WASHINGTON – You can tell the US presidential elections are over.
In years past, major White House figures like Vice President Joe Biden, chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and even President Barack Obama addressed the annual conference of Jewish federations.
But this year’s conference, or General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America, won’t feature anyone from the US administration.
The event, billed as the largest annual conference of American Jewish communal life, often serves as an important venue for political outreach to the Jewish community. The 2012 GA starts on Sunday, just five days after the elections. Given the fact that the three-day gathering packed with panels, receptions and workshops was planned well before anyone knew the election results, the organizers decide to avoid the awkward circumstance of either featuring an official from a lame duck administration or from a campaign that had just lost.
“We decided the best course of action was not to invite either,” explained William Daroff, dire ctor of the JFNA’s Washington’s office.
There will be some American political representation, however, as host state Maryland will be sending its two senators and governor to the conference. The mayor of Baltimore will also make an appearance.
The elections in Israel are also impacting the schedule. No major Israeli politicians are expected either, mainly because they are focused on campaigning ahead of the January vote.
Daroff, however, said Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is scheduled to give a video address, and Israel’s Ambassador to the US, Michael Oren, will speak at a plenary session.
But even if the gathering is shy a few dignitaries, organizers estimate some 3,500 Jewish communal leaders, rabbis and laypeople will still be in attendance.
They will be there to attend sessions based around the theme of “changing the world for the good together,” though Daroff said the conference tagline is the snappier “where the Jewish community downloads, uploads and shares.”
“This highlights the power and collective impact the Jewish federations have had for a century and continue to have today,” Daroff said. “It’s an opportunity for thousands of Jews to come together to share experiences and achievements, tackle the crucial issues and challenges of the day and be inspired to continue meeting Jewish needs around the world and grow our Jewish future.”