It has been over a week since my return from TribeFest 2012 in Las Vegas and I am still in shock. I have not fully processed my experience, and to be honest, I am not sure I ever will. Let me explain.
On March 24, I left Chicago and headed for Las Vegas for the very first time. I had heard all the crazy stories and seen pictures, yet, as I saw the strip upon my arrival, I was shocked. Now, you may be thinking, it is only Las Vegas. But let me clear something up…it was not ONLY Las Vegas. TribeFest 2012 was a gathering of over 1,500 young Jewish adults from across the country to connect, explore and celebrate being Jewish. Maybe Las Vegas or 1,500 Jews alone would not have been so overwhelming, but put the two together and you have one totally shocked young Jewish professional….ME.
Now that I am home, I am trying to process the whole experience. For three days, I participated in sessions with dynamic leaders in politics, entertainment, music and art. Speakers ranged from celebrities like Rachel Dratch and AJ Jacobs to social activists like Jonny Imerman and Rochelle Shoretz. TribeFest 2012 was aimed at engaging the next generation within the Jewish community. So what does that mean? I am not sure I have it all figured out, but here are some of my thoughts:
Wow! Young adults actually care!
At 7:45 a.m. on March 26, I showed up to what I thought would be an empty room. It was early for anyone's standards, but for Las Vegas, it was only a little after bed time. To my surprise, approximately 600 others joined me as we boarded buses and headed off to Las Vegas schools and spent the morning reading with children. Not only did participants get up early that morning, but they stayed up late every night talking about politics, fundraising and their Jewish identities. Participants debated which city was the best (of course Chicago outweighed any competition), which amazing agencies should be given more money, and yes, even what club to check out next.
For years I have heard that my generation does not care, that we are self-absorbed and do not think long term. Yet, 1,500 participants say otherwise. My generation does care; we just might show it in ways different than those before us. WE CARE! We care about our past, our present and our future.
While alone, we can make a difference, together we can change the world.
Talia Leman, the 17-year old-founder and CEO of RandomKid, a non-profit to educate, mobilize, unify and empower youth, showed the participants that one person can make an difference, but a community can change the world. She stated, "When we believe in the power that we each have, we have the greatest power of all." If one 17-year-old girl can inspire youth around the world to donate $10 million to hurricane Katrina relief, imagine what 1,500 young Jewish adults can and WILL do!
What happens in Las Vegas should NEVER stay in Las Vegas!
The Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) President and CEO Jerry Silverman said it best when he stated, "It is not about just being at TribeFest, it is about taking the energy, the conversations and the excitement and bringing it home. It is there that the real work begins."
Got it? Good! Now stop sitting here reading and go change the world!