The GA set for Jerusalem in November 2008 may be a terrific one. UJC has been promoting it on its website for quite a while and UJC even sent an e-mail last week to its mailing list encouraging registration over the Internet (a labor intensive and rewarding process). Professionally, programming will be led by UJC's Nachman Shai who has demonstrated his ability to put together a great program -- be it on Missions or prior GA's -- time and again. Chairing the GA will be two terrific leaders -- Jane and Mark Wilf -- from a wonderful Central New Jersey philanthropic family. (The naming of Jane and Mark is itself a major step forward for UJC as its last three GA's have been chaired by UJC's two Chairs. Kal ha'kavod to them for recognizing it was time for them to let go.) Surely, the centrality of Israel in our lives will be a central focus.
But, if you haven't yet registered for the GA or planned your air travel, do so now before it's too late. (By the way, unlike other years, there is no discount for early Registration; there is apparently no discount for federation or agency professionals.) Registration is $600 per Registrant and, as one faithful reader corrected me, there is no additional...no additional...charge to register for the Jewish Agency Assembly or for the International Lion of Judah Conference which precede the GA. Tell you the truth, I didn't look to see if there was an additional registration for the International Lion of Judah Conference but I think there is an additional cost for those "Lion Kings." Are you still with me?
Hotel reservations are both costly and problematic. In my case, if I wanted to reserve a room on-line at the David Citadel, I couldn't unless I made a $1000 deposit for a Chicago Mission -- then I might be able to register for a David Citadel Room at an unreal cost. (Chicago's Israel@60 Mission just returned -- 400 strong, in Israel for Yom Ha-Atzmaut -- what an incredible idea!! Now, we will have another Mission for the GA. And, we raise money on them for the Annual Campaign, lots of money.) So, let's say I wanted to stay at the King David -- the cheapest...cheapest room with an Old City view -- $506.00. Or, maybe I would choose to stay at the Jerusalem Plaza -- $316. But, a double at the Crowne Plaza is available for $161.00 and the Inbal (only the Suites are available) -- $669.00. (That's per night, by the way.) Now, I know that the Shekel/dollar ratio reflects the general devaluation of our Dollar but, come on!!
Then there's air travel. Don't expect a deeply discounted seat this November. (Although two of my Chicago partners did get a terrific fare -- here is how I think it worked for them -- they bought a Coach seat on American, paid over $600 plus tens of thousands of miles to upgrade. One catch, they are returning through Moscow -- I am not making this up -- they fly Tel Aviv- Moscow on El Al, then Moscow-Chicago on American. From my travels to the FSU, I am willing to wager they will see their luggage in time for the 2010 GA wherever that may be.)
You remember the last GA in Jerusalem. It was great. Each participant, who also participated on a pre-GA Mission received a UJC subsidy of $1,000. (Where the Subsidy dollars were found -- ostensibly in a $2.5 million budget "surplus" -- we will never know.) (Not this year. UJC has made it clear that with a $37 million Budget, it can't find two nickels extra to rub together. What I fear is that in the coming months UJC, seeing minimal GA Registration will start pleading with communities to subsidize attendance at the GA -- and, as always, the JDC/JAFI Overseas allocations will be the federations' ATM.)
So, why am I writing this Post? It's not to scare you away. It's to encourage you to Register now and arrange your air travel. The GA is only 6 months away. Make your plans now. I will be there with my wife -- for the GA and the Jewish Agency Assembly and Board of Governors meetings. I figure our costs will be about $15,000 before food. Just right.
As the Yiddish phrase says (in English) -- "Men and women plan....and G-d laughs." Laughs hard.