Wednesday, March 9, 2011


Received an e-mail from The Desk of Paul Kane (who if he attended TribeFest, was the oldest one in the room -- uh, "mash pit"), JFNA's Senior Advisor to the President/CEO, on Tuesday announcing that the Festivus as a "...truly unprecedented and transformational event." On behalf of JFNA Paul reported: "Tribefest has exceeded even our expectations, generating intense buzz as a pivotal shift in how we create new Jewish touchpoints (Trust me, Kane did not write this) to engage a much broader group of younger Jews and -- ultimately -- build our community."

I was most taken, in Paul's applause, with the Las Vegas Chair's shout-out to "... the assembled, to huge cheers, 'We are the future of the Jewish world." Echoes James Cameron. Less cynical folks than I (and that may be almost anyone)present sensed the great ruach and the seats filled with young enthusiastic men and women. That is worthy of some congratulations.

I received this e-mail from inside the Fest: "I have snuck into the Fest. Like everyone else I have my head down as I Tweet madly trying to keep up with the guy with the grey hair and a kippah. He's typing so madly his thumbs are a blur. My fiend -- who is in the "emergency care" line, points his casted hands toward the grey-haired guy, and in reverent tones, he whispered in awe: 'That's Daroff. He's the Prince of Twitters.'" Wow, I thought, this must be a transformational event if Daroff, Prince of the Twitters, is here."

Yes, TribeFest could have been a portal of entry into any part of the Jewish world. But, and I doubt that JFNA, in the orgy of self-congratulations is now engaged, will bother itself with either of the following: intended for the "unaffiliated," as the JTA reported, "an informal survey of participants revealed...[E]leven of the 12 attendees interviewed by JTA reported that they already are active members and donors in their local federations." This should be no surprise given the subsidies encouraged by JFNA of the federations, should it?

Then compare and contrast with this: MASA, the wonderful semester in Israel program for Jewish college students, announced that, on the same day on which Festivus began, that 500 students began an extensive Mission in Israel in a MASA Intensive Leadership Program. That's 500 serious young men and women in Israel chosen from 10,000 for more than a three day "transformational" experience in Las Vegas. The MASA Building Future Program "partners" with AVI CHAIL, Hillel, Israel on Campus Coalition, PresenTense and the ubiquitous "we're everywhere" JFNA. Yes, compare and contrast.

Over at 25 Broadway, as I predicted on these pages days and weeks ago, the patting of their own backs is in full swing. Wow, what an occasion. Let's do it again, just like Jewlicious does, and make it an annual event. After all, unlike the MASA participants or those engaged in serious communal work through federations' leadership development programs, the Festivus participants "...are the future of the Jewish world."



Anonymous said...

Richard, you need to give JFNA a break. After all, they threw that huge party for the already committed, and for that crowd it was a success. It's important to stroke the few who will be tasked with carrying JFNA forward to the under 45 set. Really.

JTA is correct. I've heard similar numbers from elsewhere - the number of those at Fest not previously connected to the system barely makes a minyan. But JFNA will never admit it. In fact, they'll never even recognize it.

One hears plans for next year are well under way - but instead of Vegas, they're heading to Fantasyland. Sort of appropriate considering the mentality at 25 Broadway.

Anonymous said...

The most insulting line was Berkofsky's bragging in JTA that this was not about "hitting people up for money" as if resource development and solictiation was a dirty practice. When I see a fellow Jew I am not hitting him or her up -- I am forthrightly requesting him or her to join me in meeting our common responsibilities. Maybe Joe should sit in on a caucus or a major gifts meeting in Chicago, NY or Minneapolis and stop shaming our traditions. Dumb statements should have real consequences.

Anonymous said...

Daroff has grey hair? I think not. I believe your source may have not actully been at Festivus. See photo & article here:

paul jeser said...


Richard's Feb 6th post began a 'dialogue' with people from Jewlicious that intrigued and involved me. In one of the comments I wrote that I would meet with them to try to get a better understanding of what they were trying to accomplish.

Last week I met with Cheston Mizel, chair of the Board of Jewlicious/JConnect, David Abitbol, founder of Jewlicious, and Rabbi Yonah Bookstein, Executive Rabbi. To say that I found them and what they are doing and trying to accomplish interesting and inspirational would be a significant understatement.

There are three ways to best show/explain Jewlicious/JConnect:

1) Website:

2) Video:

3) Written Description:
JConnect-Jewlicious produces positive Jewish experiences for Jewish students and young adults. This empowers them to decide on their own, what role their Jewish identities will play in their lives. JConnect-Jewlicious is unique in that it is non-denominational and pluralistic. We foster unity by focusing on those aspects of Judaism that unite, rather than divide us. Our emphasis on tolerance and open mindedness allows us to serve a broad demographic while remaining firmly rooted in Judaism. All our programs are produced under the direction of our constituents who provide the creative energy and grassroots authenticity that fuels the organization.

How has that manifested itself? Through, one of the best read Jewish blogs on the Web, serving hundreds of thousands of unique visitors a year for the past 7 years. Through the 7 annual Jewlicious Festivals we have run where Jewish students and young adults get together for a weekend crammed with learning, art, culture and music. Through year-round JConnectLA activities in Los Angeles for young professionals. And finally through a series of Jewlicious branded events in North America and Israel. These have included Camp Jewlicious, TikkunFest, parties, lectures and more.

There are also more than a few stories on the web about the just finished conference in Long Beach, CA. Read this one:

Having said all of the above, my belief is that Jewlicious/JConnect can - and should - play a major role in attracting yunguns in an amcha setting. A very important goal, not just for them, but for our Jewish Community.

Having said all of the above, my belief is that the Federation system should be supporting this effort in every way possible, and not try to duplicate it. The FEDS should be going back to what they did so well with the YW/YMLCs in attracting, training, motivating those who will become major leaders and donors... If the reports about JFNA's TribeFest are correct, and 90+% of those in attendance were already connected, then TribFest was a failure, no matter the JFNA spin. As I said, JFNA should support Jewlicious, not try to duplicate it, and it should go back to its roots.

RWEX said...

Re: Daroff's Hair

The photo evidences gray hair. I admit when I look in the mirror, I see a young(er) man. If William believes he is not gray, I buy it.

Anonymous said...

Re: Jewlicious

They were very present at Festivus. Both Rabbi Yonah and David Abitbol were on (different) panels. They also had an open house where the vodka was donated through an arrangement facilitated by JFNA.