ROI 120 Roundup: Initial Reactions

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For those of you who don’t know, I wasn’t flown to Israel to perform at a comedy club in Jerusalem. I am not that good — I was flown to Israel to participate in the ROI Summit, which is a collection of 120 of the best young Jewish innovators from around the world, ages 22-34. “Best” is relative and, as of this year, the best from last year cannot be considered the best this year — kind of weird, since the sexiest people or best actors can be the best or sexiest multiple years in a row.

Either way, it’s a conference of a bunch of people who are either doing really cool things, want to do really cool things, think they are doing really cool things, or have convinced the directors that they are doing really cool things when in fact they are doing nothing.

I was asked to blog about this by non-other then one of the more famous Jewish bloggers, Esther Kustanowitz. I warned her that it may be in traditional Frum Satire style of pointing out the negative and possibly some non-politically correct comments about the physique of the chicks, er, I mean, young ladies in attendance. After eating, what I can only call, an orgasm-inducing buffet of food, and seeing how insanely liberal some people can get, I decided to write about my initial reactions to the ROI Summit.

I sat next to a girl from South Africa on the bus from Jerusalem to Givat Ram who had overheard me say Kfar Macabiah, which made her assume I was a fellow ROI attendee. We walked to the registration window and met some other folks getting their complimentary laptop bags and initial scoping out of the hotel. “Fancy place” was my initial reaction, and it was quite cool with the lush surroundings. This would be the first time I had stayed in a proper Israeli hotel and I was looking forward to the food.

I met some other ROI-ers while sitting around talking to a guy trying to promote Zionism through Israeli cinema but was having trouble because most Israeli films are anti-Israel and produced by left wingers, his trouble and I agreed with him, was that right wing film makers are called propagandists, but left film makers are cinema, and I thought everyone on this conference was going to be super left wing. I told him that the most left wing people were those folks in Tikkun Olam, and that he should talk about his project with them.

I later went swimming with my roommate for the conference who was non-other then Ari Teman, a comedian from the New York area, who I have been hearing about for some time. There are 5 pools on the grounds by the way. I should mention that the room is actually two rooms, with two large flat screen TV’s and two bathrooms with one having a shower and a bathtub. It felt good to get some conditioner in my hair after many days without it.

Then it was time for dinner, I had a hard time finding the place, but I did meet this really cool chick who was just as excited about the food as I was. Actually I think she is one of the first religious girls I have ever met that would be a good wing woman at a kiddush. She was a vulture when it came to the food, just like myself. Her plate was piled high and I wondered to myself how she kept her figure, turns out she was non-other than Seth Galena of Bangitout.com’s fame, wife, that was super cool Jewish Geography. We sat down and went to work, soon more folks joined at our table, one of whom was an ex-Lubavitcher, who admitted that there is really no such thing as an ex-Lubbie, we had some good conversation centered around the organization Footsteps, Rubashkins and Gimmel Tammuz.

For dinner they had a lot of salads and some meats, noteworthy salads and dishes included, bean sprouts and greens salad, tomato and pine nuts, roasted colored peppers, and this interesting mini- artichokes dish. For pasta they had this sweet potato ravioli, gnocchi in pesto, and lo-mien, they had grilled chicken, very good fillet of salmon with teriyaki sauce and a man carving some very good but dry beef. I must compliment the designers of the food setup because it flowed quite nicely and I didn’t feel the need to knock anyone over to grab the last piece of something, fact is I didn’t hurt anyone in my eating process for once.

After meeting a bunch of people, non-of whom I remember, we were ushered into a conference room with big screens and little remote controls on the seats, we all sat down. I sat next to a guy from University of Michigan, but what he does escapes me. The two guys in front of me were making fun of everything and I really wished I was sitting next to them. I almost felt like I was at a singles event, except the possibility of getting laid was actually higher at this event then a run of the mill singles event.

There were some speeches, about how lucky we were and how we were so innovative and all that opening speech crap. Then they thanked all the staff and then we got to the fun part of the session, we were to use our remotes to answer a series of questions pertaining to ideology, and general makeup of the group of ROI participants. Questions like how many men and women were in the audience, 55% women by the way were replaced by how comfortable would you feel being married by a woman rabbi? I wasn’t sure about that one, but most of audience would be comfortable. How about Obama being good for the Jews and Good for Israel or bad for both or good for one ort the either. Most thought he’s good for both or bad for both.

The questions got slightly controversial, the question that asked people if they thought Jerusalem should be divided got a surprising 46% of people saying, no it should stay under Israeli rule. By the way, 41% pof the conference is Israeli, 46% from North America, with 10% from Europe, Latin America and lower amounts in the other categories. I noticed about 10 yarmulkes, and maybe 5 women with their hair covered, with two women wearing classic fall situations, and one full on tichel. There are 3 people at the conference that speak 5 or more languages and it seems that most people consider themselves liberal, by conference standards I would probably be considered conservative or moderate by the way.

After that we had ice breakers, finding our page sharers in this little year book thing and making nice, then sitting on the floor in groups that everyone shared the same ancestry, so Hungarians, Liberians, Polish, Russian, etc…all sat in circles and schmoozed. I wonder if I was the only one being entertained by the sad fact that half the women in the place wearing rather short skirts and had to do some fancy awkward leg work to keep from flashing everyone in the room, I tried not to look but there was plenty of peripheral up-skirt shots and if I would have had my glasses on I may have had to leave the room until everyone sat down. I wondered if the women who wore pants were secretly rejoicing at not having to show the 45% of men their undies.

After all of the ice breakers, we went back outside for more food, I could already tell it was a Jewish event, non-stop eating and playing Jewish Geography. The desert was much better looking then it tasted, but most people wouldn’t admit that because when you throw a bunch of liberals together no one wants to offend anyone God forbid (unless you state something too right wing for them – they will say it offends them – got to love the tolerant crazies who only tolerate the crazy toleration people)

I talked to some random folks. I saw fellow blogger Susanne Goldstone and we chatted about sheitles and the Haredi riots of recent note. Then I started chatting with a girl from DC that runs social programs for young adults at an old shul in Washington DC, interesting stuff actually and we had a good chat and even played some Jewish Geography. Then this other girl from Israel joined in and things got interesting.

Seems that the two girls found it offensive that they had to ask gender questions, they thought of it as they wanted it to be separatist and pigeonhole the two groups. I didn’t want to get in a heated discussion so I kept my views to myself, but was curious why they were “offended.” Now, I may have misunderstood the girls but I said that men and women think differently and they wanted to see where the demographics of the group were, we can all agree that men and women think and act differently than each other right? But these crazed liberals weren’t having it, shit I’m not anti-feminism one bit, I think the institution is great – unless they tell women that dressing like sluts is being proud, but these women were trying to tell me that men and women think alike, don’t know about you but I never sit down to pee, rarely do I even pee in a toilet, I prefer car doors, alleyways and trees to tell the truth. I guess I just don’t understand women.

Then we got to talking about the green line and how offensive it was and how the Israelis have to open up Jerusalem and how the settlements are so offensive and then I politely left the conversation and went to my room to vent into this post. Oh and I am looking forward to breakfast, and meeting several people whom I was told to meet.

I’m not going to lie, I am having a ball and it’s only the first night. Stay tuned for more.

By the way for all who don’t know, I will be performing in Jerusalem on Sunday July 5th….

Posted on July 1, 2009

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