My TribeFest Experience
Jeff Goldberg - Development Associate
Imagine a venue where young leaders from across North America gather to be inspired, to be informed and to be encouraged to meet the challenges facing their communities. The truth is we don't have to imagine because such a gathering recently took place, and it was my pleasure to participate. TribeFest - a conference for Jews, ages 22-45, in New Orleans brought over 1200 Jews together from across North America, including our delegation of six dedicated and engaged Stamford participants.
I attended a variety of different sessions in effort to receive the most varied experience possible. One session I attended was a panel of successful Jewish entrepreneurs discussing their technology startups, designed to help inspire and bolster aspirations. I was struck by the sheer number of questions the panel received from fellow entrepreneurs who left the safety of previous jobs to pursue a project they are were truly passionate about. Other sessions were provided to just for laughs, like the hilarious standup comedian who entertained the audience with stories and videos from his trip to India with JDC.
The most powerful session I attended was called, "This is what a Jew Looks Like: Building a More Diverse and Inclusive Jewish Community." In this session we broke into groups and discussed a number of different issues revolving around the inclusion of all Jews into the community, regardless of sexual orientation, physical disabilities, or level of practice. This discussion struck me personally. Previous to taking my position with UJF I had lost touch with the Jewish community.
Since I've joined the team at UJF I have received nothing but a warm welcome into the Stamford community. I've been invited to Shabbat dinners, attended programs for young Jews and made many new friends. Seeing my peers at TribeFest be as welcoming as the Stamford community to all Jews left me inspired to continue to increase my involvement in the Jewish community. A major component of TribeFest is the service project, which allows for Jews to do what they do best, give back to the community. My service project involved a bus ride to a brand new charter school to read with young school children. This was a highlight of my time at TribeFest, as I think I enjoyed reading with the kids more than they enjoyed my reading to them. The smiles, laughs, and thoughts of the students I worked with will forever provide me with fond memories. On the return ride back to the beautiful downtown core of New Orleans, I had the opportunity to quietly reflect on the condition of the city outside of the tourist attractions. Many neighborhoods are still in mass disarray, with over grown lots and destroyed and abandoned homes. It was a sobering moment after the fun time I just had working with the children. More than anything TribeFest reminded me about the passion of the young Jewish community.
The opening and closing ceremonies had a level of excitement and electricity I had never previously experienced. There is no doubt that TribeFest's goal of exciting young Jews to become zealously involved in the community was a major success.