Tuesday, December 06, 2011

conventional conventions

Disclaimer: I have never attended any convention from any major Jewish organization, nor have I read the press reports of what goes on there.  The less I know, the less upset I can get.

When I saw a listing of what was on the agenda for one of these conventions I remarked to my wife that it seems that the topics being discussed never change.  I am willing to bet that if you look at the agenda from 20 years ago, even 30 years ago, you will find many of the same topics that are on the plate today: da'as Torah, threat to kedusha from the outside environment (those days it was TV, now it's internet), halacha in the workplace, etc.  If you belong to a different chevra, at your convention the discussion will be about the limits of da'as Torah, how to synthesize the influence of the outside world with Torah study, etc.  Whatever makes you happy -- it's all the same.  Conventions have become just so conventional.

Maybe I'm a bit slow, but it seems to me that if you keep rehashing the same message over and over again, year after year, doesn't that mean these conventions aren't accomplishing anything?  I mean, if you beat me over the head with the message last year and I didn't get it, is beating me over the head this year going to do the trick?  

Now, you could say that these are perennial problems that will always be with us.  But hadra kushya l'duchta -- so if you are not changing the dynamics one iota, if the problems are indeed perennial, why hold a convention?  What are you hoping to accomplish?

Is there anyone that went to one of these conventions with, for example, the hava amina that spending 10 hours a day on Facebook is a great idea, and then had his/her eyes opened and did an about face as as result of hearing a presentation?  Is there anyone that spends his days writing a blog or reading blogs ridiculing gedolim, then went to a convention and decided to stop?  

A chacham is ro'eh es ha'nolad -- do conferences and committees proactively head off problems?  If they do, I must have missed something -- what solutions were put in place to help us avoid yeshiva costs that exceeed 20k and in some cases 25k per child?  What was done to help us avoid the mess called the "shidduch crisis"?  Did I miss something because I never attended?

Maybe this is one of the blog posts those speeches were designed to not get you to read.


  1. Yes, you missed something. Not everyone at the convention is a repeat attender. In fact, I would posit that a significant minority of most people at regularly scheduled conventions are first time attenders. As a result, the lecture on the "same old topic", while a repeat for some, is a first time experience for many. Yes, I may have heard the "time of death in halacha" lecture a few times but the guy to the left of me is now hearing it for the first time.
    Also remember that at conventions many lectures are simultaneous, not concurrent. I may really want to hear both lectures A and B but they're running at the same time. It's great to know that next year A and B will be presented again so I can listen to one this year and the other the next.

  2. Bob Miller9:53 AM

    The real question is:

    Does Convention #43 assess the progress and results of applying the solutions proposed in Convention #42 and prior conventions?

  3. chaim b.6:37 PM

    Bob - I don't even think it would occur to anyone to put this type question on the agenda -- why risk broadcasting failure. Most organizations seem to buy into their own PR and never do an annual report or review, or, even better, have an outside "spiritual" auditor do it to measure their achievements.

  4. Bob Miller9:57 AM

    If there was a chance that failure would be broadcast, maybe the groups would work harder to succeed.

  5. Anonymous5:53 PM

    & then there's the agenda shebelev:

    henay! ma tov u'ma'nayim shevet achim gam-yachad...