ROI 120 Roundup: Text Study, Dylan, and Twitter

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I woke up Wednesday morning with a new bounce in my step. Today was the day I was going to make things happen, I had people I wanted to meet, a networking party to attend and I wasn’t about to let my tired old self back out of the closet. This was made possible by skipping the optional Tuesday night in Tel Aviv and open mic organized by some random ROIers. I went to sleep at 6pm, woke up at 10pm, watched the very emotional movie Hairspray and fell asleep with a pounding head and chills fearing the worst.

I was over the extravagant breakfast and settled for an omelet with mushrooms, onions and tomatoes, some peeled orange and grapefruit slices and a cup of coffee with one sugar packet, I was really looking forward to going back to real Israeli food. At breakfast I sat with Alen Meyer who runs an organization in Chile, called Sttam, It works kind of like a Hillel, but he told me that Hillel failed in Chile, and Sttam also helps its members with finding work. I did learn that Chile has 14,000 Jews and the world’s second largest Palestinian population outside of Israel with 400,000 Palestinians.

After breakfast we did what I would call a Hippie-Bulls**t exercise which was supposed to get us to focus. I wasn’t tired, but the exercise in which we were supposed to focus on an object, then close our eyes and do a bunch of concentrating stuff brought out the Cynic in me, I looked over at my friend Hindy Poupko who is the executive president of the Council for Young Jewish Presidents, in New York and we both rolled our eyes. All I could imagine were a bunch of people who wondered why they were dragged away from breakfast for this. Then of course people had to explain their “feelings.” What now, group therapy?

After that exercise we did another thing which I would consider a waste of time, text study. All Jewish events have to do this in order to pinch themselves and make sure they are still Jewish. There was no talk of God until this moment, which is funny, because Judaism is God-centric, or should be, but unfortunately God is too abstract for many people to throw in the mix of their already idealistic world views. In the mix of this “text study” was a piece written by Bob Dylan in 1951 when he was 15 years old and playing cover songs with his band. This famous wrestler walked past Dylan and didn’t say anything, but Dylan thought his look said – “you are doing it and keeping it alive” – which I understand very well, but what on earth this has to do with biblical text is beyond me.

After this an announcement for optional 7am programming was made for a “unisexual basketball game.” I love Israelis!

Then we broke up into professional workshops again, this time I had chosen to be in the Advanced Social Media skills session given by Jewish social media guru Leah Jones. I have worked in the field, but I wanted to see what she had to offer and my new-found friend up and coming cartoonist Chari Pere was going to sit right next to me. Chari was one of the people I had wanted to meet the whole time and we finally got down to business which included some good old agreement about many of our feelings towards certain aspects of the Orthodox environments we come from. Chari is one of those people that is hard not to like and her always-happy personality lightens up everyone around her.

Leah Jones imparted a lot of information with her course, and to repeat it all would be too great a task. She talked a lot about marketing your organization by getting people to talk about you with word of mouth marketing. She also spoke of how the conversation on blogs is dwindling and people are taking the talk elsewhere, to forums, Twitter and Facebook. Twitter was and has been a huge topic of conversation during the whole ROI summit. I didn’t know it was such a big deal to the internet and strategy world until I came to ROI.

There is no real indicator of what spam is; everyone holds differently. We talked about personal profiles versus profiles of your organization. Different methods of searching blogs, videos and forums. It was a highly effective and engaging class. Not everyone has a blog, Twitter or Facebook but that more and more organizations were recognizing the value in these items.

After lunch we went back into our track sessions, we started earlier then scheduled so that we could each take to the floor and present our problems or what we hoped to do. I was given a chance to voice my concerns of where my website, Frum Satire, is heading. My concerns of conversation taking place off my blog have changed — discussion is good anywhere, but how to have more influence and do more good is the question. Salons, Shabbat dinners, tweetups (where Twitter followers meet up in real life) and meetup.com, a site for similar minded individuals to meet up, were all discussed. I talked about keeping my site as a blog or creating a social network or magazine-style site out of it. It was interesting to hear everyone’s advice and encouragement.

After our track sessions with barely enough time to shower and make myself smell nice, we boarded buses for our night activity. We were all dressed up — well most of us, I was wearing the same thing I wore every other day — so that we could attend this VIP networking event later that night. We unloaded the buses right near the beach where we went to this outdoor, very fancy meeting area. People were walking by on the boardwalk wondering what was going on.

Just as I started to munch on some of the appetizers being served, they tried to shuffle us inside, we were off schedule, but I was going to be damned sure I tried some of the fancy delights being served. Fried chicken schnitzel wrapped around spinach on a bed of sweet potato, with clovers and drizzled with some tangy Asian sauce was too hard to give up.

Inside we sat in a huge circle and did something called open source technology. Fifteen groups were formed based on what we the people wanted to discuss. Environment, open-source Judaism and Siberian Jewry were some of the options. I sat in on open-source Judaism with Shai Davis leading the discussion, about how sects are disappearing and what we have left is this huge assortment of people who connect to Judaism in all different ways. It sounds great, right?

But Shai and I could both agree that in the future most of these people wont stay Jewish. If religion doesn’t have one central driving force what becomes of it? You do your thing I do mine doesn’t seem to work too well, it seems that Judaism may die if it is open sourced to such an extreme. Who will know who is actually Jewish?

After this was the VIP cocktail hour — 120 of the top entrepreneurs, businesspeople, investors and cultural leaders of Israel showed up to mingle with some of the brightest minds and innovators from around the world. I met my acquaintance David Abitbol, founder of Jewlicious, and we sat at the meal together being cynical and spacing out during the speeches. I tried to meet people. Actually, it seemed that many of the men were there to network with only good-looking girls. On more than one occasion I tried to converse with someone who said “I need to talk to someone over there,” only to move in on some new target. There was one guy who I did not see talking to one male ROIer the entire evening.

I introduced myself to Lynn Schusterman and Sandy Cardin who were chief funders of the ROI community, by telling them that I was a Texan. I wasn’t really, I only lived in Dallas for 5 months. I also started talking to some random guy from Pardes who said I had to meet Dan Brown of eJewishphilanthropy.com, who it turns out met me last year at the International Jewish Bloggers Convention in Jerusalem. Then I met this guy in line and his name escapes me but he is a PresenTense Fellow who is working on the Open Siddur project. It’s basically a huge compilation of people’s prayers in that you can print it out and make your own siddur, kind of like a Choose Your Own Adventure siddur. My Yom Kippur mahzor would be 30 pages long.

Dinner was lavish, but I was sick of food, steak, chicken, salmon, salads and everything very good looking and fancy was not doing it for me. I needed a bed, it was getting late and I wondered if there would be a break away bus for those wanting to skip the clubbing part of the night and go to sleep. I was just walking towards the bus that was leaving early when Joel Allen Katz tapped me on the shoulder. I had no idea who this man was yet we have chatted on Facebook multiple times, and he is quite the Frum Satire fan. He was there to network and while we schmoozed and he said to come to the club the bus left. I guess it was time to party.

Galina Pub is on the beach and it was hopping. I couldn’t understand how ROI had so many connections to have such a huge party. It was only several hours into the event that I found out it wasn’t only ROIers and VIP people.

Farrah Fidler, another fan and Twitter friend of mine came up to me and introduced herself, she seems to know everyone and everyone who doesn’t know her, wants to. This was my first VIP networking event and it was interesting but not really my speed. Farrah dragged me around by the arm and introduced me to random people and told me who was there. The poet Hebrew Mamita was chilling with Shai 360 of Subliminal and Jeff Pulver of Vonage was scouting out the crowd. David Abitbol and Esther Kustanowitz were also pretty popular people as well. I was introduced to some guy named Ezra Butler who seemed to know everyone as well, but when I asked what he did, people said I had to check out 1938, but really couldn’t tell me what he did. I did meet some random fans as well, someone who saw the event on my Facebook wall and was quite entertaining showed up, and some other folks who knew me came up and said hello.

I filmed two very Gay-looking Israelis who were dancing like maniacs outside of the club, and I watched as the club bounced up and down. I had to pee, was super tired and wanted to leave, but there was no bus home and so David Abitbol, Talya Lev (an advocate for religious lesbians in Israel) and I split a cab back to the hotel.

You would think my head hit the pillow as soon as I got home, but I couldn’t sat away from a little Facebook, Twitter and Blogging. Oy, the harsh life of a full time blogger!

Posted on July 3, 2009

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