Nashville, Tenn. — The tone of this year’s General Assembly (GA) of the United Jewish Communities was set from its opening moments when 300 college students marched into the vast ballroom of the Gaylord Opryland Convention Center on Sunday, waving school pennants, to the loud cheers of the adult delegates.
The Hillel contingent made up about 10 percent of the estimated 3,000 participants at the 48-hour conference, billed as the largest annual gathering of Jewish leadership in the world, with Yeshiva University’s 35 students the largest collegiate group.
The dramatic entrance was an exciting moment, symbolic of the hope the organized Jewish community has that younger Jews will join the ranks of those committed to building and supporting the enterprise of Jewish collectivity.
But studies indicate otherwise, showing that for the most part, Jews in their 20s and 30s feel far less connected to and interested in organized Jewish life and Israel than their elders — a matter of deep concern to communal officials.
Whether out of pragmatism, devotion or desperation — or a combination of all three — the leadership of UJC, the Jewish federation movement of North America, chose to feature the next generation at this GA, front and center.
"Luke Ford reports all of the 'juicy' quotes, and has been doing it for years." (Marc B. Shapiro)
"This guy knows all the gossip, the ins and outs, the lashon hara of the Orthodox world. He’s an [expert] in... all the inner workings of the Orthodox world." (Rabbi Aaron Rakeffet-Rothkoff)
"This generation's Hillel." (Nathan Cofnas)