Four local teens to fill positions on the international BBYO board


Four Baltimore teens have been elected to positions on the international board of BBYO, a Jewish teen youth movement consisting of the high school fraternity and sorority, Aleph Zadik Aleph and B’nai B’rith Girls.

The teens, who are currently in their junior year, will begin the board positions this June.

The international board consists of 12 members, six boys and six girls. On the incoming board, three of those boys — Danny Freedman, Matt Grossman and Ben Talesnik — are from Baltimore, while one of the girls — Lilly Polakoff — is from Baltimore.

“They all are really motivated and committed to building amazing BBYO experiences for others,” said Ilana Kornblatt, Baltimore Council regional director for BBYO, who has known the four teens for more than two years.

“I would say they are all really highly capable relationship builders, so they know how to build relationships and mentor others,” she said.

The international board sets the agenda for BBYO, and each teen has a specific role on the board.

The members were elected to these positions at the international convention, which was held last month.

All four teens have had some involvement at the international level, Kornblatt said. The formal process began in December. Candidates connected with current board members. They completed a self-evaluation, wrote a vision statement and created a candidate video. They all also delivered speeches at the actual election.

It’s unusual for such a high percentage of the international board to come from one city, said Debbie Shemony, vice president of marketing and communications for BBYO. This year, she said, there were 31 candidates.

“They do a lot of work for this,” Shemony said. “It just so happens that for this year teens from Baltimore are just superstars.”

Here are the Baltimore teens who will be serving on the international board:


Danny Freedman
Danny Freedman (Jason Dixson Photography)

Danny Freedman

Position: Grand Aleph Shaliach (vice president of Jewish enrichment)

BBYO Chapter: Gideon

High School: The Park School of Baltimore

Vision statement quote: “Pride in our shared identity is of the utmost importance. As the future generation of the Jewish people, it’s imperative that we leave BBYO wishing to continue to uphold our traditions and beliefs — regardless of how we individually practice Judaism.”


Matthew Grossman
Matthew Grossman (Jason Dixson Photography)

Matt Grossman

Position: Grand Aleph Moreh (vice president of membership and recruitment)

BBYO Chapter: Ashkelon

High School: Gilman

Vision statement quote: “The biggest threat that faces our worldwide Jewish community is not anti-Semitism, but rather the lack of engagement beyond the years of Hebrew school. AZA and BBG are in the best place possible to combat this and we can tackle this issue by taking it head on and embodying our guiding principle: more Jewish teens, more meaningful Jewish experiences.”


Lilly Polakoff
Lilly Polakoff (Jason Dixson Photography)

Lilly Polakoff

Position: International Aym HaChaverot (vice president of membership and recruitment)

BBYO Chapter: Ashkelon

High School: Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School

Vision statement quote: “One important issue I feel confident AZA & BBG could tackle next year is increasing support and retention in small chapters, because strong chapters build the base of a strong movement.”


Benjamin Talesnik
Benjamin Talesnik (Jason Dixson Photography)

Ben Talesnik

Position: Grand Aleph Gizbor (treasurer)

BBYO Chapter: Ashkelon

High School: Pikesville High School

Vision statement quote: “What constitutes a ‘successful fundraiser’? Any fundraiser, no matter the outcome, ranging from those who inspire teens to continue their journey within our Order or those which can be incorporated to increase funds, is considered successful.”

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