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How JCC Chicago and BBYO Great Midwest Region (GMR) are reengaging teens.

In anticipation of a return to full-time, in-person school, JCC Chicago and BBYO GMR have joined forces to provide teens with the type of physical space and programming experiences they seek after an unprecedented period of isolation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Together, JCC Chicago and BBYO GMR are two of Chicagoland’s largest providers of activities to the Jewish teen audience. This collaboration will leverage the strengths of both organizations, applying BBYO GMR’s time-tested approach to teen leadership and year-round engagement to JCC Chicago’s broad engagement with thousands of teens through camp, community service, employment, and an array of skill and leadership development activities.

JCC Chicago, the largest JCC on the continent, engages over 3,000 teens annually through Apachi Day Camps, Camp Chi overnight camp, Jewish Student Connection, Maccabi Games and numerous other programs and opportunities. From Lake County to Lakeview, the north shore to the south side and beyond, JCC Chicago serves as an anchor for emerging Jewish journeys. The multitude of programs serves to engage teens year-round and help hone a deeper connection to Jewish values, Jewish identity and Jewish community.

BBYO GMR is the leading pluralistic Jewish teen movement aspiring to involve more Jewish teens in more meaningful Jewish experiences. BBYO GMR has over 600 members and engages 1,000-plus teens annually across Illinois, primarily in and around the Chicagoland area, including Chicago, Buffalo Grove, Deerfield, Northbrook, Skokie, Wilmette, Naperville, Homewood/Flossmoor and Champaign. Through youth-led and staff-supported programs, BBYO GMR offers members opportunities to develop leadership skills and positively affect their communities, the world and themselves.

In connection with JCC Chicago’s scenario planning work and related focus on Jewish teen engagement and programming, The J conducted its first teen community survey in early 2021, which revealed findings that helped inform the partnership with BBYO GMR:

  • 79% of teens are interested in a hangout/program space with dedicated teen hours.
  • 83% of teens are interested in monthly programming.
  • 59% of teens are interested in proactively addressing mental health for both themselves and their peers.

In response to many of these findings, the JCC Chicago-BBYO GMR partnership seeks to address the teen community’s pressing needs as they emerge from the pandemic. Highlights of the partnership include:

  • Co-hosted office space at Bernard Weinger JCC in Northbrook.
  • On-site BBYO meetings for seven suburban chapters at Bernard Weinger JCC.
  • Multiple co-hosted events engaging teens involved in each of the organizations.
  • Cross-promotion of events focused on engaging the Chicagoland Jewish teen community.
  • Support and collaboration among staff serving the teen community from both organizations.

Additional philanthropic support will be sought to bring to life these creative, new initiatives and opportunities for reengaging teens that only a partnership of this magnitude can provide.

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Brittany Howard

Brittany is the editor of Community Rec Magazine. Reach her at brittany@peakemedia.com.

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