I had been posting updates along the way from the Tumblr app on my iPhone, but for some reason they didn’t come through, so I’m sorry for the delay! You can still see our live tweets from the conference at @YPDSTL.
TribeFest was a whirlwind. The events were non-stop and had me (and most of the people I spoke with) exhausted, but in the best way. The conference started as early as 6:30am for morning minyan, and continued far past midnight. “Mash Up” parties took place every night, featuring top-notch live music, delicious food, and an open bar. The Mash Ups were where a lot of the schmoozing and networking went on, and the keynote speakers/break-out sessions were more educational and focused.
AJ Jacobs, author of The Year of Living Biblically, helped kick off TribeFest with a hilarious speech. He identified as being “Jewish… in the way Olive Garden is Italian,” but after spending a year following every rule in the bible, came to a realization that religion serves a valuable purpose, even the rules that may seem trivial.
One theme that seemed to come up throughout the conference was the notion that you may be raised without Judaism or may stray from it at some point, but upon returning it feels like coming home. The speakers shared the idea that Judaism is more than a religion - it’s a culture, a set of values, and ultimately a family.
The speakers were all inspirational, building on the existing sense of community at the conference. It was easy to spot a group of TribeFesters at any given moment, sporting their bright blue badges. The tags had participants’ name and city, creating what I can only assume was the largest game of Jewish geography to date. I met people from Michigan, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, California, Canada, Washington DC - and the list goes on! We may have been 1,500 Jews in the desert, but for 3 days we had something to unite us: a shared passion for Judaism and the drive to take that message home.