I'm writing this post fresh off the plane from a trip to Vegas. And despite how the old saying goes, this time, I hope what happened in Vegas won't stay there.
You see, for the past three days, I joined over 1,500 young Jews representing 81 communities throughout North America as we literally took over the Venetian Hotel in Vegas for JFNA's second annual TribeFest. There is something so cool about walking around a gigantic hotel and recognizing members of your community in the elevators, at the blackjack table and all around you. After spending three days and nights learning, networking and partying with my peers, I am physically exhausted, but mentally and spiritually, I feel energized and invigorated.
I've only been back a mere 24 hours, and aside from needing a good night's sleep, I also feel a need to take some time away from this experience, to step back and fully process everything. I wanted to share my initial reactions with you here, but you can find an in-depth piece with specific details on the speakers and program in the May issue of JUF News.
I have to say that I was a little anxious going into TribeFest. I knew with Las Vegas as the backdrop, this would not be your typical conference and I wasn't sure what to expect from the programming or the people. I was pleasantly surprised by both.
During the days we heard from incredibly powerful speakers, who inspired us to take action, get involved—who let us know that the actions of one small person can make and impact, and that together we can change the world. We learned about the important work of Federation, and how to take responsibility for the future of our communities. We woke up early after a long night out to share our morning reading to a young child from an underfinanced Las Vegas school, to deliver them a gift of a backpack full of books. We talked to each other, face-to-face, and tweeted at the same time. We engaged in conversation, networked with our peers, made lasting connections.
Some of the Chicago TribeFest participants
At night we dressed up and bonded while dancing to Israeli bands, waiting in excruciatingly long lines to get into night clubs and around the roulette table. We met people we might never have otherwise. "Where are you guys from?" was a common conversation starter, often sparking this retort, "Oh, do you know so and so?" Somehow, in the oversized, overstimulated setting of a Vegas night club, our Jewish and social worlds seemed both larger and smaller at the same time. I reconnected with old friends from college who I hadn't seen in years, became friends with members of my own community who I hadn't yet had a chance to meet, and put faces to the names of the Jewish professionals I had heard of, or spoken to via email or over the phone.
At the closing session on Tuesday, we were shown a video of reactions to the trip by participants, which you can see on the TribeFest website. I found their sentiments echoed my own. As a group, we left feeling pumped up, filled with ideas, and encouraged by the video's message to take that momentum home to our respective communities, to ensure that for once, what happened in Vegas did not stay in Vegas.
(read What happens in Vegas Part II here)