Friday, November 1, 2013


This Post takes another look at the GA -- or, pardon me, "The Global Jewish Shuk -- A Marketplace of Dialogue and Debate." Oh, if only it were so.  The GA was such a valuable and valued franchise that efforts to make it a biennial event were rejected by a number of the LCE (and, no doubt others) based on an argument that "if we don't do it every year, someone will surely steal it from us." Now, if attendance is the scoreboard, the franchise has been so devalued as to render that argument moot.

I don't know who is in charge of the "rules" for the GA in this Mickey Mouse era. I do recall that in the early years of JFNA, we had a lay/professional Committee where all issues -- from the programmatic to the practical -- were discussed and decided. So, here's what's happening now:

  • As we have observed, federations and agencies which made inquiry have been told that there will be no day passes to the GA. This at a time that Registration is somewhere between a disaster and a bigger disaster;
  • I gave some thought to attending at this the last minute. Tried to reserve rooms at one of the GA hotels -- it doesn't matter which, there are rooms after rooms available. It is clear on the GA website that once booked, you cannot get a refund no matter the circumstance. So, we called a few hotels at various price points in an attempt to book the same dates and, guess what: every one of these hotels permits cancellation up to 24 hours in advance -- at the same room rates or lower than JFNA has "negotiated."   
  • I, like you, have read the GA Program. The good news: there are many new faces; the bad news: there are many old ones as well. I found it interesting that the JFNA CEO/President has found his way onto the program in at least two places -- one of which is to moderate an apparent "discussion" of Takdim, the first Israeli community following the federation "model" (whatever that is today). As in many other GA program instances, wouldn't this be an opportunity to highlight Federation lay and professional leaders who are actively and actually involved in Takdim. But...this is but a quibble: of greater import is, as one national leader wrote me, "this is nothing more than the same old same old, 'new faces' talking about the same old things."
  • On the subject of the GA Program, the system's entity fighting BDS will present, but how about this: post his IDF service, Israeli Hen Mazzig was engaged as a shaliach by StandWithUs. His experience with American Jews in the NorthWest resulted in a cry: "An Israeli Soldier to American Jews: Wake Up." It was tough reading but wouldn't hearing directly from Mazzig wake up a dead GA? If there are those at JFNA who don't know how to contact StandWithUs, give me a call.
  • The "selling of the GA" has been JFNA's major focus these past two months -- the catalyst? A registration so abysmal as to be an embarrassment. The Shuk proved not to mean much so JFNA added another meaningless tag line: The 2013 GA: Where All Points Meet. No, haven't a clue what that means. And "dialogue and debate" -- where on that desultory, soporific Program? Better minds than mine, certainly, conceived a wonderful program on Jewish Pluralism in Israel led by thought leaders from "across the religious spectrum" where those assembled could "[L]earn about the work being done on the ground in Israel to bring about change." Moderated by John Ruskay. It is just the kind of program that would have brought life to a GA sorely needing it. It was held on October 20 in New York City, convened by the JCC in Manhattan -- fully sponsored. 
  • On October 25 -- what's that, 3 weeks before the GA itself -- there appeared a 1/2 page ad for the GA in the Forward. I'm going to assume that JFNA had to pay for the ad. I can only picture some federation lay leader in her office: reads the ad and says "Eureka. I have to go to this. I wasn't going to but, but...this ad. I'M GOING." Did JFNA put the GA in the hands of its Marketing Department...or does JFNA just have money to burn?
  • All of this leads to the question: where the hell is the buzz? Where is the life? Where, seriously, are the "dialogue and debate" in a GA program that appears to be all about talking heads and no debate? Where is the meat? Shouldn't we at least be good at this? G-d knows we used to be.

P.S. I am told that one of the GA Co-Chairs is telling anyone who will listen that GA registration is now at 2,450 and increasing at the "rate of 100 per day." I would love to have a swig of that Kool-Aid.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The half page ad in the Forward is a prelude to the significant media expenditure JFNA is probably making in the Jerusalem Post and Haaretz over the next two weeks. And who is the audience; Anglo residents of Israel who cannot afford the obscene registration fees?

I'm hearing that in Israel the only ones who care about the GA coming to town are either employed by federations, the Jewish Agency or the JDC. And the Israeli politicians - whose real reason for attending is to raise their personal awareness with the "rich" Americans before the next elections.

Over at the Prime Minister's Office they are more upbeat about Bibi's speech at the URJ Biennial in December than this one to the GA. Speaks volumes.