NEW ORLEANS – In a city all about the beauty of the old, perhaps the most
beautiful thing about the 2010 General Assembly is the vitality of the new –
specifically, the youthful attendees and their near-incessant chatter which
percolated just below the crusty surface of the Older World of Jewish
It’s an interesting contrast. After all, New Orleans
itself is known more for its past than for its present – its decadent
architectural flourishes, the recent sorrows and horrors of Katrina, and the
nostalgic yearnings expressed in its jazz.
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But there’s an element of the
new at the General Assembly, and it’s not just in the funky,
bathing-suit-material silver bags of swag being given out to participants –
though watching older men in suits carrying these bags can be quite
“Who stole Lady Gaga’s bathing suit?” one GA participant said,
looking at her gift bag quizzically.
More than 700 high school and
college students were at the General Assembly, out of 4,000 participants in
total. Their presence was evident from the pile of their apparently hastily
overpacked backpacks and duffel bags strewn in the front hall of the
And over 700 students, of course, meant over 1,400 thumbs eager to
communicate with fellow electronic communicators. And so, the scene was set for
a semiunderground burst of chatter on Twitter throughout the
Twitter though far from a new phenomenon, in many ways
exemplifies the differences between the older and younger leadership within the
Those older participants without smartphones or
BlackBerry devices were, in effect, barely aware this chatter was transpiring in
the first place.
And through a lack of awareness, they were missing out
on an entire conversation – an ongoing session of sorts which served as perhaps
the clearest barometer of engagement and involvement on the part of younger
Or, as was quoted from William Gibson and retweeted often
by the GA’s participants, “The future is already here; it is just not evenly
Why, some tweeting participants wondered, wasn’t the entire
GA streamed live, to maximize involvement? This, of course, would neatly obviate
the over $600 fee for participants – and what, then, of the hundreds of mugs,
pens and M&Ms given out at participants’ booths? Others speculated on the
nature of the future of Jewish community and communal involvement.
frequent retweet read: “Dear #NOLAGA and #JewishFutures Remember that what many
of you are talking about as “the future” is actually the present for some of
us!” Of course, it wasn’t all serious.
Jokes about the cast of Shalom
Sesame as a warm-up act for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu – “Can’t Believe
all the security for #shalomsesame” – ricocheted around wireless communication
devices midday Monday.
And the existence of such rapidfire communication
also may necessitate a slightly better degree of behavior, perhaps even on the
part of old-school journalists, lest they get called to the curb.
the journalist is making suuuch a mess here in the press zone, he wants to go
live on tv now and everyone is yelling at him,” one woman tweeted prior to the
“Haaretz journalist next to me says he’s a big macher
in Israel news and thinks he can do whatever he wants,” another woman tweeted
back in reply.
Though the implicit message of the frequency of tweets
conveyed a high level of interest, at least one participant said it explicitly
during speeches by the Jewish Agency and the Joint Distribution Committee
officials: “Ok I want to graduate NOW and work for one of these amazing orgs NOW
ugh I am so proud that this is my future.”