Two words brought 1,500 young Jewish professionals to Las Vegas in March: “open bar.” These excited and vibrant Jews in the 20- to 40-year-old demographic found themselves smoldered by the heat of Jewish passion created by Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA).
Although many Jewish mothers hoped TribeFest was a convention to have their young professional children find a beshert, it was an opportunity to engage with like-minded folks who are interested in the Jewish communal experience. This was the coming together of our nation, including 36 participants from Orange County. These 36 OC locals were able to go because of generous donors who underwrote their conference registration expenses.
The irony is that Jews, who historically have flocked to the desert, had two conferences with only a hash tag to differentiate them. The physical conference was created by JFNA, but the social media conference became a grassroots evolution that promoted more dialogue and is continuing the conversations that took place at TribeFest.
TribeFest, the physical conference, was where Jews from around the nation came, to share Jewish communal ideas and work on projects that enhance their communities. With more than 81 North American communities represented and more than 91 partnering organizations, JFNA, through TribeFest, has demonstrated how symbiotic relationships help benefit all parties involved.
What would a meaningful conference be without awareness and social action? TribeFest provided its participants with the profound experience of hearing Rachel Dratch, from “Saturday Night Live”; Jonathan Greenblatt, the creator of Ethos water; Brooke Goldstein, a children’s rights activist; Talia Leman, the CEO and a founder of RandomKid and much more. These speakers provided value and content to a receptive audience.
JFNA also addressed issues that challenge Jewish prosperity and compromise the health of unborn children. With such insight, JFNA provided attendees with sound education about Jewish genetic testing. Many were unaware that the Jewish community has more to fear than just Tay Sachs. Eighteen other genetic diseases threaten our happiness. After the education came action. For a ridiculously low price of $25, participants were able to undergo testing for all 19 diseases.
The second conference was “#TribeFest,” which JFNA intended and encouraged participants to utilize as a tool for deeper conversation. The virtual conference was happening on Twitter and was broadcast on screens whose only purpose was to display the Twitter feed. JFNA masterminded a Jewish convention that touched the people not only in Vegas, but globally. Many times it was clear that those who were physically at TribeFest were desperately trying to tweet a quote or fact fast enough so they could post another. Those who did not utilize Twitter on a daily basis still became engaged in the conversation. The brilliance of TribeFest in utilizing Twitter is that the physical conference is over, but the dialogue is continuing between communities. This promotes more community action and individual participation.
Jewish conferences have taken new flight. At the physical conference there was a kosher buffet of food and breakout sessions. The virtual conference was a place to kvetch or give social props to those around you. TribeFest was an inclusive place for Jews of all kinds to gather and promote Jewish communal values. JFNA is able to see the potential that young professionals have in creating positive communal changes. So whatever conference was attended, TribeFest or #TribeFest, both ignited the Jewish community for change, growth and movement.