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Roben Kantor
March 11th, 2011 12:09 am
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I was among those who traveled to Sin City this week for Tribefest, the Jewish Federation of North America‘s revamped gathering for its young adult leadership. The three days were tagged as an opportunity to “connect, explore and celebrate” with 1200-plus Jews between the ages of 25-45.

On the final day, I had the privilege to speak in front of the young leadership cabinet, alongside Mischa Galperin of the Jewish Agency, Ross Berkowitz of Tribe 12 in Philadelphia, Dan Sieradski of Repair the World and Aaron Goldberg of Masa Israel, about our respective efforts to engage young adults in meaningful Jewish experiences.

Specifically, I was tasked with sharing how we at the Schusterman Foundation work to ensure that these experiences are followed by more opportunities for sustained involvement and continued Jewish journeys. Though we don’t have a silver bullet or tried-and-true magic formula, we do have five key points that currently undergird our thinking in this space. We are posting them here by request:

  1. It’s about follow through, not follow up! Follow up implies it happens once. Follow through means it is happening consistently. We cannot simply pick young adults up here and drop them off there; we must do whatever we can to help and guide them all along the way.
  2. Follow through must be part of the package from the outset. You cannot build the program and then say what the follow-through should be. You have to design an experience knowing what the follow through will be. An experience is a long-term investment, not a series of short stutter steps.
  3. It has to be about relationships—not about organizations. When young adults have an experience, they trust those with whom they had the experience, not the institution who hosted them. We have to place a premium on fostering relationships and Jewish experiences over pet programs.
  4. We have to embrace the networked mindset. Communities are something we are born into and grow organically. Networks are something we construct to achieve a purpose. In the battle between communities and networks, networks are winning, in large part because they are able to form, change and shift dynamically to accommodate the way we affiliate today, which is no longer solely rooted in geography but also in shared interests and experiences.
  5. Finally, and we all know this, but it bears repeating: it takes a lot of work. We have to keep pushing, driving, inspiring, experimenting, building and, most importantly, learning. We live in a world that is both hyper-connected and rapidly changing, and we will need to think on our toes, anticipate how changing norms in the world at large might impact our community and respond accordingly.

In this respect, our work in this space will never be done—but as we explore, experiment, evaluate and refine, we will develop a better idea of how we can “link the silos” of our efforts to reach young people with a powerful message: that in their search for meaning, for relevance, for spirituality, actively engaging in Jewish life is a path worth pursuing.


Much has been written about the festival so rather than recreate the wheel, we’re offering a round-up of interesting articles and blogs. Of course, the Twittersphere is alight with much more—check out what the Tweeples had to say before, during and after Tribefest by searching the hashtag #tribefest.


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