The Conspiracy

The GA, Remixed

Because I am an older child and because I am a writer, I like to have the last word. And not that this post has to be the last one either, but I wanted to address some of the thoughtful comments that resurfaced about the GA (General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America) in response to what I wrote about it here, last week. There was some feedback that reinforced the article (that it was not a conference meant for students) and some that addressed some different ideas, highlighting how young adults spearheaded the social media that covered the event.

I already disclaimed that I didn’t have the typical “student” experience at the GA. I was part of Hagshama’s Do The Write Thing (DTWT) track, which focused on Jewish journalism. However, I find the experiences of the “typical” student delegates to be much more interesting.

Granted, I only spoke with students in the Pittsburgh delegation. But my impression from speaking (online and offline) with the students from Pittsburgh is that they had a really “amazing” experience. They were able to leave our gray, steely city for a few days, make connections with people from their school and others across the country, and get a glimpse of the world that is Jewish development, social action, and networking.

What I heard again and again was: plenary and Service Day. Those were the highlights. Not the sessions, not the workshops, not the networking breakfast or the student dinner. They loved plenary for the chance to be in the same room as some of their role models and to hear them speak first-hand, and they loved the Service Day for the impact it had on the community, the chance to meet other students, and to get out of the hotel.

But other than these structured activities, a lot of students didn’t know what to do, or how to do it. Sure, they could go to sessions, but as we’ve established, they didn’t feel like those were “for them.” Sure, they could schmooze, but where to begin?

These aren’t excuses for the students, but an explanation of where students might have been coming from in their thoughts and criticisms. Already, I’ve heard excited rumblings about the 2011 GA in Colorado. My advice to students (at any school) who decide to go? Be a filter, not a sponge.

One Older Response to “The GA, Remixed”

  1. ck
    December 1, 2010 at 8:41 am #

    Well, clearly if the Federations are going to facilitate student/outsider participation at the GA then they also ought to take a little time to explain to them how to make the most of the GA experience. What would that entail? A brochure maybe? Sent to student participants before the GA? I for one would suggest doing some research ahead of the GA – ie who from your local Federation is going to go, or who from organizations you are interested in is going to attend, and then trying to make an appointment with them or just out and out stalking them at the GA. You have to go in there with an agenda you want to promote – it can be to encourage different funding priorities or it ccan be as simple as trying to find a job. Once you do that simply prepare yourself ahead of time and hit up the people you think you ought to hit up. I can go on forever of course but your GA experience is what you make of it. No one will hand you the keys to the kingdom on a silver platter after all.

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