"Dear Julia,Thank you for emailing me in Sam's absence. Actually, we have quite an amazing post-Tribefest report for you!On Wednesday, April 2nd, the University of New Mexico's student senate heard a resolution to divest from six companies who do business in Israel. It was brought forward by Students for Justice in Palestine. The hearing room was full to capacity, perhaps as many as 150 people were present. There were perhaps 30 people present who were against the resolution and only seven students of the 30.Led by Sarah Abonyi, founder of Lobos for Israel, six other students spoke in a careful and polished manner against the resolution. Half of the students had never spoken in public previously -- other than at their b'nai mitzvah ceremonies. None had spoken in front of such a hostile crowd.Of the seven students who spoke, three attended Tribefest: Ezra Rabinsky, Rose Davenport and Jacob Goldstein. They did beautifully, despite the tension and the animosity of the crowd.Of the other three Tribefest attendees, Gabe Zambello would have spoken, but he had to attend class, Julian Lesnevich suffered a death in his family the previous day, and Dan Majewski is no longer a student.The student senators did not know much about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but they knew that they didn't like the animosity shown. After a difficult three hour meeting, they rejected the resolution (7-12), after unanimously striking all reference to Israeli companies first.It was extraordinary, and perhaps the first time a BDS resolution has been unanimously rejected at a US university. After the meeting, I went through 750 tweets that occurred during the meeting. The vast majority were hostile to Israel, often sarcastic to our students, and some veered straight into old-fashioned anti-Semitism. I have never experienced anything like this before.Our young people were very brave.I know that Tribefest made a real difference for them, as all three, Ezra, Rose and Jacob, were immediately willing to stand up for Israel and the Jewish people, despite the real difficulties.Thank you for enabling them to attend the event. I know it gave them the strength to face the BDS movement head on.All the best,"
And, kal ha'kavod to New Mexico.
But, really. Is this exemplary experience worthy of the encomium offered by the JFNA Vice-President, Institutional Advancement (and kudos of course to the JFNA Senior V-P for Titles): "This is extraordinary. Should be used somewhere to demonstrate so many facets of what we do..."
Well, here's the thing...or a few things:
- Does the New Mexico experience (or even 4 or 5 like it) rationalize the expenditure of over $3 million on a succession of what can only be described as failed Fests?
- In the letter transmitting the New Mexico success, my friend asserted that "TribeFest came out of Young Leadership Cabinet's desire to offer a low entry outreach and engagement event for young people." Having heard from Cabinet leaders, I can tell you that that assertion is merely the rationalization for the triple failures of the three Fests. The Fests were imposed upon the Cabinets, pure and simple.
- Other than the few operational federations, each of which is struggling, anyone who knows federation and its continental organization knows that these institutions...our institutions, should not be engaged in direct programming. In fact John Ruskay seriously questioned why JFNA was engaging in the Fests (when almost identical programming was being provided to the same "intended constituency" by others) -- there was no answer, of course. And, so it has continued with different audiences but the same dismal results year-after-year.
So, of course congrats to New Mexico and to its six heavily subsidized Festers for their good works. But....really?