The time we got together

Last Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, the Jewish Federations of North America held its 2021 General Assembly. And yes, it was online. But this time the program evolved, allowing people to decide their sessions much like we would have if we were meeting in person at a Hotel. After each general session, you had a chance to choose a breakout session of your like. This was good. The sessions on Monday and Tuesday, however, were limited only to those who were invited; generally speaking President and Executive of the different Federations around the country. All in all, 450 people participated of these sessions; a way down from the couple of thousands who participated in pre-COVID assemblies.

But that was not the only thing that was different. On Sunday (which was open to all), the program was set up to allow people to freely use the chat. As a consequence, a few people used it not exactly for what it was intended. One person used it to advertise his business; another one to attack the very system he was participating of; another one to try to rally the troops to pick up the pitchfork and storm the castle... etc, etc.

There were, of course, great moments - such as a zoom session with Yitzhak Hertzog, President of Israel, and Yair Lapid, alternate Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs. It was the first time in probably a decade that top Israeli leadership addressed the American Jewish leadership, and not just the people - but the issues as well. There were dscussions about the direction the new Israeli government (first in over a decade without the Likkud and first ever with Arab Party participation) is taking. It was refreshing; it was different.

We heard from the Druze Woman representing Israel in the US; we heard from Arab Israelis dedicated to support and protect the State of Israel; we heard from Israelis building the social service network, and so much more. We were presented from the side of Israel which was sorely absent for many years in the public eye; the side of Israel which was hidden from the government discourse; the side of Israel which makes Israel a vibrant, pluralistic, democratic society. We did not shy away from the problems - we heard about the difficulties in integration from the Ethiopian community; about the rise in criminality in Arab towns; about the handling of the African Migrants, about-of course- Antisemitism in America, etc.

It was a breath of fresh air, in which the Federation Agenda - helping those in need - came back to the forefront in the Israel-Diaspora dialogue. A new climate in the conversation addressing the Kotel agreement, conversions, and civil status issues. It was invigorating, exciting and inspirational. Next year the GA is scheduled for Chicago, and God willing (and COVID permiting) we will gather in person without the limits to participation we had this year.

Kol HaKavod to JFNA



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