Federation’s Event Horizon: TribeFest

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Essay by David Kramer; Profiles and Photos by Karen Schwartz

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We all know how powerful the emotion guilt can be. (It’s been a Jewish mother’s most potent weapon for centuries.) As a lay leader in Detroit’s Jewish community, I, too, have employed guilt when persuading skeptical young adults to give their time and money.

I explain that without personal commitment and sacrifice of young people, our incredible community will crumble. I find myself using the line, “Giving is just the Jewish way”; as the child of a Holocaust survivor, I firmly believe it. But, as of late, I realize guilt isn’t the only way.

TribeFest, conceived and executed by national lay leaders like Detroit’s Robb Lippitt, helped convince me that using the “guilt” model to attract people is outdated.

As one communal leader explained it, “Our parents’ generation got involved in Jewish public life because they felt obligated to combat anti-Semitism in the wake of the Holocaust and to help create and protect the State of Israel; but times have changed. The Holocaust seems far away, anti-Semitism has arguably waned and Jews are more integrated into society than ever.”

The new paradigm, according to the organizers, involves providing opportunities for young adults to find their own connection to Judaism. So, the theory goes, once they find their connection, they will ask — instead of being asked — to participate.

When I walked into the main auditorium at Tribefest, I sensed the collective energy among the nearly 1,500 people in the room. People sat silently as we heard from both the famous and unknown about their special connection to Judaism.

Granted, the silence may have been related to a long night of partying the night before (it was in Vegas); however, I noted something else. I got the distinct sense that these young people were truly awed by being part of something bigger — the tribe of Jews.

I saw young people actively engaged in discussions about their Judaism and sensed a hunger in these folks to feel connected to their people and their communities. As Tribefest demonstrated to me, if we capture the hearts and minds of young people, great things soon will follow.

And, if I’m wrong, I always have the guilt card in hand.

David Kramer is past president of Federation’s Young Adult Division. He lives in Bloomfield Township with his wife Anessa and their two boys, Max and Sam.

Texan Discovers “Cute Jewish Boy” in Detroit

Las Vegas — Leah Bold, 29, moved to the Detroit area in spring 2009 for work; a leasing agent for the Taubman Co., she originally is from Dallas and had been living most recently in Washington, D.C.
After arriving in Detroit, Bold signed up for a Shabbat dinner exchange as a way to meet people in the community. She started making friends, found a “cute Jewish boy” and now lives in Royal Oak.
Being part of a community that has gone through so much change, where people come together and where “every dollar counts,” has helped her identify strongly with Federation’s mission, she said. She previously attended federation leadership conferences in Boston and London.
After listening to a day of speakers, she stopped to explain why the event was so important to her: “It’s something really special, being a Jew and having all these people be able to connect on so many different levels with so many different topics,” Bold said.

San Francisco Shattered When It Lost Glass to Birmingham

Las Vegas — Detroit native Jordan Glass, 34, went to his first federation conference in 1999. He was a freshly minted Michigan State University grad, 22, and living in San Francisco, working as an international equities trader.

While in California, he said he could pick out the Midwesterners right away, which helped remind him that someday he wanted his family to be part of the tight-knit community he loved as he grew up.

He moved back home in 2002 and currently lives in Birmingham, where he is vice president of Glass Retirement Strategies, a retirement plan design and administration company in Bingham Farms. “I left Detroit to have new experiences, but I always felt like I belonged in Detroit and wanted to be part of Detroit being a great city again,” he said.

Pilates Instructor Is Not ‘Super Jew’; Says It Takes All Types

Las Vegas — Nikki Fayne, 35, of Farmington Hills, teaches Pilates at Pure Element Pilates in West Bloomfield. During TribeFest, she pulled in a huge crowd for the yoga class she taught. Having never been to a Young Adult Division event or to Israel, she came to Las Vegas on friend Rachel Wright’s promise that the Beastie Boys and Sarah Silverman would be on stage. She was duped, she says, but was happier for it. “I’ve never been ‘Super Jew,’” she said. “And what I’ve taken from this is that there’s all types of amazing people and we’re all Jewish because of our blood.”

After getting a degree in theater from Columbia College in 1998 and spending 10 years living in Chicago making circuits at Second City and Tony and Tina’s Wedding, among others, Fayne came back to Detroit in 2003 and took the “fitness route.” That’s when the woman who graduated from North Farmington High School weighing 300 pounds dropped 150 of them.

He met his future wife, Jenny, on a Federation mission trip to Israel in 2004. Now married, they have a 2-year-old daughter, Talia.

Money-Minded Analyst Gets a Whiff of ‘Blossom’

Las Vegas — Matt Ran, 25, enjoyed a brush with fame when the Bloomfield Hills resident sat two rows behind Blossom star Mayim Bialik during the TribeFest opening event. Ran said he’s starting to get more involved in Federation activities and looks forward to having more of a personal connection with the organization. He moved back to Detroit from Los Angeles at the end of 2008.

Interested in the stock market as early as his bar mitzvah, he came home to join the family business and works as an investment analyst at Telemus Capital Partners. “I love it,” he said of coming back. “I have a great job; … I have a lot of friends who are home.”

He said he enjoyed meeting people from other communities at Tribefest and also catching up with old friends. He ran into a friend from high school who now lives in Cleveland and a family friend from Chicago.

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