Youth Revolt At GA
Gary Rosenblatt breaks down the major themes of this year’s GA, paying special attention to “the next generation.”
One theme that did emerge from this year’s GA was a new emphasis on attracting young people — primarily those in their 20s — to a more active role in Jewish life in general, and the federation movement in particular.
[…] Four Jewish activists in their 20s were highlighted at the closing plenary on Tuesday. The session was intended, in the words of moderator Jennifer Meyerhoff, to be a “loud and reverberating wake-up call” to the organized community.
Aaron Bisman, founder of Jdub Records, a company dealing with hip-hop and other Jewish music groups, said young people “need a space at the table, and need to feel heard and valued.” He said that early on, when he sought partnership in a meeting with a mainstream Jewish organization, he was asked for a $1,000 contribution.
“Invite us in, work with us, and learn to respect an $18 contribution as much as a $5,000 contribution,” he said.
Rochelle Shoresh, founder of Sharsheret, an organization for Jewish women suffering from breast cancer, said that as a 28-year-old victim of the disease, she did not have “the luxury of time” to endure the slow, deliberative process federations go through in determining whether, and when, to start a group to help, so she did it herself.
Shoresh said federations should not think people are coming to them only for money, but that they can be helpful in providing networking and advice.
“Young Jews should be incubated, not just projects,” she said.
And Marcella Kanfer Rolnick, a young philanthropist, said she supports federation financially because of its work in providing a social safety net for the needy, and responding to crises. “But I don’t give my time and energy” to federation because it is a “failure” in terms of being open and inviting.
“You need to invite us to the table and embrace change or we’ll go elsewhere,” said Kanfer Rolnick, whose father, Joe Kanfer, is North American chair of the GA Leadership.
UJC president and CEO Howard Rieger, in his closing remarks, echoed the young panelists, saying his call to action was “to engage the next generation.”
[…] The message was there, but as Marcella Kanfer Rolnick, the young philanthropist, said in her presentation, “I’m not convinced that you’re really listening to us.”