By Aviva Perlman
Imagine. Live Generously. These were underlying words of advice passing through the halls of the Cleveland Convention Center earlier this week during the 73rd General Assembly of the United Jewish Communities.
Over the course of three days, 3,000 delegates from across the United States, Canada and Israel were urged to "think outside the box" and imagine what was needed to achieve a vital Jewish future. Participants attended forums, workshops and programs where they were given the tools needed to build leadership and bring strength to the Jewish community. Among the 3,000 participants at the GA was a Hillel delegation made up of more than 300 college students from North America.
University of Michigan junior and first-time delegate Adina Schoem came to the GA to find out how she presently fit into the greater Jewish community and how she might fit in later.
"The GA is really a great way to get re-energized about Jewish life," she said.
Allan Zusstone was a junior in college when he first attended the GA in Philadelphia in 2002. Now a first-year law student at Michigan State University, Zusstone looked toward this year's GA to take advantage of networking opportunities.
Some GA veterans felt this year's program did not compare to those in the past. Chen Goel, a junior at York University, felt the student delegation should have been bigger.
"There were so many [students] in Jerusalem [in 2003]," he said. "We were all united in one place, one of the holiest cities in the world."
Leeor Baskin, a senior at Northwestern University, felt the sessions offered at the GA in Philadephia were better.
"I actually liked the fact that there was the option for students if they wanted to attend their own program during the GA," he said. "But I still sometimes went to the adult sessions."
This year students had the opportunity to attend plenaries ranging in topics from Sharon's disengagement plan, global anti-Semitism in the 21st century, non-profits and branding, coalition building and 2004 election analysis, among others.
Prior to the opening events of the GA on Sunday, students gathered together for a Hillel-sponsored Shabbaton. York University junior Noam Guberman thought the Shabbaton was a great way to connect with and get to know the students before the GA.
During the Shabbaton students had the opportunity to participate in intergenerational dialogues exploring intermarriage, campus Israel advocacy, anti-Semitism, and life after graduation.
"There were a lot of good conversations going on," Zusstone said.
The large number of participating students was made possible through the generous support of Jewish community leaders who contributed to the 2004 GA Youth Fund, including Kathy E. Manning and Randall R. Kaplan; Arlene Kaufman and Sandy Baklor; Robert and Arlene Kogod; the Robert and Myra Kraft Family Foundation; Joseph and Harvey Meyerhoff Family Charitable Funds; Ben and Esther Rosenbloom Foundation; the Wexner Foundation; and Diane and Howard Wohl. Hillel also thanks the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation and the Jewish Theological Seminary of America for sponsoring parts of the Shabbaton.
Aviva Perlman is a junior at American University and an intern in the Hillel communications department.
Read more about the GA:
New York Jewish Week
Canadian Jewish News