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Weblog Entries for 2012

The “Big Tent” in Baltimore

The term “General Assembly” can refer to a lot of different things. There’s the UN General Assembly, various state General Assemblies, and now even the General Assembly for the tech community. But to the Jewish communal professional world, the General Assembly refers to “the premier annual North American Jewish communal event, attracting Federation volunteer leaders and professionals, the leadership of our partner organizations and a range of national Jewish organizations,” as stated on the GA website.

Hosted by the Jewish Federations of North America, this year’s GA took place in Baltimore, MD, and I was lucky enough to attend for the first time. In a lot of ways, the GA looks like every other conference: a busy schedule of sessions and plenaries, a few notable speakers, and a marketplace of booths all clambering for your attention, many by giving out candy and reusable tote bags. While I definitely returned with plenty of chocolate and tote bags in tow, I also returned with an even deeper appreciation for the work we do here at JOI.

For this year’s marketplace, we chose to literally open the tent, as Chemi Shalev of Haaretz describes:

The Jewish Outreach [Institute] has set up a campaign entitled “Big Tent Judaism,” and just in case you miss the point, their booth is, indeed, a blue-topped tent.”

The tent featured testimonials from participants of The Mothers Circle, the Grandparents Circle, the Big Tent Judaism Professional Affiliates Program, and Passover in the Matzah AisleSM, one of our most popular Public Space JudaismSM programs. Several JOI staff and I spent the three-day conference literally inviting people into our tent to talk to them about Big Tent Judaism, and what it has to do with them and their community. We met with people from across world, including many from Israel and Canada, as well as many students there with their college Hillel programs.

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