The GA (General Assembly) inspires and engages current and emerging Jewish leaders, tackles the most critical issues of the day, and showcases the best of the Federation movement. Every 5 years the event is held in Jerusalem, this year to celebrate Israel’s 65th birthday and the unmatched partnership between the Federations and the State of Israel.

The Jewish Federations have been meeting at General Assemblies for over 80 years to network, learn from each other and interface with world leaders. The program features themes that are timely and highly relevant to the Jewish community. Sessions include how to raise money in a challenging economy to preserve lifesaving programs, how to better use digital media to connect with communities and how to bring a spirit of innovation to philanthropy.

But the GA is more than workshops and addresses by world leaders. It is a chance for members of the Jewish community to come together, spend time with old friends and colleagues, and connect with new ones.
The GA brings together over 3,000 influential decision-makers from communities around the US, Canada, Israel and around the world.

The GA is also a thriving virtual community, with over 10,000 tweets using the #JFNAGA hashtag in 2012 alone, as well as vibrant activity on Facebook and other social media channels. Further details can be found on the website

The millions upon millions of Jewish Federation dollars coming into Israel each year have typically targeted one cause: charity. But that may soon be a thing of the past. In recent months, several high-profile North American federations have invested significant sums of their endowment money in Israeli stocks. And others, having taken note, are poised to follow suit. For organizations that have traditionally seen their main connection to Israel through the prism of philanthropy, it could be a game changer, says the man who has been holding their hand through this process. This is especially the case considering that the Jewish federations manage close to $15 billion in endowment funds.

“If they had any investments at all in Israel, it was through Israel Bonds, which are a well-known way of supporting the country,” said Schoenfeld, whose company specializes in the Israeli capital market. “What the federations have come to realize is that not only is putting their money in Israeli equity a good investment, but it’s also good for the Israeli economy and capital markets, and it provides another area of connectivity between the Diaspora and Israel.”

Natalie Rudolph, Federation president and Howard Borer, Executive Director attended this conference which was highlighted by speeches from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres, and political leaders Naftali Bennett, Yair Lapid, and Shelly Yachimovich, leader of the Labor Party. Sessions covered Israel’s foreign and domestic agenda, from Iran’s nuclear program to Israel’s marriage laws to the aftermath of the 2011 social protests. The GA culminated with field trips throughout Jerusalem, learning at various seminaries throughout the city and visiting sites that are supported by our campaign dollars. After the site visits, 3,000 strong gathered together at Safra Square, Jerusalem’s city hall plaza where they began a march to the Western Wall where they celebrated the dynamic pluralism of the Jewish people.

Just prior to the GA Pew Research Center released it survey of U.S. Jews. It gave conference delegates a comprehensive picture of Jewish life in America, a set of sometimes troubling statistics and plenty to talk about. Hanging over the delegates’ heads were two questions that have obsessed the Jewish community since the study was released last month: What does it mean? And what do we do about it?

Answers came in sessions before and during the conference, and in speeches by JFNA CEO Jerry Silverman and Chairman Michael Siegal. Taken together, they recommended greater accessibility to communal resources and programs such as preschool and camp, combined with a focus on developing personal connections between community leaders and young Jews.

“The fact that we act collectively, that is our brand,” Silverman said at a plenary Monday. “Not just the things we do, but the fact that we do them together. Let’s never forget that. Let’s never be so passionate about a single cause that we forget that our real cause is community.”

Silverman lamented the high cost of Jewish education and called for Jewish preschool to be free, as well as for a major expansion of the Jewish summer camp network. Silverman said, need to do a better job of engaging the “low-hanging branches” of alumni from large programs like the free 10-day Birthright trip to Israel. He recommended establishing a one-on-one mentoring program between community leaders and young Jews. Silverman also advocated making better use of technology and announced plans for the creation of an encyclopedic website within a year to share communal best practices and pool data. He reiterated his call for Birthright to make more of its data available to communities nationwide, a process that Birthright says was already underway.“Half of our young population has been exposed to Israel and yet we don’t follow up,” Silverman said Monday. “We could change the face of Jewish communal life one relationship at a time.”

One of the differences between the religious debates in Israel and those in the United States concerns this question of education. In Israel, secular Jews correct the Hebrew of eminent rabbis. The Jewish bookshelf is largely accessible to Israelis. The Jewish calendar sets their daily routine, and so is familiar to them. In their dialogue with Israelis, American Jews will have to face head-on their own community’s Jewish illiteracy, and their failure to educate generations of Jews to the point where they are able to appreciate and engage seriously with their Israeli counterparts, not to mention their own Jewish xXx: Return of Xander Cage streaming

At the GA, and at the Knesset gathering convened to coincide with it, a new conversation is underway, and it is less introverted, less hesitant than in the past.As the head of the American Reform movement said bluntly to MKs on Tuesday, “Israel is the most important, consequential, dramatic project of the Jewish people in this era. We won’t be satisfied to be an audience.”