Finding Inspiration, Connection, an Epiphany, and even Love at the JFNA General Assembly!
QUOTE: This year at the GA, focus on the sights, the smells, the sounds, and the music that will unify our community. Try something new and outside of your comfort zone because you never know how it will change your life.
In just a few short days (Nov 9-11) the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) is going to have its 2014 General Assembly (GA) at the National Harbor in Washington, DC. There are lots of things to look forward to experiencing in Washington itself; the national mall, the food, the sports teams, and maybe even the beltway politics. Washington DC is a particularly special place for me, I spent my undergraduate years at George Washington University now just a metro ride from the National Harbor. Back then, it didn’t even exist.
What I look forward to the most during the GA this year is getting to see the friends and family that I have made over the last few years through my involvement with JFNA and in particular my National Young Leadership Cabinet (NYL) Chevre. We have shared a number of exciting and meaningful memories. These experiences have made the GA so much more meaningful than just an event.
One particularly special experience at the GA’s NYL Retreat is when Jewish music artist Rick Recht facilitates the Egalitarian Shabbat Service. I am not an individual who attends services regularly, however, while on retreat, the entire cabinet attends services. My first year, I decided to attend the egalitarian service as I didn’t think I had the chutzpah for the more observant service. Being raised conservative and especially in Boulder, Colorado, I was extremely speculative of a guy with a guitar leading a service. Despite my hesitation, I went.
I had never prayed on a non-High Holiday, non-ceremonial day (think b’nai mitzvot, wedding) in a room with that many people my age and that excited about services. Once the service started , everyone was captivated and celebrating wildly. I remember the sounds of the singing, the lights of the candles, and the sight of my peers, arm-in-arm welcoming the Sabbath bride
That evening, my interest in celebrating Shabbat was revitalized thanks to music and an enthusiastic crowd, but I had another epiphany. During services I sat, maybe purposely, maybe not (wink wink), next to a very specific girl. Watching her excitement for Shabbat, the songs, and the melodies was inspirational. I had always dated non-Jewish girls. However, this single evening changed my mind forever. I knew that I wanted to marry a Jewish Girl.
I am excited to see my friends on November 9th and, despite a slight hesitation of a guy and a guitar, I am excited to participate in celebration with them. This year at the GA, focus on the sights, the smells, the sounds, and the music that will unify our community. Try something new and outside of your comfort zone because you never know how it will change your life. Most importantly, make sure to choose your seat carefully, because you never know – you may just end up having a Jewish experience that you could have never expected or end up falling in love with that someone you are sitting next to. At least, that’s how I met MY girlfriend.
Seth Wong lives in Denver, Colorado. He is the Young Adult Department (YAD) Committee Chair at JEWISH Colorado as well as a member of the JEWISHColorado, Board of Directors. He is an active member of the Jewish Federations of North America, National Young Leadership Cabinet, national premier leadership program. He is also a member of the 2014 Denver/Boulder Wexner Heritage Program. Seth sits on the Fulda Foundation Board â€“ a group that helps Jewish Ethiopian immigrants in Lod, Israel. He is President of Industrial Laboratories, a third party food and drug testing laboratory located in Wheat Ridge, Colorado and he is embarking on a new laboratory venture, TEQ Analytical Labs, designed to provide Analytical Laboratory Services for the emerging cannabis market in Colorado.