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November 8, 2010 10:31 pm

When the GA…Come Marching In…

avatar by Maxine Dovere

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Vice President Joe Biden addresses the United Federations of North America General Assembly. Photo: JFNA.

Widely known by its two letter acronym, the annual General Assembly is characterized as the “premier annual North American Jewish conference.” The conference brings together Jewish lay and professional leadership “including the leadership of The Jewish Federations of North America and other national Jewish organizations…. inspires and engages current and emerging Jewish leaders, tackles the most critical issues of the day, and showcases the best of the Federation movement.”

Meeting with his constituents in 2009 as the newly installed Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) President and CEO Jerry Silverman faced a 10% decrease in funding and the mandate to establish restructured “umbrella” for the Jewish community’s professional organizations.  One year later, he says that “the GA reminds us that when we come together to make a difference, anything is possible.”

The meeting’s program included a schedule of volunteer activity intended to “Make a difference not only to participants but for the greater New Orleans community. The leaders of the American Jewish community annually gather to analyze the year past and plan the future.  The 2009 meeting in Washington, DC was highlighted by the appearance of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, assuring the American – and, the world – Jewish community of the continuing strong relationship between Israel and the United States.   In New Orleans, with over three thousand registered for the 2010 GA, the pinnacle presentations included Vice President Joe Biden’s warmly received address which followed his private meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The Vice President told a rapt audience that “the ties between our two countries are literally unbreakable.” Speaking of the “strong relationship” between the United States and Israel, he said he was “absolutely certain that our support for Israel must continue … forever’ stressing that “disagreements when they existed have only been tactical in nature, they have never been fundamental.” The Vice President noted that “this administration represents an unbroken chain of American leaders who have understood this critical strategic relationship — one in which we will not yield one single inch,” assuring those gathered that “President Barack Obama feels exactly the same way as I do.”   Biden expressed his full support of direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, saying that “the only true way for it (Israel) to gain the long-term security it seeks and deserves is through genuine, secure peace with its neighbors.” In what may have been an advisement to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, the Vice President reminded that “there is no substitute for direct, face-to-face negotiations.” cautioning both sides against unilateral actions.

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the assembly during its Monday session.   As has happened in past, his speech was interrupted by hecklers.  They were quickly escorted out and released, with no arrests made.  Members of the audience responded with applause as he continued his presentation. The Prime Minister’s responded saying the protestors were among those who believe “Israel is guilty until proven guilty.”

Biden met with Netanyahu to discuss the Mideast peace negotiations.  He emphasized that the Mideast’s genuine threats come from Iran, pledging to defend Israel and assure that “any effort seeking to take away Israel’s right to existence would be met with “unshakable resistance from the United States.

The comprehensive agenda of the 2010 meeting ranging from the environment to fundraising, from generational involvement to Torah learning and community engagement to civic and communal responsibility in a time of social challenge, both in North American and in Israel. Effective means of combating the efforts of anti Israeli activists and the challenges to Jewish communities around the world were included on the GA agenda.

Of specific importance to the vibrancy of the Jewish community in North America is recognition that Jewish leadership is statistically older than the general community and tends to be male-dominated.  A major “mission of the 2010 GA was the recognition of the importance of the members of “GenNext,” the organization’s forum for young Jewish professionals.

The program of the 2010 GA was especially sensitive to the development of “the next generation of Jewish leadership,” beginning with the Masa Israel Campus Interns program actively working to connect university age Jews to increased Israel activism and strengthen their ties to Israel.  Recognizing that many in the “new leadership” generation complain that their voices go unheard, some 150 20-mid forty Jewish activists gathered to discuss JFNA’s present and its future development.  Speaking to the Jerusalem Post, Alice Varislov, co-chairwoman of JFNA’s young leadership, said the change was significant:  “In the past we’ve asked for things to be done differently, but people weren’t willing to listen to us.”

Widely known by its two letter acronym, the annual General Assembly is characterized as the “premier annual North American Jewish conference.” The conference brings together Jewish lay and professional leadership “including the leadership of The Jewish Federations of North America and other national Jewish organizations…. inspires and engages current and emerging Jewish leaders, tackles the most critical issues of the day, and showcases the best of the Federation movement.”

Meeting with his constituents in 2009 as the newly installed Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) President and CEO Jerry Silverman faced a 10% decrease in funding and the mandate to establish restructured “umbrella” for the Jewish community’s professional organizations.  One year later, he says that “the GA reminds us that when we come together to make a difference, anything is possible.”

The meeting’s program included a schedule of volunteer activity intended to “Make a difference not only to participants but for the greater New Orleans community. The leaders of the American Jewish community annually gather to analyze the year past and plan the future.  The 2009 meeting in Washington, DC was highlighted by the appearance of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, assuring the American – and, the world – Jewish community of the continuing strong relationship between Israel and the United States.   In New Orleans, with over three thousand registered for the 2010 GA, the pinnacle presentations included Vice President Joe Biden’s warmly received address which followed his private meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The Vice President told a rapt audience that “the ties between our two countries are literally unbreakable.” Speaking of the “strong relationship” between the United States and Israel, he said he was “absolutely certain that our support for Israel must continue … forever’ stressing that “disagreements when they existed have only been tactical in nature, they have never been fundamental.” The Vice President noted that “this administration represents an unbroken chain of American leaders who have understood this critical strategic relationship — one in which we will not yield one single inch,” assuring those gathered that “President Barack Obama feels exactly the same way as I do.”   Biden expressed his full support of direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, saying that “the only true way for it (Israel) to gain the long-term security it seeks and deserves is through genuine, secure peace with its neighbors.” In what may have been an advisement to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, the Vice President reminded that “there is no substitute for direct, face-to-face negotiations.” cautioning both sides against unilateral actions.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the assembly during its Monday session.   As has happened in past, his speech was interrupted by hecklers.  They were quickly escorted out and released, with no arrests made.  Members of the audience responded with applause as he continued his presentation. The Prime Minister’s responded saying the protestors were among those who believe “Israel is guilty until proven guilty.”

Biden met with Netanyahu to discuss the Mideast peace negotiations.  He emphasized that the Mideast’s genuine threats come from Iran, pledging to defend Israel and assure that “any effort seeking to take away Israel’s right to existence would be met with “unshakable resistance from the United States.

The comprehensive agenda of the 2010 meeting ranging from the environment to fundraising, from generational involvement to Torah learning and community engagement to civic and communal responsibility in a time of social challenge, both in North American and in Israel. Effective means of combating the efforts of anti Israeli activists and the challenges to Jewish communities around the world were included on the GA agenda.

Of specific importance to the vibrancy of the Jewish community in North America is recognition that Jewish leadership is statistically older than the general community and tends to be male-dominated.  A major “mission of the 2010 GA was the recognition of the importance of the members of “GenNext,” the organization’s forum for young Jewish professionals.

The program of the 2010 GA was especially sensitive to the development of “the next generation of Jewish leadership,” beginning with the Masa Israel Campus Interns program actively working to connect university age Jews to increased Israel activism and strengthen their ties to Israel.  Recognizing that many in the “new leadership” generation complain that their voices go unheard, some 150 20-mid forty Jewish activists gathered to discuss JFNA’s present and its future development.  Speaking to the Jerusalem Post, Alice Varislov, co-chairwoman of JFNA’s young leadership, said the change was significant:  “In the past we’ve asked for things to be done differently, but people weren’t willing to listen to us.”

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