IMAGINE 1,500 JEWISH young adults from across North America, put them in a high-caliber hotel in New Orleans (arguably the most vibrant, festive and chaotic city in the country) for a week of connecting to Judaism and their community. Sound like a wonderful idea?
It’s already been done. TribeFest 2014 took center stage, surpassing all expectations and astonishing each participant by its immense organization, exceptional Purim parties and vast opportunities for self-growth and exploration.
TribeFest found initial success in Las Vegas in 2011. Through compelling presentations by dynamic Jewish leaders, community service projects, networking with diverse people and a unique opportunity to discover Judaism, TribeFest offered everything imaginable.
Three years later, Tribefest has continued its recipe for success with politics, religion, entertainment, music, art and the number-one thing on every Jews’ mind through out the three-day event, food!
Although people likely left feeling equally fulfilled by experiencing the absurd quantities of delicious Kosher food that sent enticing aromas down the Mississippi River, it didn’t hurt to add educational and spiritual elements that define TribeFest as a leader in conferences for young Jewish adults.
This year’s event featured two keynote speakers, Joshua Malina, a co-star on ABC’s hit drama “Scandal,” and Doug Ulman, President and CEO of LIVESTRONG. Each speaker explained the importance of Judaism in his own life.
Guests also received a surprise musical performance by Ben Platt, a cast member of “The Book of Mormon,”who rose to fame in the film “Pitch Perfect.”
For “TribeFesters,” the enlightening material expanded further than the affluent celebrities and influential speakers.
The key ingredient to TribeFest’s success was the innovative minds of its participants. Without unconventional and revolutionary thinking, the information that came from the presenters could have been overlooked. Controversial content such as feminism, social justice, and ignorance and hatred toward Israel presented an opportunity for participants to yield further thought and discussion amongst themselves.
A notable aspect of Tribefest, although not blatantly marketed, was a common theme directed towards the younger demographic regarding “Fruitfulness and Multiplication.”
The “gentle nudge” (aggressive shove) to schmooze and contribute to the growth of our Jewish population (not letting any eggs age out) was readily apparent. Perhaps some souls were connected. Perhaps future romance had been sparked. Only time will tell (time being about nine months). After all, two of Tribefest’s major sponsors were JDate, the online Jewish Yente, and Pfizer, the creator of Viagra. Ironic? Perhaps. Intentional? 100%. Regardless of “true intentions,” Tribefest served its participants in a manner in which every Jewish mother would appreciate.
It wasn’t the long “Jewish Goodbyes” (typically resulting in 20 minutes of conversation while standing in a community circle before people realize they’re hungry) that got people to leave Tribefest. Participants were eager to leave 500 Canal Street and feed their hunger for more Judaism by hurrying back to their respective communities and implementing the knowledge acquired from meaningful conversations and captivating lectures.
After a long weekend in Louisiana where gumbo and Po-boy are culture, bourbon is both a drink and a destination and sleep wasn’t the top priority of anybody in attendance, there was certainly one thing to be noted. A group of Jews isn’t a community by simply calling itself a community. It takes work! Fortunately, the koakh and chutzpah of 1,500 young Jews concentrated in one room proved that they are the future of Judaism, ready to work for a stronger community and eager to fight for the continuation of a heritage often viewed as a hindrance to society by the majority of the world.
For those in fear of the younger generation losing touch with religiosity, don’t worry. We will find time to study Torah and over-feed our kids. For now, it seems that the vast majority of our passionate Jewish leaders have their sights set on building a community through collaboration and education.
With an overall desire to continue being the strongest group of people in the world, many would say we have our work cut out for us. Those who attended Tribefest would argue that this is just the beginning of a bright Jewish future.
Adam Chester is a contributing writer to JLife magazine.