Going to the New Israel Fund‘s New Generations benefit last week was like walking into a party where you’re friends with everybody and close friends with almost no one. It was, for me, an enjoyable night of endless catch-up conversations and introductions to friends of friends: I ran into the son of my family synagogue’s rabbi, a bunch of people who I knew from my office, some guys I see at Shabbat services and some others that attend the same liberal Israel-focused events as I do.
We drank together, looked at avant-garde, progressive art, heard a live Israeli hip-hop performance and drank some more. Funds from the event, which was called “Envisioning Justice,” benefited the NIF’s work to secure a more democratic, pluralistic Israel. But though everyone there believed in the NIF’s cause, very few of my ephemeral conversations had anything to do with policy in the Jewish state. My friends and I talked about work, sports, suits, beer and — in one case — gossip from the synagogue where I grew up.
Part of the point of the benefit, like many other similar ones, was to galvanize the community of young people interested in a more progressive Israel. (Almost all of said people, by the way, live in Brooklyn, have a love-hate relationship with hipsters and try to be as ironic as possible.) And in terms of bringing people together, the event succeeded — in addition to raising money for the group and giving the donors a good time.
I sometimes wonder, though, if all of these liberal Israel events do anything more than gather the amen corner of leftist policy. I recognized a lot of people in the room from other such events, and at times I feel like we all just go to the same events, think similar things about Israel, talk about those things with each other and get depressed when we read the news. And yes, we do enjoy those events, and they do educate us, but is our group really growing, or are we all just giving each other pats on the back? The drinks were good and I think the NIF is great, but what am I — and most other people in that room — doing to spread their message beyond our ranks?