At the 2013 JFNA General Assembly – subtitled “The Global Jewish Shuk: A
Marketplace of Dialogue and Debate” – there was something for
Jewish federation professionals and staff from North America
and their Israeli counterparts were bombarded with a smorgasbord of themes,
sessions and speeches related to the challenges facing North American Jewry, the
future of Israel and its relationship with the Diaspora, and the current
political/diplomatic situation regarding Iran and the Palestinians.
timing would have it, the latest “crisis” between Israel and the US regarding
both the “third intifada” comments of Secretary of State John Kerry and the
pending agreement between the West and Iran to ease sanctions dovetailed nicely
with some of the featured speakers in the numerous breakout
Right after Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon scared the bejeebers
out of everyone with his grim assessment of the Iranian situation, US Ambassador
Dan Shapiro did his best to smooth things over in a we’re-still-on thesame- page
message delivered during his speech and Q&A.
Of course, if
geopolitics was less your style, another session entitled “The Wall at the Heart
of Israel” with Natan Sharansky and Anat Hoffman might have provided the spark
to get some Women of the Wall advocates going.
But while the sessions
were pretty well attended if far from full, much of the action was taking place
in the “shuk” – the central area of the Jerusalem International Convention
Center. Against the backdrop of dozens of booths promoting companies and
organizations (including The Jerusalem Post), participants mingled, took
meetings, picked at the complementary packed lunches of egg salad or cheese
sandwiches, and looked around to see who they should be taking meetings
The Iranian threat and women’s prayer options at the Western Wall
may be very important issues to them, but a scheduled visit to a Jerusalem area
winery planned at the same time proved more enticing for some.
questions that continue to pervade the GA are: Is there a common language at the
global Jewish shuk, and if so, what is it? English or Hebrew? The GA is usually
an awkward mix of internal Jewish community issues, larger Jewish themes and
Generally the Israelis are flown in to the North American
destination and provide a little spice to the festivities.
conference comes to Jerusalem, that spice becomes the main course.
appears for some participants from North America, it might be a little difficult
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