The biggest was a plenary session called “The Next Generation: Social Action, Social Networking, and Social Entrepreneurship,” which featured Ari Sandel, the director of West Bank Story; Sarah Chasin a student at George Washington University, who spent time working in Mississippi after Katrina; the directors of an Israeli program called Ayalim; Idit Klein, director of Keshet; Esther Kustanowitz a blogger and editor at PresentTense Magazine; and our good friend Dan Sieradski, formerly of Jewschool (and currently Director of Digital Media at JTA).
The previous day I had attended another session of “young folk” moderated by JDub President Aaron Bisman, focusing on the relationship between upstart organizations and the Federation world.
Several of these presenters are friends of mine and many of them gave wonderful presentations, but something about the combined efforts irked me. During one of the sessions, I leaned over to a friend and said: “We sound so spoiled.”
Here’s what I mean: There was a lot of talk about the “younger generation” wanting a “seat at the table.” There was talk of telling the UJC “you need to tell us what you do for us.” There was talk of identity and meaning.
But virtually no talk of responsibility and charity.
The starkest example of this came from Sarah Chasin, the GW student. For a college student, Sarah was remarkably poised speaking to 3,500 people, and I’m sure she’s a wonderful person, but in her speech, she mentioned being challenged by a Mississippian who told her that she wasn’t really helping out Katrina victims for the victims themselves; they’d be fine without her. She was doing it for herself.
Sarah realized that he was right. She was doing it for herself.
Amazingly, after telling this story, revealing this honest bit of personal reflection, she never returned to emend it. And so we were left with the impression that not only are the “young” cultural initiatives about us; so are the service programs.