I dropped in on the General Assembly on Monday -- and I was impressed.
Lay and professional leaders are in attendance in significant numbers again. As I understand it, the numkbers of full pay registrants far exceeds those at the prior United States venues by a huge percentage. I think that this reflects not the program and not the "brand" but the new sense of purpose and dedication of the agenda that Kathy Manning and Jerry Silverman have articulated. Fresh air appeared to be flowing through the hallways at the Marriott Wardman Park, at the Plenaries and Panels.
Given workload and a wonderful upcoming family simcha (a grandson's Bar Mitzvah back in D.C.), I have been enjoying the GA, in addition to my "stop and chat" Monday morning, virtually. It's a different experience and I miss, but for my brief attendance, the hallway give and take, the friendships renewed and made, the common agenda of Jewish Peoplehood expressed by attendance.
I listened to Jerry Silverman's first address. I heard and felt more energy and less ego; I was most impressed by the personal warmth and grace and, in his few weeks "on the job," Jerry has developed a five-pronged focus that, if we as a North American polity can help him stay the course, will see a stronger federation system emerge from the crises of today; of the need for the national organization to convene, to be the messenger for the collective and to be the federations' strategic partner. Jerry and Kathy "get it."
And, if Manning's "three goals when she took over" were articulated at the Closing Plenary as JTA's Jacob Bergman reported -- having a CEO of Silverman's quality and potential in place, Obama's attendance at the GA and the new "brand" --all of us must assume that she has a few more goals in her pocket that will emerge going forward.
And, of course, the Jewish Communal Hero -- read about him and his work elsewhere.
Then I read Haaretz reporter Sara Miller's "take" on the GA -- here is what she wrote:
The fundamental essence of the conference can be summed up quite simply: What on earth are we going to do now that the crash has taken a huge chunk of our money and Madoff has stolen most of the rest?
This is the "fundamental essence" of this General Assembly? Sorry, Sara, you've got it all wrong. I think Miller's conclusion is beyond myopic and demonstrates how little some Israelis know about us. Yet, this nonsensical conclusion helps me to understand why these Posts from time-to-time irritate large numbers of readers.