|With other rabbis at Tribefest|
|A.J. Jacobs speaking hilariously in the opening "main event"|
According to Jackie Menter, who wrote an article describing the first such Tribefest,
TribeFest is part of a profound shift in philosophy at JFNA toward engaging young adults in their 20s and 30s. Now, more than ever, a top priority at JFNA is outreach and engagement to maintain a steady flow of vibrant young Jews into the Federation movement. “JFNA has moved away from leadership development as a single agenda item,” Katz explains. Rather than jumping into leadership development, the new approach focuses on first attracting and engaging potential young leaders—a step in the process that Federations didn’t really have to work hard at in the past.She continued: "JFNA realized that without the steady flow of new young adults being inspired to become Jewishly involved, the future of Cabinet, and Federation itself, would be bleak." Basically, in order to have committed donors to the Jewish Federations, Jews need to not only understand what the Jewish Federations are and do, but also to understand the need and importance of giving to them and supporting them. But, in order to do that, they need to appreciate the work of the Federations, which results from the appreciation and understanding of Jewish life and helping out one's fellow Jews. However, before even that is reached, one needs to want to be involved in Jewish life and like being Jewish. Thus, the work in reaching out to young adults: if these young adult Jews aren't connecting with Jewish life and/or Jewish Federations, it does not spell out a great future for Jewish Federations. Thus, Tribefest is one such manifestation of this effort: exciting young adult Jews about Jewish life.
|With some other Long Beach folks|
|Moshav Band performing one night during dinner|
In the lunches, they had food, etc.; during dinners, they had musical performances on-stage along with booths of sponsoring organizations while dinner was served with open bars with quality spirits (vodka: Grey Goose, gin: Bombay Sapphire, tequila: Patron, Scotch: Glenlivet, Bourbon: Maker's Mark, etc.), which made for a great evening atmosphere. What was really nice about the dinner schmoozing time was that it was a nice way to end the evening's activities as part of Tribefest, while allowing people plenty of time to go out and experience Las Vegas for the night. Well done!
In the break-out sessions, there were four time slots that offered ten different options as part of individual tracks. One of the tracks that was new was the clergy track, which was designed for rabbis and cantors. Although I initially was going to attend all four clergy track sessions (being a rabbi), I decided that the first couple ("Federations and Clergy: An Important Relationship" and "The Clergy's Voice") seemed lame, so I went to "Generation Change: How to Occupy Your (Jewish) Community Now!" and "NextGen in the Shark Tank" instead.
|David Cygielman, Miryam Rosenzweig and Stephen Hazan Arnoff|
|Shark Tank presentation with Sarah Lefton|
When I did attend the clergy track sessions, the first was "Engaging those in their 20s and 30s" - no doubt, the perfect place to discuss this topic: amongst rabbis at a conference for 20s, 30s, and young 40s. While I was expecting a discussion where mostly rabbis could get together and discuss challenges and opportunities with engaging Jews in their 20s and 30s, instead, the rabbis were a minority in the room, with a fair amount of engagement professionals there. That was a shame - what I tremendously enjoy from rabbi-only conversations is that there is a higher level of discourse and a certain perspective that one seldom gets with non-rabbis. Moreover, the presentation was very synagogue-centric (by someone from Synagogue 3000, which makes sense) and there really wasn't much of a conversation about best practices for rabbis engaging with Jews in their 20s and 30s. So, I came away disappointed from that session, especially since part of the presentation was about how there was a young adults social group that got together and had some interaction with a rabbi and, on occasion, met at a synagogue. One of the problems of making it synagogue-centric was that 20s and 30s are not only reticent to go to synagogues (unless they are married and/or have children), but that it didn't offer models for rabbis to go out and engage 20s and 30s nor did it offer some suggestions as to content to be discussed with them. I was greatly frustrated with that session.
|With Rabbi Jason Miller, who led "How To Get Our Message Out" session|
There really weren't many Orthodox/observant Jews there; I mostly saw them gather at davening, but most of those in attendance at the minyanim were the YU presidential fellows (which, by the way, was a good thing on the part of YU to send them, so congratulations to YU for having the vision to expose their fellows to a broader swath of young North American Jewry), which isn't a bad thing, but greatly reflects the lack of Orthodox attendance. Obviously, one shouldn't expect Haredi, Yeshivish, or Hasidic Jews to be in attendance, but I would have expected more Modern Orthodox to be there. I wonder what the factors are for the lack of my fellow Modern Orthodox Jews at Tribefest were, but I'm sure it makes for some great conversation....
|A bunch of Long Beach folks at Tribefest|
|Meeting a fellow tweeter in real life!|
Lastly, it was also cool meeting other tweeters, some for the first time in real life and some to catch up with. It was good having parallel twitter conversations with the others there and beyond. And, apparently, I enjoyed it so much that I ended up being one of the top tweeters there!
I really enjoyed Tribefest and hope the next one is also another great experience! It really fulfilled my high expectations :)