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My first GA 

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Let’s be honest, I don’t usually use this space for anything other than my matchmaking musings, but I’m in the middle of participating in Do The Write Thing (DTWT), a three-day program held during the Jewish Federations of North America’s (JFNA) annual General Assembly (GA), which gathers young editors, writers and multimedia specialists for workshops on mainstream and Jewish journalism. The program is a joint project of the World Zionist Organization (WZO), American Zionist Movement (AZM), and the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI). I thought I’d share some of my insights and experiences as I go through the program as a student for a few days with my fellow Oy!sters.

First of all, I never thought I’d be in a space filled with so many Jews at once. I believe that there are 3,000 Jews from all over North America and Israel converged in Denver right now. Yesterday, during the opening plenary, you could barely see the people across the room. But you could feel the energy. One of my heroes, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz spoke to the crowd about how important Israel is to her personally and to the President of the United States. She urged everyone in the room to recognize and appreciate the overwhelming bipartisan support for the Jewish State of Israel in the US government and to encourage our politicians to stop using, “Israel as a political football used for a partisan game.” She got a pretty good-sized standing ovation. The only standing ovation of the day, I might add.

This morning I attended a really fascinating session titled, What do Israelis Really Care About Anyway?” The panel included, the new editor-in-chief of Haaretz, Aluf Benn, Haviv Rettig Gur, chief spokesperson for JAFI, Rebecca Caspi, senior VP Israel and Overseas for JFNA and Amir Schaham, director of programming, Metrowest-Israel, United Jewish Communities of MetroWest, NJ.

So what did I learn?

• Israelis consider the greatest threat to the State of Israel to be the “social demise.” Fears of Iran ranked second. According to Caspi, worry over “the price of cottage cheese appeared many more times than the Iranian bomb.”

• More Israelis watching the finale of Master Chef than Bibi’s speech at the UN.

• 54% of Israelis believe Obama is pro-Israel

• 74% of Israelis believe the economic situation is good

• 62% of Israelis support recognition of any type of marriage in Israel

• 79% of Israelis supported the release of Gilad Shalit “We sat glued to our TVs till we saw him safely home,” said Caspi. “We cried and we are thrilled and every single one of us is nervous about the consequences.”

• Less than a quarter of Israelis are optimistic about peace. But, the vast majority of Israelis (70%) are in favor of the two state solution and massive withdrawal of territories if it leads to a complete and true lasting peace. However at this stage, most don’t think such an agreement could or would give Israelis peace right now.

On that note, while I still have many more sessions to attend and lots more to learn, I’m going to wrap this thing up so I can head to lunch. I hope this gives you a small flavor of what’s going on here…more from Denver soon! 

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