>> ... Next Generation ...
A Trip To Remember
85 Metro Detroiters among 1,500 young Jews at annual TribeFest.
JACKIE HEADAPOHL I MANAGING EDITOR
Ashley Cameron and Kelli Saperstein
The Detroit contingency definitely got noticed in Las
Detroiters enjoy the opening-night festivities.
early 1,500 young Jews from across
North America — including 85 from
Metro Detroit, the largest contingent
from any major city — converged in Las
Vegas March 25-27 for the second annual TribeFest,
sponsored by the Jewish Federations of North America.
The event, co-chaired by Detroit's own Rachel
Wright along with Jason Rubinoff of Toronto,
included celebrity speakers, hit musical acts and 92
partnering Jewish organizations.
"With thought-provoking presentations and
compelling events, TribeFest is making the Jewish
experience relevant and accessible for a whole new
audience," said Jerry Silverman, JFNA's president and
Keynote speakers like SNL's Rachel Dratch, New
York Times bestselling author and Esquire humorist
Al Jacobs, and four-time Olympic gold-medal
swimmer Lenny Krayzelburg shared stories of their
Jewish experience on TribeFest's main stage.
Attendees also heard from inspirational speakers
such as Jonny Imerman, a Detroit native and young
adult cancer survivor who created the nonprofit
(merman Angels to ensure that no one fights cancer
alone, as well as Bradley Sherman, who shared how
Jewish agencies shaped his life after a loving Jewish
family adopted him from Bellefaire Adoption Center
in Cleveland, Ohio, as an infant.
During the days, sessions were held by young
Jewish leaders from about 50 organizations that
represented groups ranging from punk Jews to
Orthodox Jews to gay and lesbian Jews. At night, hit
Israeli musical acts like Hatikva 6, Moshav, Diwon
and Aya Korem performed.
Not all the learning took place in formal venues,
however. "Our best memory: an impromptu
discussion on intermarried Jews in the lobby of
the Palazzo at 1 a.m. with random TribeFesters,
including a military lawyer from Maryland, an
app developer from San Francisco and a girl with
a Russian accent from Indiana," said Rabbi Yisrael
Pinson of West Bloomfield.
"It seems that the Jewish community across
North America, not just Detroit, is re-rewriting what
it means to be relevant as a Federation; what has
worked in the past does not necessarily work now.
Truth be told, TribeFest is not your mother's young
adult convention," wrote Kelli Saperstein, who
blogged from Las Vegas on the IN and Red Thread
Detroit Takes Center Stage
Jordan Wolfe gives a presentation on CommunityNext to
April 5 2012.
Detroit had several main-stage presenters. Scott
Kaufman, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Metro
Detroit, and Jordan Wolfe and Rachel Lachover of
CommunityNEXT presented the Detroit Federation's
initiative that attracts and retains young talent in
Michigan. In just two years, CommunityNEXT has
tripled the number of engaged young Jews in Detroit.
Miryam Rosenzweig, director of NEXTGen, presented
how Detroit is radically changing (successfully!) the
approach to outreach and engagement.
"What has become apparent is that Detroit is
leading the initiative to adapt to the changing
times and is quickly becoming an example for other
communities who are looking to retain, attract
and engage young people. Detroit is becoming a
magnetic city — a place that keeps people here,"
Matt Ran of Bloomfield, who was at TribeFest
for the second year, said the Detroiters at TribeFest
definitely got noticed, and "not only because of our
amazing sweatshirts (that nobody else had), but
because of the fact we sat and traveled as a group.
Even the former Detroiters were flocking over to us."
Detroit's major presence at TribeFest left Jenny
Gross of Farmington Hills with a sense of pride.
"I felt so lucky to be a part of the many Detroit
TribeFest attendees," she said. "Attending TribeFest
truly showed me how lucky I am to be part of such
an incredible Jewish community in Metropolitan
In the spirit of Jewish collective action, there was
a service project in collaboration with PJ Library as
TribeFest-goers traveled to six Las Vegas elementary
schools to read and deliver 4,000 books to children.
Saperstein blogged about the day.
"Today, each of us had the opportunity to be
perhaps the one person who empowers a child and
helps to change their self-image. As Jews, we are
charged with tikkun olam, and this collection of Jews
at TribeFest is helping to not only repair, but also to
change the world."
The service project was a highlight of the event for
Jay Hack from Royal Oak. "The kids were receptive,
attentive and just very cool to spend time with," he
said. "TribeFest was definitely a special experience.
I enjoyed learning from my contemporaries from
other cities, listening to them struggle with similar
challenges as well as understanding the solutions
that they have developed and that we could
Keeping The Spirit Alive
Perhaps one of the most valuable takeaways from
TribeFest is the sense of mission, enthusiasm and
purpose that attendees take home with them.
"I had only recently started to get involved with the
Jewish community," said Brian Shulman of Farmington
Hills. "I left the conference with new friends and a
sense of connection to the community I might not
have gotten until much later if I didn't attend."
Rachel Taubman of Novi said that this, her first
trip with the Jewish Federation of Metro Detroit,
wouldn't be her last.
"It was amazing to feel the energy that having
1,500 young Jewish adults from around the country
brought to Vegas. I went on the trip with three
friends who have not been very connected in our
Jewish community and have come back to Michigan
with these friends ready to be more active and
engaged in every way possible," she said.
As the event was wrapping up and she was
readying herself for the flight home, Saperstein
wrote: "This has been an amazing trip that has
bonded 80-plus Detroiters together with a unique
experience ... This feeling we have at TribeFest will
not end just because the conference is over. The
conversations that started here will be continued and
shared back in the D." 111