Sunday, April 1, 2012

The TribeFest Round-Up

If you have to go to Vegas, stay at the Palazzo. You won't regret it. 
Where to begin. It's been nearly a week since I got back from Las Vegas where I was attending the first-annual (aka second) TribeFest, and I'm still struggling to figure out what I really got out of the entire experience. There are a few things I can say for certain.

  1. Being in a certain space with nearly 1,500 other Jews makes you feel at home. 
  2. There is so much that needs to be done among Jews in their 20s, 30s, and 40s to ensure our Jewish future.
  3. The conversion and minority Jewish communities (GLBTQ) were highly underrepresented, underinvolved, and almost marginalized.
  4. Jews need to consider who they are, where they're going, and how they're going to get there.
And on that last night, five-inch heels and a miniskirt with a beyond low-cut blouse are not the way to go. For this, I am certain. 

It makes me sad that what stands out most about TribeFest was the ogling men and half-naked women. And these were the attendees -- not the average Las Vegas folk. I might as well have been wearing a burka. Not that I was on the prowl, because, well, I'm happily relationshiped. But it made me sad for all of my single counterparts. 

I was also highly disappointed by how "left out" I felt by the entire experience. So much of TribeFest relies on connections from camp, day school, college fraternities, Hillel, Hebrew school, synagogue, b'nai mitzvah, and so much more. For those of us who didn't grow up with any of that -- no memories, no connection, no relation -- there were voids. Grand Canyon-style voids. There was a time for people with certain affiliations to get together for food, friendship, drinks, and re-connecting. There wasn't a single one that I fit into, because I didn't grow up Jewish. Many moments left me wondering, "What about my experiences? Or lack thereof. How do I fit?"

But even still, knowing the shenanigans going on behind the scenes and how insignificant my Jewish experience felt, I had an amazing time with my fellow Colorado Jews. I got to catch up with old friends like @EstherK and meet certain old friends in real life for the first time, like @drewkaplan. I also got the amazing opportunity to meet and spend time with illustrious former SNL comedian Rachel Dratch (a member of the tribe!). I wish I could replicate her reaction to my birth name, which was hilarious. Being told by Rachel Dratch that I should write a book was, honestly, enlightening. Now, if only I could find someone to give me an advance so I can take time off, move to the mountains, and devote my time to book-writing ... 

I was able to listen to inspiring stories by a girl who started a multi-million dollar nonprofit at the age of seven, a lawyer who was inspired in law school to bring to light the reality of the abuse of children who are forced into becoming suicide bombers, and an Ethiopian Jewish woman (now an IDF med) who was saved from near-death as a child during her family's harrowing escape to Israel and who turned that experience into her career as a doctor and advocate for Ethiopian Jews. 

My reaction to it all? This tweet: 
The more people I listen to, the stronger I grow in feeling like I need to do more with my voice. #Tribefest
I know that I have a unique voice for a unique community, and perhaps I don't do enough with that voice.  I wanted to use my voice so many times, but my peculiar current circumstances largely prevent me from taking action, or even speaking on things that are important to me. But the experience left me inspired, none the less.
QUIZreal winning team, FTW!
It also left me with a $20 giftcard to Amazon (Colorado rocked QUIZreal, hosted by @thdpr and @hypersem) and a winning record in G-dcast's Pitchfest (again, Colorado rocked it and will be having our pitch made into a video)! I made so many new friends and connections in the Jewish world, and I got to experience the vibrancy of the Detroit and Texas communities (which were heavily represented).

The next time around, I hope to see more educational sessions. I can think of a dozen sessions that could happen at TribeFest that would integrate Judaism, social media, Israel, and so much more. Sessions that provide material and ideas as takeaways. I also think that the convert's point of view is one that is both unique, necessary, and was missing and that voice needs to be heard. It's a teaching moment. An elegant, necessary teaching moment. 

Okay, okay. I was spoiled in THE Sheldon Adelson's private suite. But still, Vegas? Nah.
Oh, and the ultimate lesson of this trip? I hate Las Vegas. (Not the people, the place.)