It was my first time at the GA, and I’m very glad I got to go. But then, I really like conferences. Here are some thoughts:
1. I knew quite a few people who were there, including one of the Jewish Voice for Peace protesters. This conflicts with my sense that politically and communally, I’m a marginal Jew. Conclusion: the mainstream, official, institutional Jewish world isn’t quite as narrow as one might imagine.
2. Two young women wearing Israeli army uniforms were mingling with folks at the conference. I asked one of them if I could take her picture, thinking it would be fun to share here on Jewschool. Right before the snap, she said – but you can’t post my picture anywhere. Let’s recap: this nice Israeli woman soldier was fine letting me photograph her for my PERSONAL collection. How creepy is that? Made me wonder if men asking to take her picture was something normal.
3. There’s a class of older guy in a suit and white shirt who wanders around talking to clones of each other and looking important. I have no idea what they are doing. They weren’t at any of the workshops I attended. Who are they? Anyone know?
4. After the JVP protest/disruption of Netanyahu’s speech, I heard folks say that there was a mismatch between the alleged tactic and the reasonable message of the youngsters. Why not a JVP booth next year? The way to win an argument with the mainstream is by dressing it in mainstream clothes. I fear that disruptive tactics that aren’t part of a constructive plan make ‘our’ side a bit weaker in the corridors of power. Then again, they sort of made headlines, right? So I’m torn. I also think Rae can do no wrong….
5. Secret plan uncovered: the ‘refuse to talk about Israel’ wing of the progressive Jewish world might be on to something. Pro-peace folks are unlikely to ‘win’ an argument about Israel’s importance or get leaders to admit they are wrong about knee-jerk supporting of the Israeli government. But they might make a case that a rising cohort of Jews who care more about universal values and less about tribal hallmarks of Jewish identity need more and better alternatives to a focus on Israel.
Actually, they’ve done it. The Social Justice Roundtable that includes JFSJ, Avodah, AJWS, Repair the World and others are proving to general satisfaction that they offer programs that work with young people. In a few years (I predict) we’ll have solid evidence that those programs represent the solid core of Jewish continuity work, performing better and costing less than Israel related programs.
Some day, at a meeting of those strange dudes in suits and white shirts will conclude that the whole Israel thing is coming at the expense of continuity work, at least as currently formulated. Will they choose what works by the numbers, or drive the Israel right or wrong agenda with a smaller and smaller audience?
6. Some public facing leaders of Jewish organizations have personas that ooze sincerity. Am I the only one who sees almost all of it as performance, leaving me cold to any emotional content they might have sought to impart? It’s the same trait I’ve noticed with many politicians and rabbis. Is it just me?