JFNA GA 2015: Schmoozing and Seminars

by Danielle Braitman, Calgary, AB

November 16,2015

As both a young professional and a community volunteer, the idea of going to a conference attended by 3000 other Jews who are primarily community professionals can be intimidating, to say the least. Although it promised to be an amazing and inspirational experience, I had my reservations about what actually awaited our delegation at the JFNA General Assembly in Washington, D.C. Three days filled with best practice sharing, inspirational speakers, international delegates, and political bigwigs proved to be every bit as incredible as promised.

I have never been interested in politics; beyond the internal ones I deal with at the office on a daily basis. Apart from researching what party to vote for in my local and federal elections, I’ve never paid much attention to the individuals who make up the backbone of a political party. After listening to Rosalie Abella and the Honourable John Baird  and former MP Irwin Cotler speak, I realized what a disservice I have been doing to myself. These inspiring individuals have influenced change in my own backyard and shaped the way our country works, yet I have barely heard their names save for whispers in more intelligent conversations. Suddenly, I find myself scouring the internet trying to find every piece of information I can in order to better understand the effect they have had on our society.

On top of rubbing elbows with these political elite, there was also the pleasure of meeting everyday people who are doing truly extraordinary things. A recent college grad who has started a non profit organization to help battle the stigma of mental health in the United States, and the parents who teach their children the power of giving and tzedakah through local “philanthropy camp”.  More interesting to me, was how impressed these phenomenal people seemed when learning about my community involvement. What I view as a small sacrifice of my personal time, they viewed as an example of outstanding volunteerism.

It’s been a week since the GA, and the enthusiasm I came away with has not waned. I dream of ways I can make my community better, stronger, and everlasting. Through the programming seminars it became clear that our community is united, although there is always room for improvement. I look forward to creating excitement and implementing change in both our Young Adult sector, and the community at large in the coming months; strengthening the bond we have with each other both as Jews and as family.


Danielle Braitman is a Massage Therapist at Southcentre Health and Wellness in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. She is an invested community volunteer with Jewish Adult Calgary (JAC) at the Calgary Jewish Federation. Danielle also volunteers for Kollel and at the JCC. Learn more about Danielle at https://www.linkedin.com/in/danielle-braitman-95460779. 

About the GA: The General Assembly (GA) is an annual community event organized by The Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA). Attendees that attend this premier leadership experience are generally Federation volunteer leaders and professionals and those engaged in the business of Jewish philanthropy.

The 2015 GA featured top figures like Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, visionary philanthropic thought leader Dan Pallotta and award-winning actress Debra Messing. Together, 3,000 thousand change makers shared best practices and showcased and celebrated the extraordinary work of the Jewish world. Learn more about the GA at http://www.generalassembly.org


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