Many of you have written me off-line (and some on-line) to lament the sorry, sorry state of JFNA evidenced by the lack of an, any, audience for the 2017 LA GA. One of you wrote: "THERE IS NO ONE HERE" (Caps courtesy of the Commentator.) Apparently hoping that smaller meeting rooms would create the illusion of a packed house; Jerry Silverman and Richard Sandler fooled no one.
Then, JFNA did what it does best, it drafted a Resolution ostensibly condemning the Prime Minister's actions vis-a-vis the egalitarian prayer space at the Kotel and support for a Conversion Bill the effect of which, among many things, would be to further disenfranchise the non-Orthodox religious movements and their rabbinic leadership. One could tell from the language that this Resolution itself, the weakest of possible responses, was further weakened in the drafting and approval. Yes, instead of an action plan deploying federation leaders from across the Continent to the Prime Minister's Office and the Knesset in large numbers, JFNA approved a Resolution that indicated not our collective strength but our weakness -- and will be treated as such and sent it on. JFNA is the only organization I know that under this leadership is unwilling or unable to do the hard work in the trenches: to organize, to reach out, to advocate in person. Maybe JFNA leaders will pin their milquetost resolution (to be fair both JTA and Haaretz articles considered the Resolution as"slamming" the GOI) to the Prime Minister's Office door, then disappearing into the night like the organization they lead.
Meanwhile, those of you at the GA have reported that announcing 3,000 GA attendees, another of JFNA's annual exercises in hyperbole, just won't work this time if it ever did. Friends counted the house at the Opening Plenary and advised that "maybe 700, 800" were there -- and this after JFNA attempted to stock the venue -- and most of those there, professionals. Hell, the GA website identified 150 Speakers, which would seem to have offered a good start; many of those apparently chose to show up only for their sessions. If this is the new normal for GAs, the message ought to be received loud and clear: "stop wasting precious resources on an annual GA, make it biennial and make it exciting."
I couldn't help but notice that JNF North America convened its annual conclave across the country as the same time as the GA. You could watch every Plenary gavel-to-gavel and see and sense to excitement, the large audience, the constant focus on JNF's mission, the shared passion, the inspiration, the tens of break-outs, the lay leadership featured throughout. Inasmuch as it is obvious that the GA leadership has ignored input from those of us who led prior, successful GAs, perhaps they will learn from the JNF model; probably not.
More to follow....