Here is what Sam had to say about his role as International President of BBYO, the Jewish youth organization, this year.
BBYO is always something that mattered to the Perlen family. My parents were members, my aunts and uncles were active, and my cousins were all active, including Whitney Perlen ’12 who was a regional president. When I joined in high school, I knew I wanted to take part. I was active from the first day, and it has changed my life.
This year though, I am living a journey that only 89 other Jewish men from North America have experienced. I am currently serving as the 90th Grand Aleph Godol of AZA, which translates to International President of the world’s largest youth movement spanning 30 countries and 45,000 engaged members. The skills I learned at USN prepared me to be a leader in the Jewish world as an 18-year-old.
This year, I have been traveling on a gap year, meeting the BBYO membership from all around the world. Since August, I have traveled to 26 states, provinces or districts and 10 countries spanning from Estonia to Turkey, to Israel, and beyond. One key principle I have learned during this year is no matter how you practice your religion, you are still a part of a global Jewish community that will be there for you through thick and thin. I have served as the voice of the membership worldwide for this year, working to create a stronger Jewish future for our community and beyond.
I am a believer that the youth are the future, and I am committed to making sure that our voice is heard. This was no more evident than at our International Convention in Atlanta this past February. In this 5 day convention, we had over 2,300 BBYO teens from 18 countries as well as hundreds of Jewish communal leaders from around the globe. In addition, we worked with NFTY to show how strong the Jewish future is together. We joined together in a day of learning and engaging that I helped to lead with the other presidents. At International Convention, I was able to see my hard work from this year pay off. I saw that the Jewish youth is strong and promising.
Going forward, I am still traveling for my position up to June 1, when my term is officially over. I will be interning with Jim Cooper in his district office this summer before attending Indiana University this fall.