Monday, November 8, 2010

GA on my mind

New Orleans is the epicenter for what is no doubt the most important gathering of America's and Canada's most powerful and influential Jews. The biannual General Assembly (GA) of the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA), formerly the United Jewish Communities, opened in earnest on Saturday night. In addition the International Lions of Judah, an organization that honors the achievements of significant Jewish philanthropic women, is also holding its own conference here. Yesterday's full day of activities included several sessions intended to inform and energize attendees. One central theme this year is to introduce members to the Israel Action Network, a program intended to counter and neutralize the efforts of outsiders to de-legitimize the State of Israel. Yesterday Vice-President Joe Biden spoke on the commitment of the Obama administration to the State of Israel and he publicly added both his and the President's appreciation for the Israel Action Network. Later this morning Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will deliver a keynote address in another plenary session to approximately 3,000 attendees. The conference is exciting for New Orleans since the ongoing JFNA communities response to the city and the Gulf Coast has resulted in $28 million of funds being disbursed or promised following the devastation of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita five years ago. This is an important conference, but it also is an opportunity for volunteers to continue in their efforts to provide service to the community here. Over 600 Hillel students are attending and scores of high school students have for the first time become active participants at the GA. There are plans for attendees to help rebuild homes and to offer assistance as part of the JFNA's continued programs intended to promote tikun olam, a Hebrew phrase that literally means "healing the world."

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