Bouquets and brickbats

Wow. Yet another Jewlicious Festival is now history. There hasn’t been much time to reflect – Sunday after the Festival was spent cleaning up, Monday was spent packing up and Tuesday was taken up with the inevitable meetings. Wednsday and Thursday saw me battling a cold. Now I could go on and on talking about how amazing and pluralistic and fun the Festival was but I’m biased. So let’s see what the press had to say? I know y’all hate reading so we’ll begin with a great Jewish Journal of LA video:

Nice right? The Jewish Journal wrote about Jewlicious:

Now in its seventh year, Jewlicious uses the Coachella Music and Arts Festival as inspiration, offering an extensive lineup of talent and places for attendees to sleep overnight. Organizers keep the recession economy in mind, offering reasonable ticket prices for students — $40 to $50 for full-time undergraduates, which covers all three days as well as meals — and they aim for inclusivity for Jews of all denominations… Attendees came from as far away as Las Vegas; Portland, Ore.; and Louisville, Kentucky… Other colleges represented at the festival were Occidental College and University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV).

Obviously, I’m cherry picking quotes and all – but do feel free to read the whole article.

Cal State Long Beach’s Daily 49er provided an intriguing title – Jewlicious: kosher, but still rowdy to an interesting article, one our, uh… “PR people” probably hate, but one that is still pretty fair.

There wasn’t a moment to rest for those who were looking to immerse themselves in the culture of the event. There were at least three events happening every hour on the hour all weekend long, as well as delicious complimentary meals and desserts worthy of being dubbed kosher by any rabbi… Melissa Behramann, a student visiting from Cal State Northridge and third time Jewlicious veteran said, “I’ve been pounding Rockstar energy drinks just so I can just keep going. There has not been a moment to rest since I got here and I don’t want to miss out on anything.” … The weekend was not only filled with entertainment, but there were also tons of educational seminars like urban Jewish gardening, oil sustainability, Zionism, sex in the text, and more…

But it wasn’t all picture perfect. For instance, ROI alum and rocker Naomi Less took us to task on both her blog and on the pages of EJewish Philanthropy for not having a properly gender balanced lineup of musicians at Jewlicious. Naomi stated her position as follows:

If Jewlicious is a pluralistic Jewish event, then women should be represented in the HEADLINERS!
If the issue is Kol Isha (not wanting to hear women’s voices for fear that men’s thoughts will turn to sexual content and not be focused on prayer) – then label it that and call the festival an ORTHODOX gathering. Don’t hide the agenda behind a seemingly pluralistic event.

She restated it again in the comments section of her post on eJewish Philanthropy despite the fact that I had demonstrated that much of what goes on at Jewlicious, ie many female performers, non-Orthodox services, mixed events etc. can hardly be characterized as typically Orthodox. It seems my initial comment on her original post about gender imbalance in the Jewish community yet targeted directly at us, titled “Hey Rabbi (Jewlicious) Yonah…Where the women at???” went unread:

…we’ve had the following female artists and bands with female singers perform: The Hoodios, The Makkabbees, Jewdysee, Rinat Gutman, Electro Morocco, Basya Schechter, Chana Rothman, Sarah Nadav, Golem, Leerone, Inbar Bakal, Yael Meyer – even SoCalled came with a female Gospel singer. We also have Jewish female comedians who would not be considered exactly Orthodox…. Kol Isha is not an issue. Anyone offended or unduly turned on by a female voice can walk out, or not attend. Besides, many people hold that if the sound is transmitted via microphone, it isn’t considered kol isha.

I mean you’d have to be blind or stupid to not notice the gaping gender inequality in the organized Jewish community where most of the workers are female but the leadership is predominantly male. I’m cool with fixing that. But unfairly picking on our Festival in order to make your point is just not nice.

Gordon Haber, the “Arty Semite” blogger over at the Forward also took us to task. He stated that branding Judaism was a bad idea because our brand of Judaism is essentially conservative:

Both Jewlicious and Tribefest are essentially conservative. They want you to support Israel, to hang out with other Jews, and to marry a Jew. Which makes them just like your parents. And even though your parents know what’s good for you, that doesn’t make them cool… More important: branding cheapens Judaism. It’s not a lifestyle or a product. It’s a faith, a culture, a tribe — however you want to define it, it’s something infinitely more precious and complex. Granted, these organizations need to promote themselves somehow. But maybe there’s a better way than sex and Matisyahu

Matisyahu’s support of Jewlicious is well known, but sex? Yes. Apparently our Unofficial Guide to Sex on Birthright Israel can be boiled down to being simply “blatantly supportive of sex between Zionists.” Because everyone that goes on Birthright is an ardent Zionist. And Wendy’s post was hardly what could be described as a big booty call for Zayin, err… Zion. So to speak. Aint nothin’ like sweet talk about nonoxynol-9 and morning after pills to get that ol’ shwing action goin’ on! Woowoo! But yeah Gordon. Faith? We had Orthodox, Conservative and Reform minyans. Culture? Comedy, music, art, speakers … we had all that. A tribe? That implies some kind of, what’s the word I’m looking for? Might it be… unity? Yeah, yeah. I know that last year, when you attended, you said that Jewlicious was inordinately speckled with kippahs and long swishy skirts. But you also said “…next year, you can bet your life I’ll be back at Jewlicious, if they’ll let me.” Gordon, you’re always welcome back. As for the cheap branding thing? Jewlicious has to compete with a lot of stuff. MTV, video games, bars and a veritable nearly unstoppable juggernaut of branding. I’m just happy that for about 900 young Jews, our branding beat all the others. I think that’s pretty cool.

Now before I go I just wanted to thank all our staff, volunteers, presenters, musicians and sponsors. Special thanks to Rachel Kaplan and Tahli Miller who, despite being impossibly pregnant still managed to totally contribute to the Festival without reservation or quarter. I’m amazed. Thanks to Matthew Mausner and Leia Weil who came down from Jerusalem to present and help out and make me feel less homesick – extra special thanks to Leia’s Mom and Dad for being SUCH awesome people (you know why). Thanks to George from Ant Moving Los Angeles for being my hero. Thanks also to the staff at the Alpert JCC for helping everything run so smoothly. Thanks to Rabbi Yonah and Rachel’s kids for letting us borrow your Ma and Ta. Thanks to Sasha and her crew for working so hard in the kitchen and saving me a rice krispie treat. And thanks to everyone in Long Beach for once again pulling off an event that in 7 years, no other Jewish community in North America could pull off. Special thanks to our patrons the Alevys, the Breslauers and the Alperts. Y’all helped us create something really special. Again! I know I missed a lot of people – but you all know who you are – It’s 5 am and I have to get on a plane to Vegas. Forgive me ok?

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About the author


Founder and Publisher of Jewlicious, David Abitbol lives in Jerusalem with his wife, newborn daughter and toddler son. Blogging as "ck" he's been blocked on twitter by the right and the left, so he's doing something right.