The New Orleans Jewish community is gearing up for “The Big Embrace,” welcoming an estimated 5,000 delegates to the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America and the biennial Lion of Judah conference.

The GA runs Nov. 7 to 9, with advance activities beginning on Nov. 5, while the Lion of Judah conference is Nov. 8 to 10. The GA is the premier annual North American Jewish conference, attracting key Federation lay leaders, donors and professionals as well as the leadership of JFNA’s partner organizations and other important national Jewish organizations.

Lion of Judah is a society for women who contribute at least $5,000 to their communities’ Annual Campaign. Previously, the Lion of Judah conferences have been held in Washington or Israel.

The conferences were moved to New Orleans in January when concerns were raised about the venues in Orlando. By holding the conferences in New Orleans, JFNA “intends to showcase their contributions towards the successful recovery of the New Orleans Jewish community” following Hurricane Katrina, said Michael Weil, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans.

The GA will have an unprecedented level of local involvement and flavor, and a hands-on service experience for delegates.

After the hurricane hit in late August 2005, the Federation movement coordinated a response and raised nearly $30 million for emergency aid, shelter, food and counseling for disaster victims. The Jewish Federations then provided long-term disaster relief solutions. Leading a coalition of Jewish organizations, The Jewish Federations of North America developed a stabilization plan for the communities of Baton Rouge, Biloxi and New Orleans, ensuring the survival of Jewish institutions and creating a lifeline to vitally needed services so people could begin to move forward with their lives.

The GA will be at the Sheraton New Orleans on Canal Street and the New Orleans Marriott directly across the street. Additional space will be at the JW Marriott. The Lion of Judah conference will be at the Hilton Riverside.

Golf Tournament

On Nov. 5, GA activities kick off with something new — a golf tournament at English Turn Golf Course. Proceeds from the event will benefit “Teen Life Counts,” a suicide prevention program sponsored by Jewish Family Service of New Orleans.

The program reaches about 5,000 teens, generally in the 10th grade, in over 40 public, private and parochial schools in the area.

Jon Schlackman, co-chair of the tournament, said it is an opportunity to play “with some of the best Jewish golfers in the country who are coming to the GA.”

The goal is to raise $100,000 for the program, through $1,000 hole sponsorships and $250 entry fees. The entry fee is $200 for New Orleanians.

For tournament information, call Schlackman at (504) 587-9605 or e-mail golf (at)

NextGen Conference and Party

As part of the GA, there is a NextGen Leadership Forum and NextGen party, open to all young adults regardless of whether they are registered for the GA.

The Leadership Forum will be Nov. 7 from 8:30 a.m. to noon at the Sheraton Hotel on Canal Street.
Led by Rae Ringel, the forum will be an opportunity to meet and network with other young Jewish leaders from across the country. Participants will share ideas and passion in how to become better change agents in their communities.

Breakfast will be served, and there is no charge. However, reservations are required and must be made by emailing Those from New Orleans should mention that in their emails.

That evening, there will be a New Orleans-style celebration with all the young leaders at Howlin’ Wolf. Admission is $20 at the door and includes one drink. There will be live music, featuring Joe “Papa” Gros and his band. The party will be from 9 p.m. to midnight.

Exhibition Hall Open To Community

One attraction of the GA is always the large exhibition hall, with booths and exhibits from around the world, with Jewish art, Judaica, organizational information and a wide range of other items. Generally, the hall is open to delegates, but on Nov. 6 after Shabbat, the hall will be open to the entire local Jewish community. The exhibitor area will be at the Sheraton New Orleans on Canal Street.

One highlight of the exhibition hall will be an Israel Defense Forces medical tent that was used during relief operations in Haiti this past year. Israel’s rapid response to the earthquake drew international applause for its scope and efficiency.

The New Orleans Federation will have a large booth in the style of a French Quarter courtyard, and there will be a mini-Kosher Cajun for dining.

New Orleans Volunteers To Welcome Delegates

One way that the New Orleans Jewish community is playing a major role with this year’s GA is by volunteering. The Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans said at the beginning of October that there were already 250 volunteers signed up for 400 slots.

Federation Executive Director Michael Weil said volunteering is an “opportunity to welcome the guests and say thank you” for the assistance that the larger Jewish world gave to New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina.

On the day of a volunteer’s shift, the volunteer has access to the GA’s activities for the entire day, and for the party at Mardi Gras World on Nov. 8.

Mardi Gras for GA, ILOJ Delegates

Though it’s November, not February, delegates will see a slice of New Orleans at the large Nov. 8 party at Mardi Gras World, starting at 8 p.m. It will bring together participants from the GA, which will be winding down, and the Lion of Judah conference, which will be just beginning.

The evening will feature vendors, cash bars, snacks, desserts, and music. Featured performers include Neshama Carlebach and the Green Pastures Baptist Choir; Galactic, New Orleans’ outrageous masters of jazz, funk, brass and beyond. The venue is where the world-famous Mardi Gras floats are created and stored.

Distributing Books To Area Schools

National Women’s Philanthropy will do “Building A Better Future Book By Book” at the Lion of Judah conference. Before the conference, NWP was looking to have 4,000 books collected to distribute to 496 students at two of New Orleans’ underserved elementary schools. Participants at the International Lion of Judah Conference will visit these children, deliver these books to each child in a special bag and read the stories with each child.

Jewish Futures Conference

As part of the GA, there will be a first-ever Jewish Futures Conference, which will bring together visionary thinkers, passionate individuals and inspiring presentations in a conference designed to shift the horizon of thinking in Jewish education. The conference will be from 8 to 10:15 a.m. on Nov. 8.
The conference will be groundbreaking in focus and structure, as hundreds of influential leaders and practitioners share ideas on how to harness the social, economic, technological and community forces changing the Jewish educational landscape.

“The goal of the conference is to excite and stimulate thinking about the potential of creative and thoughtful Jewish education,” said Harlene Winnick Appelman, executive director of The Covenant Foundation, which is co-sponsoring the event.

Established and new voices will be featured in a two-hour program featuring plenary speakers, roundtable discussions and presentations by winners of a competition designed to identify grassroots thinkers with bold ideas.

Major speakers will include Ori Brafman, author, teacher and entrepreneur in the public, private and non-profit sectors; Laurie Karr, a marketing and branding consultant specializing in reaching the youth and family markets; and Marc Prensky, a writer, consultant and software creator specializing in the realm of education.

Global Day of Jewish Learning

On Nov. 7th, Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz will culminate nearly five decades of groundbreaking work translating the Talmud, making it accessible to all Jewish people.

The Global Day of Jewish Learning will honor that achievement by bringing together Jewish communities around the world in a historic, unifying celebration. About 200 communities worldwide will participate.

The GA’s opening ceremonies will highlight this special initiative, followed by a Global Day of Learning event in the GA Beit Midrash (study hall). JFNA and partners will also host Beit Midrash sessions throughout the GA, creating opportunities to learn, debate and reflect.