GA Journal: Doing the write thing

Among the 3,500 attendees was a small group of 30 student journalists. Chances are you’ll be hearing from them soon.

November 10, 2010 15:27
4 minute read.
VOLUNTEERS FROM the Federations’ General Assembly

GA 311. (photo credit: Courtesy Repair the World)

Any conference involving 3,500 people is bound to have some resemblance to a circus, and any good circus has got to have a great sideshow. That’s what Do the Write Thing (DTWT) was this week to the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America.

Thirty student journalists were brought together by the Hagshama Division of the Department for Diaspora Activities of the World Zionist Organization and the American Zionist Movement in order that they might be initiated simultaneously into the worlds of professional journalism and the organized Jewish community. Apparently it worked.


Kupfer added that “I also feel better about being a journalist with an agenda” – having taken comfort in the message conveyed to the group by a veteran journalist who told them that he had never aspired to being objective, only fair.

This was important for the students to hear, as so much of their work involves Israel advocacy.

“I came here to be a more effective writer, to help shape policy,” said Steven Perlin of the University of California, San Diego. “I feel that it has been a good experience... and it is very relieving to know that there are other people carrying on this same fight in which I partake on a daily basis.”

It was appropriate for these students, then, that at both the GA and DTWT there was a major emphasis this year on digital media, something appreciated by the participants, who recognized that the program took “a very 21st-century approach by pitching effective communication through social media,” noted Zachary Ingber of New York.

“Some 4,000 tweets were posted during the conference,” observed Ingber. “I experienced a new face of information dissemination. Hagshama took a proactive step by launching an interactive website called iZionist. Register, create a profile and join the network of online Zionists,” he urged. “You don’t want to be left out of this community.”

These are the sort of comments that makes Leni Reiss’s work so satisfying. She has been serving as the American Jewish Press Association liaison to DTWT for 20 years, but has lost none of her passion for the position.

“This has been one of the most positive aspects of my career as a mentor,” she told me. “I’ve been in the field of journalism for many years – and it is so great to see and experience the enthusiasm of what I hope will be a new crop joining my profession.”

Now, when there is such a pervasive sense that Israel is being either attacked or abandoned, it is encouraging to come across a group of young people so determined to buck the trend.

The writer is vice chairman of the World Zionist Organization and a member of the Executive of the Jewish Agency.

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