Rachel Grey Ellis shows off BBYO’s new sign on Orchard Lake Road.
Rachel Grey Ellis shows off BBYO’s new sign on Orchard Lake Road. (Courtesy of BBYO)

BBYO’s mission is to create meaningful experiences for Jewish teens from social events to philanthropy, community service, social justice initiatives, athletics, health and social awareness and more.

For more than 97 years, BBYO (formerly B’nai B’rith Youth Organization) has given teenagers a place to build friendships, leadership skills and their Jewish identity. Now, the Michigan Region, which serves 13 local chapters and more than 1,000 Metro Detroit teens annually, has a brand-new space to call home. They recently opened a new office and teen hangout at 7115 Orchard Lake Road, Suite 220, in West Bloomfield. Since the 1980s, BBYO Michigan has been headquartered inside the West Bloomfield JCC.

“We’ve been there since the JCC opened. They were a great partner for many decades,” said Rachel Grey Ellis, senior regional director of BBYO Michigan. “Times changed, and we knew it was time for us to move. We found a perfect spot that’s centrally located for all of the surrounding communities we serve.”

Ellis says the team is still unpacking and getting settled into their new digs, which include a conference room, kitchenette and a teen space that members will decorate themselves. There are also places to do homework, supply cabinets filled with art and school supplies, and plenty of snacks. A full-time social worker is on staff to talk to students about whatever’s on their minds. 

The space is funded by the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit, which also funded the previous location at the JCC.

 Skylar Elbinger, regional teen president.
Skylar Elbinger, regional teen president.

“This is a space of our own,” said Skylar Elbinger, regional teen president along with Benji Stern, a senior at Bloomfield Hills High School. “With this new space, we’re able to make BBYO something new and something we want it to be.”

Elbinger, a senior at Frankel Jewish Academy, joined BBYO in eighth grade. She says participating has given her a social outlet, a place to meet new people and made her a stronger leader. For the last year and a half, COVID-19 has put a damper on in-person activities and events. That’s one more reason the organization is so excited to open up the new space where teens can feel free to stop by anytime during normal business hours.

“We were all stuck at home and isolated and didn’t have the personal, human interaction everyone needs,” Ellis says. “What we’re seeing now is that teens are showing up, they’re really excited, they miss each other, and they want to be in person. So, this is a perfect time to be in BBYO and be a part of this new space.”

Audrey Bloomberg and Jennifer Frank at the welcome desk.
Audrey Bloomberg and Jennifer Frank at the welcome desk.
New Space, New Staff

The office isn’t the only thing that’s new, three new staff members joined BBYO Michigan in August and September. They are Regional Director Audrey Bloomberg, Associate Regional Director Blair Bean and social worker Sari Kripke.

BBYO’s mission is to create meaningful experiences for Jewish teens from social events to philanthropy, community service, social justice initiatives, athletics, health and social awareness and more. The programming is teen-driven, and participants learn leadership and life skills along the way.

Social worker Sari Kripke shows off the snack drawer.
Social worker Sari Kripke shows off the snack drawer.

“We learn how to collaborate and work within a budget,” Elbinger says. “I’m able to connect with students through all grades. Everyone’s just so welcoming. It’s truly amazing.”

To celebrate the start of this new era for BBYO and the tens of thousands of alumni the organization has served in the past, a special donor wall is also planned for the new space. A conference room wall — visible through a large glass wall when you enter the office — will be transformed in an artistic way to showcase supporters through the decades. A fundraising campaign is underway, and donors who contribute $500 and up will be included on the wall. Donated funds also support programming and scholarships.

“This feels like a restart of BBYO coming out of COVID,” Ellis says. “We are so excited to recognize our supporters in a really cool way and welcome local Jewish teens into our new space. Now is a great time to be part of BBYO and to invest in our young people who will make our Jewish community stronger and the world a richer place.”   

To make a donation or learn more, visit bbyo.org/donate/Michigan or contact Operations/Office Administrator Jennifer Frank at 248-849-0569 or jfrank@bbyo.org.

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