Three days in Sin City, Las Vegas, NV. 1,275 young jews. Together in one place with dynamic speakers and a plethora of engaged, young Jewish leaders. Tribefest was everything the Jewish Federations of North America promised on, and more.
A rebranded version of its past leadership conferences, Tribefest promised to connect young Jews to the richness of Jewish music, food, arts & culture and to our own Judaism. To give us a chance to explore how we see ourselves as a part of the global Jewish community. You did not need to be any brand of Jewish to be at this event; you just needed to be a willing participant in your own Jewish self-exploration, to consider taking an active role in leading our Jewish future, to ponder a deeper connection to Jewish community.
Inspirational talks by big names actor Mayim Bialik, author Ben Mezrich, Las Vegas mayor (and Jew) Oscar Goodman, NFL team owners Mark Wilf and Jonathan Kraft, Congresswomen Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Shelley Berkeley and Congressman Joe Heck. Breakout sessions on topics such as”What Does it Mean to be Jewish in the 21st Century?”; “Noshing on Food Justice”; “Exploring Religious Pluralism and the Future of Israel as a Jewish State”; “Rock the Vote: Engaging in our Democracy.” Entertainment by comedian Joel Chassnoff, world funk musicians Yemen Blues, Y-Love, and hip-hop violinist Miri Ben-Ari. There were so many ways to explore and connect to being Jewish here at Tribefest.
What I learned: the future looks very exciting with these young leaders at the helm. I am inspired by the many young adults from across the country with whom I was fortunate to talk to whose minds are going at 500 MPH with innovative ideas of how to keep moving us to the next level. Many of us already are part of the process to keep young Jews connected to Jewish life, and now more of us are at the ready to dive in, and make a difference.
The Jewish Federations of North America had a captive audience for three days. And it’s even more exciting to hear of its plans, which I’ve never heard of when it comes to conferences: to follow up with participants, to give us all a chance to reflect back on our experience, to make available members of the National Young Leadership Cabinet who helped plan and implement the Tribefest conference for discussions of ways to go back into our own communities and explore new ideas to support our Jewish future, with our Federations, with our Jewish agencies, our synagogues and our communities.
Rachel Tucker, of Detroit, Michigan (and my roommate), came to Tribefest to meet other Jews in a similar situation in life, have fun and reconnect with her Jewishness as a young adult. “There aren’t a lot of opportunities to meet other Jews in their 20s,30s, 40s from across the country. When we are in our own communities, we may forget that we are a part of a larger community. I think that Tribefest helped remind me of those connections, that there are Jews out there working for the Jewish movement. Since my trip on the National Young Leadership mission five years ago, I haven’t been involved in my Jewish community at all. It’s easy when we are young and going to be Hebrew school and being bat mitzvahed, and it’s been rare for me that I’ve done anything with the Jewish community. After this experience, I’ve met people from my community who I hope to stay in touch with.”
Ezra Shanken, Senior Manager of the Young Adult Department with the Allied Jewish Federation of Colorado, and a self-proclaimed workaholic on a mission to connect young adult Jews to Jewish experiences and their Judaism, reflected back after just two days of the conference on young Jewish adults connection to the Jewish Federations of North America, which raises and distributing more than $3 billion annually for social welfare, social services and educational needs.
“ If you think that the Federation system is on the decline, you need only to look at the 1,200 plus Tribefest participants to realize that Federation is continuing to fulfill its timeless role as our Jewish world’s convening organization. It is inspiring to see a new generation of Jewish leaders learning about the vital role Federation is playing in the 21st century Jewish community.”
It is difficult not to be excited about his excitement.
U.S. Congresswomen, Shelley Berkeley serving Nevada’s first congressional district, had it spot-on when she spoke to the group on Monday morning about the importance of our participation. “You don’t have to serve in Congress to make a mark on this country. Each and every one of you…as American Jews, we stand tall. We matter, we make a difference. We are here today to make a difference…”
After Tribefest, there’s now new energy, passion, ideas and new connections with each other that have amazing potential to be explored. I personally have a stack of business cards from people I made connections with who will make great connections, friends and mentors as I work to make a difference in the Jewish community.
The co-chairs of the Tribefest event Robin Zappin and Rob Lippitt ended the conference today with a challenging mission: Go home and do something.
The Jewish renaissance is alive and well, my friends. This is just the beginning for the young adult Jewish community.
If you went to Tribefest, what did *you* think?