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1200 Jewish Young Adults Walk Into a Casino…

From March 5-8, I had the pleasure of participating in the first ever Tribefest, at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in Las Vegas. This fantastic event put on by the Jewish Federations of North America, brought together 1200 young adults from across North America to ‘Connect, Explore and Celebrate’ their Jewish identity, culture and community.

While not particularly an environmental friendly event (judged by the location, quantity of disposable dishes, etc.) the organizers went out of their way to include two environmentally themes sessions, one on food and one on energy. Both were well attended with 100 – 150 participants.

Participants at these sessions asked a lot of good questions, particularly regarding how they can bring these ideas to their communities. They were interested and wanted to be more connected, but most s had not heard of our organizations or even our movement. (I was able to distribute a lot of Jewcology magnets!). It is clear that we still have a lot to do educating the general young adult population and the Jewish community as a whole about the work that we do.

On the flip side, as mentioned in my previous blog post the Jewish environmental movement is well represented in the motivations of many Jewish leadership and this was seen at Tribefest as well. Many of the presenters and Jewish leaders I talked to where well informed about our movement and excited about our growth and possibilities for collaboration.

Bridging the gap between the acceptance of Jewish environmental work within the Jewish leadership, and the continued lack of understanding or exposure by the general Jewish population, is a major concern that must be addressed.

This discrepancy has a number of dangerous effects which I believe are hurting our movement including:

* Lack of community support for environmental initiatives at synagogues and community buildings.

* Lack of political strength behind our legislative initiatives

* Lack of funding due to a ‘catch 22’, small numbers of private donations not growing fast enough to cover our needs, and large foundations believing we are not cutting edge enough for funding

I hope we can begin a dialogue as a Jewcology community about how we can bridge this gap and help our message spread beyond the leadership and into general Jewish community. And I hope that in years to come at Tribefest and other Jewish conferences we’ll continue to see more people who know about and want to get involved in Jewish environmental initiatives.

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