RECAP: The Jewish Federation’s General Assembly Convention 2017

Changemaker Catalyst Award recipient Isabella Berlinsky traveled to The Jewish Federation’s General Assembly Conference in November 2017 to help further her education of Jewish representation in the media and entertainment industry. Isabella recently graduated from Tulane University in December 2017 and studied Communications with minors in Marketing – Management and Jewish Studies.

In order to further expand my knowledge of business, leadership, philanthropy and Judaism, within a forum that no other conference would allow me to do, I attended the Jewish Federation’s General Assembly: Venture Further convention from November 12th – 14th, 2017. Through traditional and digital media, data-driven advertising and marketing, my career objective is to shape my career goals and gain knowledge of the media eco-system.

In addition to my rigorous Tulane studies, I work at FOX 8 in New Orleans three days a week as an Advertising Sales Development Intern. My tasks consist of working directly with the client and business development team in order to maintain and increase the relationships with major local partners. The Jewish Federation’s General Assembly Venture Further Event was a perfect fit for my skill set and interests, combining my education and philanthropic focus with my keen millennial perspective. This event overall helped me to further explore the future of Jewish philanthropy, beyond the traditional Jewish education. It also helped me to dig deeper into growing and sustaining a thriving Jewish community.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin described that threefold mission as relief for the needy, support for Jewish education and identity, and inspiring a connection to Israel.

This convention was a three-day experience took place in Los Angeles from November 12-14. It began with four investigative sessions covering some of the most challenging issues facing our community. In addition, the GA featured conversations between famous actors and their rabbis, sessions with Jewish writers and producers discussing Jewish Hollywood, Silicon Valley tech mavens’ success stories, and so much more. The GA brought together Federation volunteer leaders and professionals from across the continent, and those engaged in the business of Jewish philanthropy from around the globe.

At GA 2017, the Jewish Federation ventured further into the future of Jewish education, philanthropy, and our community by taking The Federation Movement farther than ever before. The General Assembly is the premier annual gathering of thousands of top Jewish communal change makers. It convenes volunteer and professional leaders from Federations across North America, along with those in the business of Jewish philanthropy from around the world. This event has inspired participants, like myself, while highlighting the extraordinary work of the Federation system and other partner agencies. I had a fantastic time at this three- day excursion with dynamic speakers, thought-provoking sessions, networking, best-practice sharing and celebration!

JFNA President & CEO Jerry Silverman
JFNA President & CEO Jerry Silverman

Thanks to the Changemaker Catalyst Award, I was able to attend this exciting event!  Monday, November 13th, I attended a lecture regarding how The Federation supports the future of women’s roles and how philanthropy is becoming more diversified in the realms of Jewish life through millennial run organizations. As a millennial, I was so eager to share my perspective on the way in which I choose to give back to my community. At the GA’s Venture Further and at this event, I gained insight on how to better position my philanthropy events at Tulane for the upcoming school year. Straight from this session, I attended the convention’s Lunch and Networking to learn more about the National Women’ s Philanthropy Association. As a Jewish millennial, it was so wonderful to work with leaders around the world in order to make a difference and assist all those whom cannot afford or have the means to help themselves.

On Tuesday, November 14th, I attended the speaker series “Making the Old News: What We Mean by Jewish Education.” After taking Intro to Jewish Civilization and Arab-Israeli Conflict at Tulane, I am very familiar with the history of the state of Israel, from biblical times to the modern day. I am currently taking the courses Jewish Immigration and Power and Powerlessness. In Jewish Immigration Experience, 1881-Present, I examined the transnational migration of Jews to six different continents, North America, South America, Asia, Africa, Australia and Europe, ad focusing on key components of the migration. In Power and Powerlessness, I drew on the skills and knowledge that I have obtained through our own Jewish Studies Department.

We encounter the full chronology of Jewish history and are asked to analyze events through the lens of this historical perspective. The theme of Jewish power, is of great interest to us, as is the perception of power by Jews themselves and attitudes toward Jews by their neighbors. This session also discussed an insider view of US policy within the Middle East. No matter how much the world changes, there is one thing that remains constant, problems in the Middle East. Syria, Iraq and Yemen are caught up in war. The Israel-Palestinian situation remains stalled. And the list of terrorist groups continues to expand.

This session, moderated by Yaakov Katz, Editor and Chief of Jerusalem Post, helped me to understand the developments made by the US and what exactly is going on behind the scenes. The two panelists, Dr. Shira Efron, Special Advisor on Israel RAND Center for the Middle East Public Policy, and Michael Makovsky, President and CEO of Jewish Institute for National Security of America, were truly very inspirational as the discussed how Arabs and Palestinians generally oppose Zionism, as the explicitly Jewish character of the Israeli state means that Jews have privileges that others don’t. I learned how Arabs often see Zionism as a species of colonialism and racism aimed at appropriating Palestinian land and systematically disenfranchising the Palestinians that remain.

At the event, Global Jewish Bridge Builders: Our Work as Leaders Around the World, I heard from Alan Hoffmann, CEO and Director of The Jewish Agency for Israel and Dr. Conrad Giles, President of World ORT. From Moses to Sharansky, Miriam to Golda, Jewish leaders have always made big impact. Today, more than ever, great global Jewish leaders are needed to respond to local needs and build bridges with world Jewry. These fascinating individuals taught me that through our partners, we build institutions worldwide, led by the forward-thinking, passionate young people we train as leaders. Hearing from and engaging with some of these Jewish leaders firsthand and gaining insight into how our overseas partners are engineering the future of Jewish communities around the globe was such a great opportunity.

In relation to media and entertainment within the Jewish community, I was fortunate enough to hear from Marc Platt, an Oscar-Nominated and Emmy and Golden Globe Award Winning Producer. Marc Platt stands among the few producers who have successfully bridged the worlds of theatre, film, and television. His projects have garnered a combined 31 Oscar nominations, 18 Tony nominations, 24 Golden Globe nominations and 29 Emmy nominations, and have grossed over $5 billion worldwide.

His most recent film is La La Land, which broke the all-time record for Golden Globe Awards winning seven including Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, and tied the record with Titanic and All About Eve for the most Oscar nominations in history with 14, winning six. Marc’s other films include Bridge of SpiesInto the WoodsThe Girl on the TrainDrive, Rachel Getting MarriedLegally Blonde, Wanted, and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. He is presently filming Disney’s Mary Poppins Returns, starring Emily Blunt, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Meryl Streep. In television, Marc executive produced the hit Grease Live! (FOX) which earned 10 Emmy Award nominations and five Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Special Class Program. He also won the Golden Globe Award for Best Miniseries for Empire Falls (HBO).

Marc is a leader in the national Jewish community who has served as chairman of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles Entertainment Division and as a Birthright Israel Foundation board member, and was honorary chair of the UJF Master Class in Cinema and Television. He is a frequent guest speaker for Federations and other Jewish organizations around the country. Additionally, he is a member of the board of trustees of the National Constitution Center. He is the perfect role model for someone with my social and career interests.

This once in a lifetime experience overall helped me to understand social problems that matter to be. I grasped onto how to become a better Jew, while learning more about business, leadership, and philanthropy. This award contributed to my understanding of how to engage as a change-maker. A change-maker is a leader who wants to rise up and not only lead an organization but lead a movement that creates positive change in the lives of others. Being a change maker, I believe, is a new term for being a leader. A leader who wants to make a difference. To make your life’s work count. To leave the world better than you found it. A change maker is someone who leverages his or her influence for the betterment of the world and who does collective good of others. As a change-maker, not only at the Jewish Federation’s General Assembly, I continue to develop a deep-rooted sense of empathy for others, identify a specific problem or opportunity to tackle whether at work, in my Tulane classes, or in social settings, and will give myself permission to do something about it.

Overall, as a Jewish millennial who is focused on Communications, Marketing-Management, and Jewish Studies, attending The Jewish Federation’s General Assembly Venture Further conference was a dream come true. Not only will this conference enhance my current Tulane studies, but it also enriched my sorority as I have been able to develop innovative ways to give back to my Jewish community, through diverse philanthropic organizations and charitable events. I want to help students at Tulane University make a positive difference in the Middle East as well as in The United States of America. I truly appreciate Tulane University’s support am so grateful for the Taylor Center for allowing me to attend the General Assembly Conference!