Jewish Federations of North America’s General Assembly (JFNA GA) took place this past Sunday and Monday. The GA is typically held in person. It was supposed to take place in Chicago this year. However, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, JFNA decided to move the conference to a virtual platform.
I will be honest – there are certain things that just do not translate virtually. Two of those things include what I love most about the GA ~ meeting new people and the energy often felt in the room as we listen to the plenaries. Sadly, while JFNA did their best, these two things could not be replicated. In addition, some experienced technical difficulties, which made for some frustrated participants.
With that being said, the workshops were amazing. Topics included fundraising, planned giving, Israel, and COVID-19 ~ just to name a few. The two that I enjoyed the most were “Racial Justice and the Changing Face of American Jewry” and “We Are Not OK: Supporting Mental Health During a Long-Term Crisis.” The discussions were informative and thought-provoking. Overall, I took away from the GA that despite the challenges we face in our current climate, the Jewish community and its future are still at the forefront of many people’s minds.
If you want to watch some of the incredible workshops that were part of this year’s GA, you can go to www.generalassembly.org to access all of them, including the Federation Together and Jewish Together plenaries.
My virtual journey did not end with the GA. On Tuesday, I took part in JFNA’s FedLab. This program was a smaller, more intimate program specifically for Jewish communal professionals and focused on issues affecting Federations across the country.
I participated in the track “Owning the Center in Polarized Times.” The session focused on two questions ~ “How can we maintain the delicate balance during increasingly polarized times, as our efforts to advance racial justice, combat antisemitism, and address our collective security concerns intersect?” and “How can Federations seek to widen the middle ground that holds our communities together while addressing the complex issues facing us in this highly polarized environment?”
I walked away from FedLab with a renewed vigor for our community. There is no denying that we are facing incredibly uncertain times. At this point, nobody knows when things are going to return to “normal.” That aside, there are still issues we as a Jewish community must face, such as fighting antisemitism, engaging the next generation, and continuing to engage those community members who have been involved with Federation for many years.
The GA and FedLab provided excellent ideas that can help us address these issues. I look forward to sharing these ideas with our boards and committees, and perhaps implementing some of them in our very own community.
To receive Cathy’s WHIM in your inbox each week, click here.