was extremely nervous as I have often felt like an outcast in social situations. I have trouble making and keeping friends, however BBYO proved to be a fresh start for me. By meeting new people, I have not only gained confidence, but I have also become a more social person in general. While I get nervous when meeting others for the first time, I will not shy away anymore. Other BBYO members used to reach out to me when I was new, and now I’m someone who reaches out to new members. Taking on leadership opportunities such as chapter chairs and board positions forces you to be more connected, and causes you to get to know more people. This past term, I had the opportunity to be the Yearbook Chair of my chapter which meant I had to reach out to people for photos to post on Instagram, and send messages to my chapter’s WhatsApp group chat. By doing this, I got the chance to talk to even more people and try out new things. These bonds will last me a lifetime, even after we graduate from BBYO. 

One way to make new friends in BBYO is by going to all the regional events you can. I did this by attending Chofesh Hallway at regional conventions, as well as going to International Convention and not being shy to go on BBYOmegle! Taking advantage of these new opportunities allowed me to meet even more members in BBYO and make even more new friends. Plus, even chapter programs are a great way to meet new potential friends. I met some of my closest friends at weekly chapter programs and chapter conventions. Branching out at all programs is so important, and a great way to find people just like you, as well as a great way to meet your closest friends.

Another way of making and maintaining your friendships in BBYO is by communicating and staying in touch via social media. You can use Instagram, Snapchat, WhatsApp or Discord. An example of this is to join BBYO Discord servers and hop on Zoom calls with groups of BBYO people. You can also play snap games or Game Pigeon with your friends. In addition, you can even meet up in person for a socially-distanced walk or hangout! This allows you to meet your friends and connect on an in-person level. One thing me and two of my best friends have started doing is having ‘Girls night.’ Each week on Saturday nights we meet on Zoom and do fun activities. We each take turns planning them out, and we have done activities like baking, making dream boards, creating fun PowerPoint presentations, having watch parties for old Disney TV shows, and so much more! Even though you may not talk to these friends daily, it is important to stay in touch and have fun with them when you can.

BBYO is a great place for so many reasons, and one of those is that you have the opportunity to meet new people and make lifelong friendships. Everyone in BBYO is so welcoming, so do not be shy, and do not miss any awesome opportunities just because you are scared to meet new people!

Pictured: Erin at Spring Convention 2021.

Tips and Tricks from a Senior

Tips and Tricks from a Senior

Written by: Gaya Izik, 12th Grade, Ahava BBG #2447.

Being a senior during a pandemic… now where to start with that. I know from experience that being a senior can be intimidating, and even scary at times, but I am here to give you all tips and tricks I wish I had known before I started my senior year. 

Tip #1: Don’t stress over things you can’t control

I am known to be a perfectionist and a control freak from time to time, but the one thing I really had to learn was to forget about and not stress over the things that are out of my control. Life is about living and learning, and we cannot be expected to know everything all the time! For example, if you are taking leadership opportunities in BBYO, you don’t always get what you want, and that’s okay because you can still prosper without a title, or even a different one, even though sometimes that is a lot to take in. 

Tip #2: You only have one life, so live it the way you want to

In high school, the biggest thing people need to realize is that everyone’s goals and experiences are different and that’s okay. Just because one person is good at something, it doesn’t mean you need to be good at it too. You can do things you enjoy and thrive in instead, and you can be just as happy and fulfilled in life. It’s your life to live, and you should live it the way you want to!

Tip #3: You can always change your decisions, and one decision doesn’t define you 

Throughout the last 4 years, my career path has changed 8 times. I wanted to be a surgeon, teacher, accountant, lawyer, and so many more. I had to learn and understand that it was okay to keep changing my mind, and it’s okay to have a different goal from time to time. Just because you go into highschool with one goal, doesn’t mean you can’t change your mind or try something else. 

Tip #4: Take risks and every opportunity that comes your way 

During my years in BBYO, I was so fortunate enough to hold so many positions and leadership opportunities, and looking back now I wish I would have started taking things on earlier. Now, I know that I didn’t because I was scared I wasn’t going to get the position or the role, but I also understand that the more risks I would have taken, the more opportunities and roles I could have had. So if you are second guessing yourself, take a pause, and go snatch that position! 

Tip #5: Take time for yourself – take care your mental health and your mental well being

If you could take one thing away from this entire article, I recommend that it be this final tip. In highschool and in life, my mental health has fluctuated and has been a constant issue for me to take care of. I tend to worry about other people instead of myself, and I wish that I would have listened to my body when it told me I needed a mental health break. Take a second today and write down 3 things that make you happy, and repeat this every time you feel that you are stressed out or you need a break!

BBYO has been my home for the last 5 years and I am so grateful that I can leave knowing I made  a mark on my community, and I hope that you take these tips and use them. I hope this will help you evolve into the amazing BBG or Aleph you are and can be. As I leave I hope all the non-seniors reading this will take care of the organization that has given me so much, and that has allowed me to grow and adapt to this crazy world in these crazy times.

Pictured: Some of the seniors at our recent Seniors Night event.

Traditions of Jewish Identity

Traditions of Jewish Identity

Written by: Noa Mandelzweig-Davis, 8th Grade, Dor Chadash BBG #2404.

BBYO is one of the most amazing experiences you will ever get, and one of the things that makes it so awesome is that we get the chance to learn all about our Jewish culture. On the surface, some people might think that BBYO is just about friendship or even leadership, but it is so much more than that. We also learn so many new things about our culture and its history, traditions and rituals.

Before joining BBYO last fall, I didn’t know much about Jewish holidays, but after attending a few programs, I have a much better understanding of recent holidays and how we celebrate them! On holidays, we often have programs about what they mean, which is a great experience! For example, my chapter, Dor Chadash BBG #2404, had a Purim event where we played many fun games and got to learn a lot about Purim and its history. We even received a package with many great activities in it. This really helped me learn about what the holiday meant!

Just as we have many interesting traditions and rituals related to holidays, BBYO has so many of its own traditions, such as conventions and programs, and all chapters and regions have their own special traditions too. For example, business meetings are a way for chapters to catch up all the members and provide new information that the members need to know. And usually after every program we sing a song, to symbolize the sisterhood or brotherhood in our chapter. All of these different practices make up our BBYO traditions.

We also have the BBG Member’s Manual, known as the red book, and the AZA Member’s Manual, known as the blue book. We give them out to every new member to let them know how we do things in BBYO and they keep it with them all throughout their time in BBYO! These books symbolize our rituals, history and how we run the movement. With these books, you also receive an induction pin. The first pin you get is for becoming a new member of BBYO, and as you go forward with your chapters, you will receive more pins. One common goal of members is to fill the cover of their book with pins!

BBYO lets you learn about your chapter, as well as traditions and holidays, and is a great way to learn more about your Jewish identity.

Pictured: Members of Dor Chadash BBG #2404 at a recent chapter program.

Sisterhood is the Essence of BBG

Sisterhood is the Essence of BBG

Written by: Arli Marans, 10th Grade, Ahava BBG #2447.

Separates – what is it, why is it important? This tradition takes place all across the order and it gives members the chance to bond and get to know one another through deep and meaningful programming. For many, separates is one of the best experiences they have during their time in BBYO – whether they participate on a chapter, regional, or international level. Separates programming is a staple, no matter if it’s from a Zoom screen or on a hotel’s banquet room floor.

In Lake Ontario Region this year, BBGs were given the chance to join a Separates committee, where they would have the opportunity to provide input and ideas towards how we envision and run our Separates programming. I was thrilled when I found out I would get a chance to join this initiative, and work with my peers to ensure all BBGs found Separates as special as I do.

As part of our work each week, we were split into two main groups – one who put together surveys to gain further information on what members would like to see, and a team who would lead the BBG separates instagram account. To our delight, both the instagram account and the surveys were a success! On the Instagram, we take turns weekly to post about topics we believe have importance to BBGs across the region – whether it’s about Anita M. Perlman, stress relievers, or more. The questionnaires also provide information on how BBGs in the region feel and what they want to see in separates.

With the help of both the account and the surveys to give us input, we were able to create ‘BBG Separates: A Year In Review,’ an event for BBGs all across the region. This night exceeded our expectations by far, and everyone who had a hand in the planning process was amazed at how much fellow BBGs enjoyed it! With a turnout of more than 60 BBGs it truly was a night we will never forget! 

After starting off with an incredibly meaningful Havdalah ceremony, we separated into groups to continue our night with grade-specific programming. Grade eights came together for “A fresh start” as their first separates for most, while grade nines enjoyed some “Spring cleaning.”.  The grade tens bonded over “Getting that summer mindset” and talked about all things positivity, and our grade elevens had some fun “Building a mental calendar.”. With the year coming to an end, our seniors participated in one of their last BBG Separates of their BBYO career where we talked about “Letting go.”. All of these topics came together into our theme of “A Year In Review” and helped us all learn about how we can use the events from this last year to benefit our futures.

Not only did every grade have a chance to engage in impactful programs, but we got to bond with each other in a way that we normally don’t have the opportunity to do! Before the night came to an end, we joined back together as one group, one community of BBGs, to close what we began. Talking about the past year, shaking it all off, and feeling as close as ever to one another. 

Through BBG Separates Night, we took important issues and faced them head on, making every participant realize that their support system in this organization is bigger than they truly ever imagined. I’m so glad I had a part to play in the creation of this event, and I hope that this night was as impactful for others as it was for me!

Pictured: The senior BBGs attending BBG Separates: A Year in Review, learning about letting go and moving on.

Joining BBYO Mid-Pandemic

Joining BBYO Mid-Pandemic

Written by: Josh Zaretsky, 9th Grade, Exodus AZA #1111.

I think everyone can agree that the past year has been challenging, and even though more than a year has passed since lockdowns and closures began, it is still challenging to adapt to this reality. But despite all that has happened, there was one thing that got me back on my feet: getting involved in BBYO.

The grass seemed greener as I started feeling confident again, I would laugh and forget all of the negativity, and a new perspective of the world emerged. Without a doubt, joining BBYO had a huge impact on my newfound positivity, and so even though I probably didn’t experience a traditional entry to this organization, I know that attending my first chapter program on a random Wednesday back in September was the best thing I’ve ever done, and my highlight of 2020.

Looking back, the summer of 2020 was by far my lowest point. My grade 8 graduation was replaced by a short buffering video, and I quickly lost touch with a lot of my good friends that I bonded with in elementary school. With extracurricular activities being cancelled and city-wide closures, there was simply nothing to do.

By the fall, as the number of cases of COVID-19 slowly descended from the initial spike, I noticed that while I was lying around doing nothing all day, my sister Brittany kept busy with BBYO. I knew of the organization as I had attended a few programs the year before, and I had volunteered at a JCC hanukkah party with BBYO members, but I never joined because of all the other things I had going on at the time. That’s when Brittany suggested that I try it out again, and she convinced me to attend chapter Exodus AZA #1111’s fall kickoff.

Walking into the Exodus program, I already somewhat knew some of the guys there, but what I didn’t know was how much this chapter would impact me in the coming months. Though the event was socially-distanced and we all wore masks, I really connected with the members, and found that these people were going through similar things as me. Then, after attending a few more programs and becoming a member myself, my school friends that I’ve known for a very long time happened to show up. This made me enjoy the programs so much more since not only was I meeting new people, but I also felt comfortable with friends I already knew. So, of course, I had to get them to join as well.

Soon after that, I was given the chance to take on a small leadership opportunity and found myself making dumb videos for the chapter Instagram wishing people happy birthday as the ‘sunshine boy’. This also helped me get to know more people, even though programs at that point had been moved online. Another thing that really helped me integrate into the chapter was the big-little initiative. Having a senior member focus on welcoming me definitely led to me getting much more involved in the chapter. My big, Ben Steinberg, did an amazing job learning more about me, passing down important things, and even convincing me he was someone else so well by telling me my big made him give me a gift package when it was from him all along.

Fast forward a few months and I’ve now been elected as Exodus’s chapter S’gan, gotten to know so many members, made a lot of close friends, shared some amazing memories with them, and I already have a drawer dedicated to all the BBYO swag I’ve received. I’ve learned some valuable lessons from the numerous opportunities BBYO has already given me, such as how to manage my time better between schoolwork, chapter board responsibilities, and time for myself. I can better see the happiness in life thanks to a workshop I attended during the International Convention, and I’m proud to be Jewish despite living in a world with some unfortunate hate.

It has only been a few months and joining BBYO has already affected my life so much. I can’t wait to see how the next few years unfold. Thank you for reading my slightly different story, and I’ll see you at Spring Convention!

Pictured: Josh Zaretsky being inducted as an Aleph at New Members Night.

BBYOmegle: The Hit Feature from IC 2021

BBYOmegle: The Hit Feature from IC 2021

Written by: Taylor Levy, 9th Grade, L’Chaim BBG #2444.

International Convention (IC) 2021 was different from a typical IC for many reasons. However, it also brought many new experiences. One of the unique features of IC 2021 was Meet Up, or as most would refer to it, BBYOmegle, for its similarities to Omegle, a popular chat website. The Meet Up feature allowed IC delegates to connect with a random participant from across the world with a click of a button, have a 3-minute time slot with the option to extend it, and leave any time, even mid-sentence. If you were lucky, maybe you even had the chance to meet “chicken man.” This distinctive Meet Up feature was part of the Hopin platform used throughout IC, alongside the “mainstage,” “sessions,” and “BBYO boulevard” where many IC programs took place.

BBYOmegle led to many common experiences, some of which likely happened to you if you tried it. Here are some of my favourites:

  • That moment when the time is just about to run out, and they don’t accept the extension, so you lose that person and the conversation forever. It’s pretty sad, especially if you didn’t even get their Instagram or snapchat.
  • That feeling when you just want to leave a boring conversation that you’re having, but you are just too polite. It is very awkward.
  • That feeling when you “connected” with someone from your own region and, since you already know them, you both just start awkwardly laughing. It’s pretty funny, and some of my favourite memories happened this way.
  • Of course, you cannot forget about that feeling when you “connect” with your best friend.
  • Finally, a very strange moment that happened to me multiple times: When you connect with a random person who is crying or caught up in a previous meet-up, so you’re nice and chat with them, even if you have no clue what’s going on.

Before I hopped into IC 2021, I met one of my closest friends, Casey Miller. Casey is a junior (Grade 11) from Michigan Region. I interviewed them because they loved BBYOmegle, here’s what they had to say:

Jadyn: How did BBYOmegle make your IC experience better?

Casey: BBYOmegle changed the way that I think of a virtual program. I would’ve never thought of this feature, until I logged into Hopin. This feature is truly a WOW factor that has never been seen before by teens, and now all of my BBYOmegle friends are sharing the link [to a petition] to keep BBYOmegle alive forever. Here’s the link!

Jadyn: What was your favourite BBYOmegle memory?

Casey: My favourite BBYOmegle memory hands down was meeting new people from all across the world, such as BBYO Balkans, BBYO Austria, BBYO South Africa and so many more. I stayed up way past my bedtime, and for my sake, it paid off. I got to meet teens from BBYO Australia when it was their morning, and I got to meet so many more international members, with pretty cool accents too.

Jadyn: Are you still in contact with the people that you met on BBYOmegle? If so, do you feel that they are now some of your closest friends?

Casey: I am 100% still in contact with the people that I met on BBYOmegle, whether through iMessage, WhatsApp, GroupMe, Instagram, or Snapchat, and so many more diverse platforms. I would say that the people that I met on BBYOmegle during IC 2021 are some of my closest friends that I will be staying in contact with.

Sometimes, when too few people were on BBYOmegle, you would either get matched with the same group of people, or you would wait to get matched with “the next person available”. One time, I was on FaceTime with my friend Jadyn Right (Dor Chadash BBG #2404), and at the same time, we “connected” on BBYOmegle together because there was no one else wanting to meet up at the time. It was so funny, and definitely a great memory we shared while laughing on two calls together at once.

Meeting new people in a unique way, such as BBYOmegle, made members forget all about having to be at home during IC, and it allowed us to form new bonds and connections with teens that members would not have otherwise had the chance to meet. Take the feeling of getting pushed into a random room with random people in-person, bring it online, and call it BBYOmegle.

A Convention Like Nothing Imagined

A Convention Like Nothing Imagined

Written by: Jadyn Right, 9th Grade, Dor Chadash BBG #2404.

Going into a virtual convention, or any virtual program for that matter, most of us can agree that it’s hard to imagine replicating the energy and atmosphere of an in-person event. We imagine what it would be like normally, we think about what would be the most interesting parts if we were together in person, and we wonder what will keep us engaged online.

On January 29th 2021, we kicked off our Frat/Sis Convention weekend and all hesitation vanished. Not wanting to be disappointed, I logged onto the convention’s Zoom link with low expectations, although the package sent to my house had given me a bit more hope. However, Frat/Sis Convention turned out to be absolutely incredible!

The packages were so well done, and when they arrived at our doorsteps, we were all amazed. Every participant received a box that included supplies for each day of our convention, as well as some items for the entirety of the weekend; such as whiteboards and the infamous toques, which were really comfortable and fun! The packages were made in hopes of engaging members, and I think that they successfully served their purpose.

Friday included an array of incredible programming; Opening Ceremonies, icebreakers, candle lighting and Kabbalat Shabbat, as well as several Oneg Shabbat options to end off the night. These programs were an incredible way to kick off this unique convention!

On Saturday, we had a Shacharit service, Limmud programming, Havdalah, Beauheart Ball, AZA & BBG Separates, and a spirited friendship circle led by our amazing song leading team. One of the amazing surprises was a cameo from Tik Tok star @WillyWonkaTikTok, even if he did say, butcher the pronunciation of Beauheart as “Be-you-heart Ball”! This was an incredible wow factor, and it was so creative for the steering committee to get a cameo from this Tok Tok star, especially because the Ball’s theme was Chocolate Factory! Saturday’s programs made me feel the most connected and brought back so many memories from last year, despite participating on Zoom.

On Sunday, we began with a Shacharit service, followed by AZA & BBG business meetings, AZAA/BBGG, and finally, closing ceremonies. That day, my favourite memory was AZAA/BBGG because my heart and home, Chapter Dor Chadash, won the AZAA/BBGG competition!

Of course, I cannot forget the entertaining Chofesh Hallway that was open throughout the weekend. I met so many more amazing people in our Region, as we bonded through Jackbox and Additionally, I made some amazing memories and inside jokes that I will carry with me throughout the rest of my time in BBYO.

From a member’s perspective, I did not expect this convention to be so outstanding. It was eye-opening for me, and it completely changed my perspective about virtual conventions. From opening ceremonies, to ‘be you heart ball,’ to friendship circle, to closing ceremonies, every part was so well planned! The weekend was absolutely amazing, and it went by too quickly. I can’t believe it has already been a month since it ended. I think that we all learned so many new things; whether about each other, or even about BBYO and how it works. For some of us, this was our first virtual convention. I can truly say that it was one of the best conventions that Lake Ontario Region has EVER seen, and it will be hard to top. I’d like to give a huge shout out to the 41st Regional Board and the entire steering committee for planning such an incredible Frat/Sis Convention! See you at Spring Convention!

Pictured: Sarah Glogauer (left), Jadyn Right (right), and Taylor Levy (bottom) at Frat/Sis Convention 2021.

Virtual Engagement

Virtual Engagement

Written by: Jonah Beckenstein, 10th Grade, Kavod AZA #2468.

There is no doubt that running an online program can be a challenge. Whether you are waiting for everyone to show up, or waiting for another breakout room to finish their activity, there are known to be some less exciting moments. Luckily, after speaking with many great BBYO members, I have found some ways to avoid these moments. 

I interviewed Lake Ontario Region’s 41st Regional Aleph Godol, Eric Volgyi, 41st Regional S’ganit, Dalia Right, 41st Regional Moreh, Evan Forman, and 41st Regional Morah, Brittany Zaretsky. I also interviewed the international s’ganim, Jared Wilen (96th Grand Aleph S’gan), and Abbie Johnson (76th International S’ganit) to hear their opinions on virtual programming and engagement within these programs.

One great way to increase engagement is to split the group up into smaller breakout rooms. According to Eric,“it’s hard to keep many people engaged at once, but smaller groups have an advantage.” He spoke a lot about the personal connection within breakout rooms, which enhances the overall experience of a program. Personally, when I go into a breakout room, I find that getting to know people is much easier as you can have smaller group conversations. 

Another great way to create engagement and guide meaningful programs is to include wow factors! Dalia suggests that you try “adding interactive elements such as zoom polls and encouraging zoom reactions”. 

“Online games are an incredible way to jazz up your programming, a great example is Jackbox! Something that [works well] is creating supply bags/boxes […]! You can also have a guest speaker to elevate your programming if it fits into the theme. There are hundreds of things you can do to spice up your programming through wow factors. If you ever need any help brainstorming do not hesitate to reach out to your Regional S’ganim.”

Zoom programs aren’t just for chapters, as our region recently held our Frat/Sis Convention virtually! I asked Eric what he did to create engagement on the steering calls and he explained: “We made sure there was always something to do, so that people would participate in the call and share ideas.” This applies to all programming as there are times when we aren’t doing anything, and this is one way to keep everyone focussed.

Often, there are programs that involve teams or groups, and it may not be a program that is best-suited for breakout rooms, much like our recent Big/Little Family Feud, run by Evan and Brittany. Evan explained why they decided against using breakout rooms: “Constantly going in and out of breakout rooms would have hurt the overall flow of the program.” Breakout rooms can be an asset, but not always. This program worked well being in a large group. It was an amazing regional program, but it may not work for chapters. Brittany added: “Make it feel more in-person, not just sitting at a computer screen, to really establish the Big/Little bonds in your chapter.” 

When working on a chapter program, Brittany also mentioned “Program engagement can suffer if you choose to play games where people get eliminated and don’t play for the remainder of the game. This isn’t fun in virtual programs, because you have to stay muted and just watch, unlike in person, where you can still talk to people and have a good time.” With all that in mind, Big/Little programming varies based on the chapter, the amount of people and the type of program.

Even on an international level, less engagement is common. This year, I had the opportunity to be a part of the International Convention (IC) steering committee and asked Jared and Abbie about engagement within the committee calls, which had over 100 people on at a time. We spoke about their use of breakout rooms. Jared mentioned: “using breakout rooms was a great way to keep steerers engaged and interacting with one another. The more they got to know each other the better it would be if they were to be paired to run a program together!” This is the main reason breakout rooms can be good. 

After asking Abbie what exactly the purpose of engaging members of the steering team, she replied with: “We tried to switch things up every meeting, for example, if one meeting we did a reflection Padlet then the next meeting we’d do team breakouts, and then the next one we’d do a Hopin demo! We used screen-sharing on Zoom with slides which was super engaging because the Steerers could listen and follow along visually as well!” These were some of the activities that Abbie and Jared did to keep all the steerers happy and satisfied with the progress of planning IC.

There are so many ways to make online programs more engaging. You can include wow factors, use Zoom’s built in features like breakout rooms and polls, or you can keep everyone occupied. Chapter programming is a huge part of BBYO, and keeping our members focussed is vital. By using these methods that were brought up, we can modify our programs to make everyone engaged.

Pictured: Jonah Beckenstein (right) interviewing Lake Ontario Region’s 41st Regional Aleph Godol, Eric Volgyi, about virtual engagement.

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