TribeFest 2014: Celebrating Jewish Life

Max Orenstein

Max Orenstein

“Each generation needs to find contemporary relevance in our ancient society.”

These words, spoken by JDate CEO Greg Lieberman, embodied the spirit of this Spring’s TribeFest : 1,200 Jewish young adults, passionate about fostering Jewish identity among their peers.

And, of course, having a good time in The Big Easy.

Max Orenstein, Minneapolis TribeFest Chair, was drawn to TribeFest by the energy. “It’s the kick you need to stay excited about being involved in the Jewish community. Being in a room with a thousand Jews your age makes you want to go out and just make a difference—to make sure that Judaism is as important to the other Jews in Minneapolis as it is to me.”

Nine participants from Minneapolis made the trip to New Orleans for the bi-annual conference for young Jews in their 20s and 30s hosted by Jewish Federations of North America. “It was a great group,” said Max, “And we all definitely walked away excited about the future and inspired to be a part of building our community.”

Attendees heard from keynote speakers including LIVESTRONG CEO Doug Ulman and West Wing and Scandal actor Joshua Malina, and attended their choice of breakout sessions focused on international Jewish issues including global poverty, emergency relief and Israel’s complex political and social dilemmas.

“In a crowd, the goal is to get ahead,” said Ulman during his keynote address. “In a community, none of us can move forward unless we move forward together….Let’s be a community.”

For Max, the realism of that message came alive when he listened to a case study of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit’s young adult division. In a city seemingly dealing with failure after failure, their Federation’s young adult group has flourished. “Their success is rooted in collaboration,” said Max. “Detroit’s story reaffirmed that effective collaboration between organizations needs to be a priority in Minneapolis.”

Between speaker sessions and parties infused with New Orleans culture, participants engaged with the local New Orleans community by participating in several service projects, including visiting seniors at Kingsley House Adult Services, cleaning up City Park and reading to children at ReNEW schools.

The Minneapolis group got down and dirty landscaping City Park. They cleaned and planted with results that would have taken the park’s meager staff months to accomplish. It was an activity that planted the seeds—pun absolutely intended—for future projects at home. “It felt really good to see tangible evidence that we gave back,” said Max. “I would love to do more hands on work in our own community.”

Max hopes to recruit more Minneapolis young Jews to join him at the next TribeFest so they can experience the same rush of Jewish pride that he did. “TribeFest isn’t just for those of who are already involved in the Federation,” Max explains. “It’s for anyone that wants to do something Jewish.”

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