In a lot of ways, going to the GA while Israeli is like visiting Mars.
For example, admittedly not yet fully caffeinated, I made my way into the main auditorium for the first morning plenary: a panel of young Federation members answering a moderator’s questions about how they see the Federation now and how it might be improved. The moderator asked, “If you were the Federation what animal or car would you be?”
I wiggled a finger in my ear. I had not heard that correctly.
“Octopus,” said one panelist, “because they are so regal in the way they are above everything (huh?) and have a hand in all things while being a single unified entity.”
“I don’t know cars so I’ll pick animal,” said another panelist. “Chameleon. Because they are always changing colors and that’s okay. They’re flexible.”
Mars. I’m telling you. We are no longer on earth. Or I need more coffee. Gotta be one or the other.
“Minivan,” said one male panelist, “even though they don’t make them anymore. It still holds a lot of things and takes them places.”
“Platypus,” said yet another earnest young thing, “because we kind of know what it is but not sure what it does.”
Oh. My. God.
You still with me? Good. So let me tell you what these cute young things talked about next. They suggested that what the Federation had to do to become more attractive to young people is to be more “low-barrier.” That is to say, without barriers to interfaith couples, non-Jews, and the LGBT community.
The “Whatever Federation,” is what I was thinking. More coffee. Definitely called for.
One of the panelists then helpfully suggested that young people want to choose their Judaism like they choose their music: they want access to everything and they make their own playlists.
At this point, a lyric suggests itself to me: a variation on a Tina Turner song, “What’s God got to do with it, got to do with it?”
But I digress. And there’s so much more we have yet to cover.
I will skip past the rest of that for now and get to the part where I laughed out loud while the not inconsiderable crowd in the auditorium directed hostile eyes upon my person. That would be some time after the Fine Young Animals (and car) left the stage and about midway through the remarks of U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro at the point where he assured us all that President Obama would not let Israel down vis-à-vis Iran. Shapiro quoted the President to prove his point, “We won’t let Iran obtain nuclear weapons. Period.”
That’s when I lost it and guffawed out loud because, I mean, even if you’re zoned out on Prozac 24/7 you can’t possibly have avoided the coverage regarding the, “If you like your plan you can keep it period,” Big Presidential Lie.
Nope. They hadn’t heard about that.
Not a one of them.
All around me, the Federation people were applauding Shapiro like he was their great white knight in shining armor come to save little Israel and I’m like, “Are you all for real? Do you even LISTEN to the news?”
The disparity between us was this great gawping maw and I wasn’t sure it was bridgeable. The GA, it seems, represents all that my life is not. There is the everydayness of my life as a communications writer at Kars4Kids. And there is the fact of my committed relationship with Halacha.
I spend my days at home, in front of my personal computer writing in complete solitude about car donation and education and not in business suit and heels, all perfectly coiffed, interfacing with large groups of people who expect to be impressed and impacted by my presence. I am not trying to find creative ways to express myself Jewishly, but looking for ways to imbue the age-old prayers with new feeling on a daily and even moment to moment basis.
Now hear this: I don’t want to create my own playlist.
I strive to serve my Creator according to ancient immutable formulae. I don’t want or need new. I don’t lust for flexibility. The Torah was good enough for my ancestors.
It’s quite good enough for me.
More tomorrow. There was much that was positive. I will come to that in good time.