The contrasts are stark and the surroundings surreal, but the UJC GA in LA has been profoundly interesting. The Jewish world’s elite decision makers, legions of dedicated federation employees, hundreds of exhibitors, playmakers, salespeople and lots of other folks, gathering together as they do to discuss, and listen about issues of importance to the Jewish community. Its called the GA, and you will either love it or hate it.

Tonight I went to a Hillel meeting for students in for the GA at the Mariott. I thought that the students in the lobby looked a little too decked out for the GA, or a pizza party. Upon closer inspection I saw that they were there to audition for American Idol.

Today, the focus was on Iran. During the major afternoon session Bibi gave a particularly uninspired speech about preventing Iran from getting the bomb, without putting forward one single proposal on how to do that. It was empty rhetoric that rarely got the crowd excited, I found myself wondering how all this hot air can impress people.

Irwin Culter on the other hand, former Canadian Minister of Justice, a professor, a Judge, gave a brilliant and inspired speech that had the GA up in cheers and applause. He managed to touch in his 30 minutes of effortless conversation, upon every issue in the Jewish world, or nearly, AND offer a reasoned set of suggestions on how to deal with it..

So for example, on the issue of Iran, he pressed the international community and the American Jews assembled to press for the implementation of the Argentinian arrest warrants for Iran’s former government; to bring Iran to the International High Court of Justice and the UN Security Council on the grounds of breaking the Genocide Convention, for actively calling for the destruction of Israel. He discussed the energy policies that have us funding directly the terror states that threaten us; investing in education in Israel as a means to raising the economic competitiveness of the country even further, and educating North American youth about Israel, and of countering disparity of treatment of Israel in every international arena, and on and on. Big ups to Cananda. According to his Iranian opposition contacts, these moves would weaken Ineedajob’s control and power.

At five everyone left for the Westin, and I found myself in the El Al reception, where everyone was getting Lchaimed, watching El Al do a particularly inspired job of being boring. They aired a video, newly created, to raise El Al’s image. It was a boring video set to the worst kind of Euro Disco Trash music. Everyone clapped dutifully. Happy it was over I guess.

Many folks were headed to the Disney hall to hear a concert specially created for them. There were only 1400 tickets for the show, and 3000 delegates, so some folks were getting a bit peeved. It happens that Walt Disney Auditorium has 2265 seats and cost $274 million to build (or $120,971 per seat). American Jews raised $350 million for Israel’s northern reconstruction this year.

The evening was capped off with a private performance at the Marriott (arranged by Rabbi Dan Smokler) by Vanessa Hidary and Kevin Coval. I actually fell on the floor during their performance-poetry. They are both brilliant and gifted performers. I boarded the south bound metro line back to Long Beach, and thought about how far I am from Yershalayim.

[Footnote: BHL spoke this morning, and we missed him. That would have been cool.]

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Rabbi Yonah


  • Kevin Coval is really jewlicious. I had the pleasure of hanging out with him when the Brandeis Hillel brought him for a performance as well as a number of workshops a year or two ago. The boy has skills! And, his approach to Judaism is definitely a breath of fresh air for those unaffiliated, inactive 20somethings like myself. If you ever have a chance to see him–or any of his fellow poets–do so.